Where is Vision of Hell currently on display?
Well it’s not under a nun’s bed, I can tell you that! They forgot that the painting was under the nun’s bed, if you can believe that! It was a nun who discovered it, sealed in the wooden box Dali had made for it, when she was cleaning the nun’s quarters. Another nun – an art lover – realized it was truly a Dali and she went to the man who commissioned it, John Haffert, and he told her the story of the painting. When news began to spread about this lost work of Dali’s, the painting was displayed in a touring exhibit of Dali’s work and then returned to The Blue Army. In 2008 it was put on sale by The Blue Army and purchased by a private art collector in Connecticut. It hangs in his private gallery and is occasionally loaned to museum exhibits. It is a magnificent piece of art. I see new and different images every time I look at it. Dali was not only a master of the canvas, but of the subconscious as well.
This movie has won several awards (Madrid Film Festival, Berlin International, Nevada Film Festival) what does that mean to you?
It means that we captured the genius and subconscious thoughts of Salvador Dali. Those are very powerful and difficult things to capture, especially from such an illusive subject as Dali. I think what it means is best summed up by Cardinal Monezemolo of Spain who watched the film in San Marino with me, the film’s associate producers, and several members of European royalty. “You have captured lightning in a bottle,” he said. That is a very difficult thing to do and it makes me – and us, because an entire crew was involved - very proud to have done such a thing.
And how about Fatima? What is your relationship to Fatima? And what does the message of Fatima mean to you?
I have to be honest about Fatima. Initially I wasn’t fond of it. It was too new and modern and it seemed so much more commercial than other pilgrimage sites I have visited. But I have returned to Fatima many times since I first went there to work on the story of the painting. And every time I have grown to love it more. And I have become more accepting of the fact that it is so modern because it has to be: Fatima happened only 100 years ago, which is modern in the world of miracles and pilgrim sites. Plus I have some very good friends there, including Carlos Evaristo, who is not only a television star in Portugal, he is also an expert in the history of holy relics, which is the subject of our next film. And of course the Duke of Braganza, whose knowledge has the kind of depth that only royalty can provide. There is so much in Portugal itself that is new to my American eyes. When ever I come there I experience a world that is new to me, and one I can’t help but explore.
In a few days the Pope will visit Fatima. What would you tell him about the painting that inspired Dali’s Fatima Secret.
Well, you don’t get much time with the pope, so I would speak direct and quickly. I would tell him that Sister Lucia saw a photo of the painting in 1997 and told her interpreter that Dali had represented Hell as closely as is humanly possible. “To me that makes the painting itself a religious vision, a source of transformative power,” I would say. Then I would give him a copy of the film. He too has the curiosity gene, so who knows where that would take him….