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Nanni Moretti Interviewed
I link these two films because they were shot during the period that the Christian Democrat politician Aldo Moro was kidnapped and killed by the Red Brigades. One part of my generation made that kind of choice, but my stories took another direction.
The characters, the political-sociological ambience and style in I'm Self-Sufficient are constants in all my films. I think the best way to respect the audience is not to pretend to know its tastes. I've always told the kind of stories I wanted, the way I wanted, because it was the only thing that made sense. I'm Self-Sufficient was shot in super-8 and came out in film clubs; Ecce Bombo was made in 35mm and was screened for "normal" audiences. But I didn't let the move to 35mm condition or scare me.
Ecce Bombo is a close relative of I'm Self-Sufficient only more painful. It only partially represents my generation, because the characters are very specific: young, middle-class Romans, left-wing but fed up with how the Left was acting. Although I thought I had made a very partial and dramatic film, audiences took it as comic and universal. Viewers raced to identify with the characters, even people who had nothing in common with them. It was a box-office smash, my most successful film before The Son's Room. Even today, some kids come up to me and talk about Ecce Bombo, which surprises me because they don't know anything about the Left of that time. Evidently they feel some kind of affinity, though it seems like a century ago.
I made fun of myself and my generation and the audience, something the Left would never do, because even the New Left of the Seventies, born outside the Communist party, had inherited double-truth politics from Stalinism: we can criticize the party among ourselves, but outside we have to appear monolithic. This was never me. From the beginning I treated myself and my ambience with affecton but with irony and distance.
SWEET DREAMS (Sogni d'oro, 1981)
I waited awhile before shooting it. I was playing water polo and looking for a new story. It's a film about film-making. I guess many directors feel the need to make a film about directing. I never shot so much in the studio.
I like to put different things together, to mix ingredients. So it's also about Michele's life, his mother, his temperament, his dreams. I wanted to do a film about a phenomenon that was just beginning: vulgarity on television. There's a TV match between two film directors that foretells the vulgarity to come.
This is the first time I worked with Laura Morante, who was five months pregnant and played a young student. The film won the special jury prize at Venice. My parents, being very discreet, didn't come to Venice for the premier. The film came out a few days later. The audience laughed at the scene where I beat up my mother, and I nervously warned my real mother about it before she went to see it. Though it's very different from The Son's Room, there's a part in it about psychoanalysis. The film in the film is called "Freud's Mom."
My directing work was influenced by my "work" as a film viewer. I let myself get more caught up in emotions and the storyline, the plot. So as a director, I tried to give more importance to the story. The script is more complete. Again, it mixes many ingredients - a love story, a mystery, and a school comedy. I shot it in my real elementary school, which I transformed into the Marilyn Monroe High School. Here I continue to play with my character, who has the same name and characteristics of being quarrelsome and intolerant - as well as an obsession with shoes, sweets, telephone calls, the school, and family dinners. I had fun using the same character, even if he changed jobs, and using situations that were part of my life. Certainly, it's not a cheerful film.
MASS IS OVER (La messa è finita, 1985)
It won the Silver Bear at the Berlin film festival. The main character is a priest, but it's not a film about priests. It concentrates not on faith but on relationships with other people. It disappointed those viewers who expected the priest to have lots of love affairs and sex. I didn't put it in on purpose, to defeat their expectations.
It's my most realistic film before The Son's Room. I saw a return to academicism in the films coming out at that time. They were right to give the screenplay more weight, but they didn't search for new paths. So as a director, I looked for roads that were narratively freer in my three subsequent films, less linear and realistic, trying out a different way of storytelling for myself.
RED LOB (Palombella rossa, 1989)
I wanted to make a film on the crisis of the Italian Communist Party and the Italian Left, but I didn't want to shoot a realistic film. It was a time when the party had a lot of votes but was unable to solve its relationship to its own past; suddenly, many members wanted to throw out everything, even the positive things. So I put this confusion and crisis into a metaphoric game of water polo that lasts one day and one night. The main character, a young party leader, has a car accident and doesn't remember who he is. This amnesia isn't true just of the Communists but of all Italians, including the Right, who suffer from a lack of memory.
It was the first film produced by my company, Sacher, with Angelo Barbagallo. We could have saved a lot of money if we had shot the swimming pool scenes in Rome, but I wanted the game set away from home - so the public would be against the young Communist. We shot it in Acireale, Sicily, in September, 1989. Two months later, the Berlin Wall fell and Occhetto, the Italian Communist leader, proposed they change the party's name, nature and identity.
THE THING (La cosa, 1990)
Around this proposal, to end the Communist party and start its transformation into something else, I shot a documentary in November and December 1989 at various party sections. It's complementary to Red Lob, which is about the "before" period. The Thing is about "during and after." I think it opens a director's head to shoot documentaries; it's useful professional gymnastics. The "Thing" isn't a cinema citation; it's the term people used for what was coming into being - "this thing" - to replace the old Communist party.
DEAR DIARY (Caro diario, 1993)
Clint Eastwood was the president of the Cannes jury the year that Dear Diary won the best director award, but I think it was probably the French jurors who liked the picture. I shot it in three chapters, in three different styles. The first has me riding around Rome on a Vespa - an unlikely subject, but it worked. I ran into Jennifer Beals and Alexander Rockwell, and they kindly agreed to appear in the film.
The second part was shot in the Aeolian islands, which are very close to each other but very different, and each is jealous of its characteristics. It's not the natives, but the tourists who are competitive. (Personally, I prefer Stromboli.) In the third part, I ironically chronicle one year of mistaken doctors' diagnoses of my tumor. Most of it is faithful reconstruction of what happened, but the chemo session is real. I even filmed the real prescriptions they gave me. I didn't feel anxious about reliving this experience - I was just a director shooting a movie.
APRIL (Aprile, 1998)
Like Dear Diary, parts of April tell what really happened to me, but they're still films which reflect directing, acting, editing, writing, tone, stylistic choices. I already had the story of The Son's Room ready, but I was expecting a child and I didn't feel like working on that theme. So I started shooting things without knowing it was my new picture. My son was born on April 18 and three days later, Italians voted in a left-wing government for the first time. There was no script; I just wrote a bit and shot fragments. I realized the nucleus for a film was there, a feeling. Some consider it my most private film and some my most political. The film's most famous line, "D'Alema (the Communist leader), say something left-wing!" became a slogan on T-shirts and has stuck to the poor man to this day.
THE SON'S ROOM (La stanza del figlio, 2001)
I wanted to tell this story in a more classical, but not conventional, style. I really care about it and feel it's very close to me. The family's deep pain doesn't unite them, but tears them apart. For the figure of the psychoanalyst, I wanted the sessions with patients to be credible. American scriptwriters, afraid of boring the audience, are always taking him out of the office. I made two definte choices about the film: to set it in a small town and to put the doctor's office on the same floor as his residence. The first was important because, not only have I shot Rome in every possible way, but away from Rome I have more concentration. And when you lose a son in a smaller community, you feel the warmth and solidarity around the family. The studio is on the same landing as Giovanni's apartment to show that for him to do his job, he needed his family and vice versa. In his home, he can't separate himself completely from the suffering he works with.