Stop trying to be Fellini

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This story about Paolo Sorrentino, Filippo Scotti and “The Hand of God” first appeared in the International edition of the award magazine from TheWrap.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Paolo Sorrentino said his new film was “Roma” influenced, you knew exactly what he was talking about. After all, the Italian director has made splendid films like the Oscar-winning “The Great Beauty”, which was populated with a wild selection of characters and filmed with a revealing extravagance that the adjective more than deserved Fellinisque.

That would of course mean that his latest work is based on Federico Fellini’s extensive fantasy “Roma” from 1972, right?

Not correct. “The film that inspired me a lot when I decided to do this film was ‘Roma’,” said the Italian director, then clarified. “The Cuarón.”

Sorrentino’s new film “The Hand of God” is based on Alfonso Cuarón’s gentle black and white drama from 2018, in which the Mexican director brings memories from his own childhood to life. It turns out that Sorrentino does not indulge his passion in “The Hand of God”, which he still has for Fellini; there he mostly appears one way from the director to find out how he became Sorrentino.

The Netflix film, Italy’s entry into the international Oscar race, is about a teenager, Fabietto, from a big and wild family in Naples. Fabietto lies about his beautiful but unstable aunt, loses his virginity to an older neighbor, prays at the altar of soccer star Diego Maradona, tragically loses his parents and wants to become a film director; At least some of it applies to Sorrentino himself, who for years toyed with the idea of ​​making a semi-autobiographical film.

“I’ve thought about it for about 10 years, but in the past three years I’ve just found the courage to do it,” the wrinkled 51-year-old director said of a translator as he sat down to speak, accompanied by Filippo Scotti, 21, who Fabietto plays. “It was only in the last three years that it occurred to me that such a personal story could be of great interest.”

When asked why it took courage to look at his own life, Sorrentino initially withdrew. “Not necessarily courage“He said.” How do I put it? What I needed to find was a belief that it was an interesting story, which I achieved when the readers of the script gave me feedback. “

Filippo Scotti, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert and Toni Servillo in “The Hand of God” (Netflix)

Still, The Hand of God addresses sensitive memories for Sorrentino, including the death of his parents from carbon monoxide poisoning in their home. (The teenager Sorrentino was not with them at the time because he had watched his hero Maradona play.) “It’s very simple: Whenever I write a scene, I feel the same emotions as the characters.” “So I felt good when I wrote funny scenes and I was in pain when I wrote painful scenes.

“That happens to me when I write films that have nothing to do with my biography. But it was more painful for this particular film. “

He cast disheveled Scotti for the role of Fabietto, he said, because “at that age he reminded me of me – he was shy and wasn’t comfortable with the rest of the world.” And with this choice, he gave a big breakthrough to a young actor who has long been obsessed with a wide variety of films, including one by Sorrentino.

“One of the first films I saw that my father showed me was ‘Rear Window’ by Alfred Hitchcock when I was 9 years old, and I was very impressed with that film,” said Scotti, who initially also had one Translator spoke. “When I was 13, I went to the movies with my parents to see The Great Beauty. I was the only boy in the cinema and it was so strange and huge. “

The biggest challenge, he added, wasn’t in the acting he had to do, but in the fact that he was cast in the film. “In the beginning it was so hard to accept that the director Paolo Sorrentino decided to choose me for such a role,” he said, switching to English. “I had trouble sleeping because it was so impossible for me. And then it became possible. “

Before filming, he spent a few months alone processing what he was up to and felt more confident when he realized that he should treat Fabietto as a character rather than a version of Sorrentino.

“It was strange at first, but then I tried to think of this role as just a role. There were moments when I thought about asking him about his life, but then I told myself it wasn’t that important. It was important to follow a plot that emerges very clearly from the script. “

But that doesn’t mean he didn’t get advice from Sorrentino. “I asked him for advice on listening to music and he recommended some movies,” he said. “And he showed me a special way of walking.”

Sorrentino agreed with the approach. “At the end of the day, it’s a movie for him,” he said, switching to English for the rest of the interview as well. “The fact that it’s a true story isn’t that relevant.”

Most relevant to the director was the style of the film he felt was necessary to avoid the luscious, lavish look and feel of films like “The Great Beauty”, “Youth” and “Loro”. “It was clear to me from the start that this film needed a different style – very simple,” he says. “The most important thing was getting the characters’ feelings out. It was important not to use a complicated style. “

And Sorrentino insisted that the crucial adjustment from his more sophisticated approach wasn’t particularly difficult. “It’s very easy, it’s very easy,” he said with a smile. “It was complicated like I did before. I’ve found it easy to make films like this, and I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner. “

Going forward, he added, “I would like to find another story that I can make like this – not an autobiographical one, because I don’t think I can do another film like this. But I’d like to find a story that needs a simple style, a simple one staging. “

On the other hand, it is foolish to expect that the director, who is also responsible for the extravagance of the TV series “The Young Pope” and “The New Pope”, will ever really give up his predilection for glorious excesses. In fact, Fellini even gets a few shout-outs in a film inspired by another director’s “Roma” – one in a scene where Fabietto’s brother has to audition as an extra in a Fellini film, and another when a character in The Film quotes the master as saying, “Cinema isn’t good for anything – it’s just a distraction.”

And does Sorrentino believe that? “Yes, absolutely,” he said. “Cinema is a distraction.” He smiled. “I also agree because I’m not sure if this quote is Fellini’s or mine. I do not remember. I overlap my ideas with the things I’ve read about Fellini and I totally agree. “

Read more from the international edition of TheWrap magazine here.


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