My film about women came to me on a bus
by Camillo De Marco
09/02/2011 - Gianni Di Gregorio, co-screenwriter of Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah [trailer, film focus], has made his second feature film, following the successful Mid-August Lunch [trailer]. Cineuropa met with him at the press conference for The Salt of Life [trailer, film focus], a film with little dialogue, characterized by the delicate and almost passive humour of the protagonist, played once again by Di Gregorio.
Gianni Di Gregorio: The idea for The Salt of Life came to me one day on the bus, which I ride often. I remember that in the past it would happen that a woman and I exchange glances. Which would lead to all kinds of daydreams, which always remained just that, don’t misunderstand me, but that nevertheless left me with positive feelings. Then all that ended. At a certain point you realize you’ve become invisible.
The character’s passive sense of humour is also my own. This is my way of telling stories. I can’t do it seriously. This is probably a reaction to my strict and formal upbringing, in a house with giant dark drapes. As a child I read [Giacomo] Leopardi, but over time I learned to laugh about anything and my comedy comes from a way of being. Suffering scares me, which is why I try to exorcise it with a joke, a smile.
Cineuropa: A smile full of melancholy.
Melancholy is the engine that drives the entire film. Time truly does pass, that’s what I’m interested in showing.
Naturally, there’s also the relationship with women…
My relationship with women is what you see in the film: full of love, devotion and subjection. It’s difficult to explain, maybe that’s why I felt the urgency to develop these thoughts into a film. At this age, women see us an armchair, a chandelier, we’re transparent.
There are references to recent events in the about [Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi] – the relationship between older men and younger women.
There are definitely elements of the contemporary in the film, but everything that came up was spontaneous, coincidental. I didn’t do it on purpose. Seeking out contemporary events would’ve given me anxiety, though if the film seems provocative, well, I don’t mind at all. But films often seem closer to reality that one wants, or tries to create…
Did the success of your first film influence your writing in the second film?
The success of Mid-August Lunch made me become responsible and also terrified me a bit. I had my second film in my head for some time, but I took my time, I circled around it. The producer, Angelo Barbagallo, really helped me continue down this path of lightness, of seeming “thinness”. Only seeming because we worked very hard on the screenplay.
It could be the second chapter of a trilogy.
I don’t know, we’ll see. Maybe there’s still more for me to dig up in my life and there will be another chance to present my experiences in a film. This could just be a way of recounting my own life. In this second film, in the beginning the mother-son relationship wasn’t very developed, but then slowly over time it became huge.
Besides the mother-son relationship, the film also focuses on a relationship with money.
When my mother died she left me a ton of debts, and it took me over 10 years to pay them all off. I’ll probably put the subject of money, or the lack of it, in other films as well…
This second film is reminiscent of certain atmosphere of French cinema.
I really love French cinema, for its grace, certain of its auteurs, its style. But over time I’ve come to realize that I also really love Russian cinema and 19th century Russian literature.
The Rome you show in the film is not very recognizable, and it’s also very lively.
Besides Piazza Navona and Ara Pacis, there are a lot of the city’s hidden corners in the film. Because there are many neighbourhoods in the center of Rome, like Testaccio and Trastevere, that have changed tremendously over time but have maintained an almost rural soul. Even the foreigners who live there after a while feel like an integral part of the context, they experience a certain familiarity with the places.