Davide Ferrario revisits The Truce
by Anna Maria Pasetti
20/10/2006 - “I’m not a traveller. The attraction for Primo Levi and his stories was so strong as to make me take off in his footsteps. I travelled with him for over 6,000 kilometres,” said Davide Ferrario, the staunchly independent director who conquered international markets and audiences with 2003’s After Midnight [film focus].
From an idea by Marco Belpoliti, writer and curator for the past 15 years of Levi’s works, Ferrario took three years to make Primo Levi's Journey [trailer], a film he calls “a creative documentary or a road movie without actors.” Literally interpreting Levi’s 1963 book The Truce, the director and Belpoliti retraced the same route from Auschwitz to Turin that the writer took when returning home from the concentration camp to which he had been deported and passing through, in 10 months, Poland, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Moldavia, Romania, Hungary, Austria and Germany.
And Ferrario does so following a “dual track” that gives the work an added value; as he “listens” to his “guide” Levi’s moving experiences, he also listens to the people he meets in those post-Communist and post-Nazi Eastern European countries. “The film took shape along the way: we didn’t have pre-packaged material,” stressed Ferrario.
In this way, the filmmaker was able to see situations by which he himself was surprised: from the encounter with the memory of legendary Ukrainian artist Igor Bilozir, assassinated by Russian extremists, to a visit to the kolkhoz in Byelorussia, from the travelling zoo in Moldavia to the cemetery of Hungarian Communist statues. All of which is accompanied by a clearly semantic soundtrack that is well synchronised with the remarkable editing.
The word “truce” is fundamental to the construction of the sense of Primo Levi's Journey, to which Ferrario and Belpoliti gave new meaning: “If ‘truce’ to Levi meant the period between the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War, to us it represents that interval between the fall of the Berlin Wall and September 11. In that moment, unfortunately, history began marching on again”.