Francesco Rizzi • Director of Cronofobia
“For me, there has to be some kind of meaning behind a film’s mise en scène”
by Vittoria Scarpa
- We chatted with Francesco Rizzi about his first feature film, Cronofobia, at the Lecce European Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Award and the accolade for Best European Actor
After scooping prizes at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and at the Max Ophüls Prize Film Festival in Germany, Cronofobia [+see also:
interview: Francesco Rizzi
film profile] by Francesco Rizzi was screened in competition at the 20th Lecce European Film Festival, where it was handed the Special Jury Award, while its star Vinicio Marchioni bagged the award for Best European Actor. We chatted with the Ticino director about mystery shopping, the fear of the passing of time and the particular visual approach he adopted in his film.
Cineuropa: How did you come up with the mysterious profession that’s carried out by your film’s protagonist?
Francesco Rizzi: It all started with a personal experience of mine in the world of mystery shopping. When I was in Rome, studying at the film school in Cinecittà, I worked for a small communications agency at weekends as an in-store promoter. One day, my boss asked me to try something new: to be a mystery shopper. I visited restaurants, hotels, shops, all incognito, pretending to be a customer in order to evaluate the quality of the services they provided. You had to learn a script, research the products, create your own persona... I thought it could be a great starting point for a story about suspended identities.
This story was also inspired by the contradictory emotions I felt at that time: on the one hand, I was constantly on the move, always open to change; on the other, I felt hugely nostalgic for everything I was leaving behind and a need to put down roots, to give physical form to the few convictions I had over my identity. This dual feeling is embodied by the films’ two characters.
What does the title, Cronofobia, mean and how does it relate to the characters?
Chronophobia is a fear of the passing of time, when life’s events fly by and we’re unable to experience them to the full; it’s that sense of unease and powerlessness that hits people facing long periods of immobility, in confined spaces: a long period of convalescence after an accident, for example, or, more specifically, prison inmates. The two protagonists are each prisoners in their own way, they’ve constructed very real, mental cages for themselves: one to escape himself, the other in an attempt to withstand unbearable pain. Visually speaking, the film is full of cages, or elements reminiscent of a prison: the huge gate outside Anna’s house, the very house which she has shut herself into, freezing herself in time and in her memories.
Let’s talk about Vinicio Marchioni: he was voted best European actor here in Lecce for this film.
I knew him from his character, Freddo, in Romanzo criminale. I watched the TV series and saw that his character was the strategist of the group; he doesn’t talk much but he does think a lot. Vinicio is able to express such depth of thought using very few gestures - with just a simple eye movement. He’s an actor who’s able to give a certain gravitas to silence. Suter’s character doesn’t talk much, but his inner world is rich and interesting to explore and Vinicio was the right person for the job. When I saw him on stage and in other films, I could see he was a versatile and convincing actor on many levels, with talent and experience, generosity and humility.
Was Suter always destined to step into the shoes of another?
He was condemned to be a substitute from the moment he was born: his parents had lost a son and gave him the same name as his predecessor. I’ve studied this type of situation and psychologists say that if you grow up under the weight of such a comparison – because, unintentionally, parents destroyed by loss tend to make comparisons – you develop a sense of blame, as if you weren’t worthy of your place in the world. The reflex to wear masks and to slip into the lives of others comes naturally to Suter, it’s his way of entering into relationships with others, even with Anna he feels that this is a way of communicating with her. But when he sees that his tendency to be a substitute for another person has become an obsession for her, he realises he needs to set her free and, in so doing, he frees himself. I worked hard to ensure that Suter is never at the centre of the frame in the first part of the film. As he becomes increasingly comfortable with being himself, he moves closer and closer to the centre of the shot. For me, there has to be some kind of meaning behind a film’s mise en scène.
(Translated from Italian)
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