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CANNES 2019 Un Certain Regard

Lorenzo Mattotti • Director of The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily

"The joy of telling a tale with colours – it’s a form of energy; a love for life"


- CANNES 2019: Famous Italian graphic novel author and illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti chatted to us about his first full-length animation The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily , unveiled in Cannes

Lorenzo Mattotti • Director of The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily
(© Caterina Sansone/Lorenzo Mattotti)

Having already directed a much admired section of the collective film Fear(s) of the Dark, the famous Italian graphic novel author and illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti has now taken his first steps into feature length animation and lone directing with The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily [+see also:
film review
interview: Lorenzo Mattotti
film profile
, an adaptation of the only book written for children by Dino Buzzati. The film was presented within the Un Certain Regard line-up at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: What was it that you liked about Dino Buzzati’s universe?
Lorenzo Mattotti:
He had a huge influence on me from a very young age, in terms of the way he created mystery, the way he used fantasy as a metaphor, how he would take a real situation as a starting point and always inject something troubling into it. Essentially, he had the ability to turn mystery into reality and to create other worlds. I also like his painting and his drawings, and also the fact that he’d made a graphic novel. I was 16 years old and it blew my mind that such a great writer could have a work within the graphic novel genre, which was considered at the time to be something of a subculture. And what an amazing graphic novel it was! Wholly visionary, strange; not at all stereotypical. 

How did you go about writing the screenplay for the children’s book-film adaptation of The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Italy whilst trying to stay true to the author?
When I obtained the rights for the book from Dino Buzzati’s widow, I felt a huge sense of responsibility to adapt it with the greatest of respect. I was terrified of being unfaithful to the text and I didn’t want to change a thing, I wanted to keep the words he used, etc. But when I started working on the adaptation, I immediately noticed that there were elements in the novel that I hadn’t thought about before: no female characters, a very open structure and a few things which weren’t very logical. We asked ourselves a lot of questions, my co-writers Thomas Bidegain and Jean-Luc Fromental and I, but from the outset I insisted on preserving the original structure. I also wanted to carry across the graphics and the visionary ideas, otherwise we’d be losing the essential. The cats, the ghosts, the snowballs, etc. – they’re all extraordinary ideas and we had to give ourselves the means to use them so as to share them with viewers. I also really respected Buzzati’s graphics, and his drawings were a great help: they were like a pathway for me. But, on the other side, I also felt somewhat detached because it wasn’t one of my babies; it wasn’t an original work of mine, so I had something of an outsider’s viewpoint. And I just wanted to make a great film for young people; a feast for the eyes but also for the imagination.

You don’t really like to talk about possible interpretations of the film’s subject-matter, which essentially alludes to the virtues and vices of power. Why?
Because there’s no one direct message. In the film, there are a number of messages and the story doesn’t provide just one solution. It speaks about finding ourselves in situations that are bigger than we are, almost unintentionally, and having to manage very complicated things which we don’t understand. It tells us that reality is very complex, that it’s not easy to face up to problems and solve them, and that we need to understand a lot of other things beforehand. I also think that it’s very important to encourage children to seek out complicity rather than simplicity.

Why did you choose such strong colours?
It’s in my nature. The joy of telling a tale with colours - it’s a form of energy; a love for life. There are certain rules and formulae in film: if you’re scared of colours and don’t want to take any risks, you use monochrome, yellowish-brown with a touch of light; bluish-green. But we shouldn’t be afraid of colours. I’ve always used them liberally, whilst taking great care over how I put them together.

Is it also another way of setting the film apart from American animations and their visual style?
The Americans bombard us with awful colours: bright fuchsia, bright green - all of their colours are very bright. It creates the impression of modern life as a cold place, full of cynicism, disillusion, fear of being gentle, kind, poetic… But there are a lot of other interesting colour ranges and you can’t be afraid of being different.

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(Translated from French)

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