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VENICE 2019 Competition

Mario Martone • Director of The Mayor of Rione Sanità

"I transposed De Filippo’s play to today, without rhetorical artifice"

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- VENICE 2019: Competing for the Golden Lion in Venice, The Mayor of Rione Sanità is a rereading of a great classic from Eduardo De Filippo. We met with its director, Mario Martone

Mario Martone  • Director of The Mayor of Rione Sanità
(© Mario Spada)

Competing for the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, The Mayor of Rione Sanità [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Mario Martone
film profile
]
is a rereading of a great classic from Eduardo De Filippo. We met with its director, Mario Martone, to talk about the film.

Cineuropa: This is the first time that you approach the work of the great Eduardo De Filippo.
Mario Martone:
The project began with Francesco Di Leva, who as an actor felt the urge to play the character Antonio Barracano, even though he is not even forty while the character created by Eduardo was much older. Francesco obtained the authorisation from Luca De Filippo and we brought the text to the theatre in a cultural outpost, a gym with a hundred seats in San Giovanni a Teduccio, in a suburb of Naples. For me, this was an occasion to face Eduardo, whose texts and oeuvre we all know: thanks to television, we all have in our ears the phrasing of his performance, his pauses. We started working on it, and we wondered how to update it for today. It was a chance to change the age of the character in the context of today’s Naples.

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How did you end up making a film?
I immediately felt that I also wanted to make a film from this text. In the autumn, this possibility presented itself with Indigo and Rai Cinema and we threw ourselves into this new adventure. In four weeks, we had made it.

The ending of the film is different from that of Eduardo De Filippo’s play.
This was already in our stage performance of the play. I transposed Eduardo to the communication of today, stripping it of any rhetorical artifice, tearing the veil which Eduardo had used to make The Mayor reach the general public with a long, philosophical and moralistic finale. What remained was Barracano’ choice, this gesture of great responsibility. In his final moments, De Filippo had a great interest in social reality, he brought his work to prisons in Poggioreale and Nisida, but he did not see in the future a better world, a peaceful Naples.

How did you work on the ambiguity of Barracano’s character?
It is the creation of a great author. As is the case for Dostoyevsky and Shakespeare, good and evil become blurred and this ambiguity is a response to a social dynamic that is lively and powerful, in which one wants to exercise power according to one’s own worldview. And the two cities that are always talked about in Naples, the lawful one and the criminal one, collide in a surprising game.

Is it difficult to transpose theatre to the cinema?
The transition only works if you respect the theatre and its dramatic compactness, without seeking to enlarge or expand it. We shot in only two settings, two apartments, a limitation but also a beautiful challenge. The mise-en-scene entirely indoors was also interesting from a cinematographic point of view, it was about controlling all the actors in one room. Eduardo’s text is so precise that it didn’t need to be scripted. We had discussed moving Barracano’s monologue to the beginning of the film, but returning to Eduardo’s structure was always the right thing to do.

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(Translated from Italian)

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