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Nicolangelo Gelormini • Director of Fortuna – The Girl and the Giants

“My aim was for viewers to feel the same sense of discomfort, bewilderment and uncertainty as the protagonist”

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- The Neapolitan director discusses the approach he took towards his debut film which recounts a terrible real-life event

Nicolangelo Gelormini • Director of Fortuna – The Girl and the Giants
(© Carlo William Rossi)

Having made its debut at Rome Film Fest before going on to participate in various international festivals (scooping an award at the Stockholm Film Festival Jr last month), 43-year-old Neapolitan director Nicolangelo Gelormini’s first feature film Fortuna – The Girl and the Giants [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nicolangelo Gelormini
film profile
]
, which revisits a terrible news story in a dreamlike, cubist fashion, was at last released in Italian cinemas yesterday, 27 May, via I Wonder Pictures. We spoke with the director about his approach towards telling the particularly harrowing story of Fortuna Loffredo - a little girl who died after being thrown from the eighth floor of a block of flats on the outskirts of Naples - and bringing to light a horrendous pattern of child abuse.

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Cineuropa: Why did you set yourself the challenge of speaking about “the unspeakable”, as you yourself have described it, in your first feature film?
Nicolangelo Gelormini: The film was suggested to me by producer Davide Azzolini off the back of the huge wave of emotion he felt upon reading that news story. To begin with, I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t think that there was any kind of expressive medium capable of depicting such darkness. But the fundamental purpose of art is to try to shed light on the human soul; it has an ethical and social purpose, and a film seemed to be the best medium because it offers the “off-camera” option. So I decided that my desire not to show these things would be the driving force of the film.

It’s an unsettling film, where the viewer has to make an effort to understand and put together the pieces of the puzzle.
I made the decision not to spoon-feed viewers, but to stimulate them, even though I knew this might divide the audience. As a viewer, I love films which get you thinking, and which don’t tell you everything. I think audiences are intelligent. I like to place myself within the tradition of films which try to give viewers a little something and which sow a seed.

How exactly did you want audiences to feel?
I wanted to place them in the same position as the protagonist. The idea, for me, was to treat the film as if it were a piece of contemporary art, which elicits meaning and emotion at the same time. My aim was for the viewer to fully identify with the protagonist, for them to feel the same sense of discomfort, bewilderment, uncertainty and, fundamentally, the sense of betrayal which is pivotal to the film. Nancy/Fortuna’s story is a universal one: it belongs to all children who are betrayed by the very people who are supposed to love them.

How did the film’s double structure and the lead actresses’ dual roles come about?
In my mind, if I wanted to explore betrayal, I had to create a reality that felt more or less true, and then deny it, somehow. That’s how the idea of duality arose as early on as in the writing process, in the form of a two-act structure, and then again when developing the two female characters, who switch roles and betray the protagonist as well as the audience. This duality also took shape during the mise en scène process in the form of shots split in two by way of architectonic elements. Reality and counterpoint became the thematic and aesthetic leitmotivs of the film.

How did you go about working with children on such a sensitive subject?
Working with children was the thing that frightened me the most, to begin with. I was helped by a children’s coach, and I spoke with child psychologists. All of us in the team made the decision not to tell them the whole story, not even the protagonist, to advance bit by bit, like with a cubist work of art; to tell them about each scene on a day-by-day basis, but never giving them too much detail. The film tries to pick the situation apart, but there are no dark events in any of the individual scenes. This act of not telling makes you anxious, but you never see any violence.

Your first experience in the world of cinema was as an assistant to Paolo Sorrentino. What do you remember about it?
I was twenty years old, and I wanted to make films, but I didn’t know where to begin. That year, Sorrentino was making his debut in Naples with One Man Up [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and I got the opportunity to work with him. It was only many years later that I really understood what it was I’d absorbed from being on set with him. Like other collaborations I’ve had with Luca Ronconi and David Lynch, these are experiences that help you understand the importance of fully expressing your personality. And I consider Fortuna to be a film that’s a lot like me, so I wasn’t scared of taking the plunge.

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(Translated from Italian)

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