Giuseppe Bonito • Director of L’Arminuta
“L’Arminuta embodies the various dualities inhabiting this film; she represents an attempt to reconcile opposites”
- The director offers a few insights on his third feature film, which was presented at the 16th Rome Film Fest and awarded the BNL Prize
Presented in a world premiere at the 16th Rome Film Fest, L’Arminuta [+see also:
interview: Giuseppe Bonito
film profile] (in Italian cinemas since 21 October, courtesy of Lucky Red) won its director Giuseppe Bonito the BNL Prize, a new trophy dedicated to authors who set themselves apart for the quality of their work, their courage to innovate and experiment, and their ability to interpret the present with an eye on the world.
Cineuropa: Which of the observations made about your film have struck you the most over the past few days in Rome?
Giuseppe Bonito: In my mind, directing a film is an instinctive act; I try to predetermine things as little as possible. It’s wonderful discovering what other people see; it helps me to better understand the work I’ve produced. One thing which was said, and which I was really happy about, was how brilliant a job the actors had done, to whom I’m infinitely grateful. It’s always a bit of a gamble, because my approach to assembling a cast is quite unusual: I don’t hold auditions, I find them uncomfortable. I’m also pleased people picked up on how powerful this story is, whose main characters are women. For a long time, I’d been looking for a story through which I, as a man, could explore the female world, both that of young girls and of women, and the feelings that emerge when the two interact. I was also interested - though with the limited levels of comprehension that a man can aspire to - in exploring the concept of motherhood. Rather than imperfect experiences of motherhood, I’d call those which feature in this film special experiences of motherhood, because there’s a strong and ever constant sense of searching for the other.
The film is based on the book of the same name by Donatella di Pietrantonio, who also wrote the screenplay alongside Monica Zapelli. What was it about this story that struck you the most?
Personally, I still find it hard to answer that question; the book struck a chord with me in a very deep and powerful sense. It was like standing in front of a mirror, but that’s strange because it’s a wholly female story. From a director’s viewpoint, it’s an intense and extraordinary story, a carnival of feelings and conflicts. There were several aspects of it which had me hooked immediately: it was like looking at an old photo; I came across faces, atmospheres, situations and smells which took me back to my childhood. I’d never read a book which lent such depth to these types of characters.
What did you change or leave out with respect to the book?
Donatella’s writing is important, every word is so full of meaning that you’d never be able to transpose it all, not even across three seasons of a TV series. We focused on the most important points of interest, namely the quadrilateral relationship between the two mothers and the two sisters, which was essential to drive the story forwards. But the men are also important: Ferracane managed to lend the father character a constant level of intensity despite hardly ever speaking, while Vincenzo is the only one who tries to escape his destiny. Ultimately, l’Arminuta offers an opportunity for all of them to escape from something.
The film explores two opposing worlds: one modern and one archaic, a seaside town and a village in the back of beyond, a heavy dialect and the Italian language… How did you develop this dualism?
There’s a marked polarity within the film and it was this dualism which guided the writing process and the directorial choices that were made, in terms of photography and our work with the actors. The characters of the two sisters and the two mothers are easily recognisable in real life, but they also have a powerful symbolic impact. But dualism was our starting point, not the outcome. L’Arminuta embodies the various dualities which inhabit this film; she’s the daughter of two mothers but also of nobody; she represents an attempt to reconcile opposites. The mothers are two very different women, but they’re united in their unhappiness, and they’re all united in their need for an “other”. The most powerful moments in the film, at least in my mind when I was filming them, are those where the characters touch one another, where there’s physical contact. They’re the moments where these worlds come into contact, and they’re the most explosive situations because there’s some kind of magma underpinning them, something unsaid which bursts onto the scene at that very moment.
If you don’t like holding auditions, how did you choose your cast?
The cast is made up of people who I already had in mind; first of all, Vanessa [Scalera] and Elena [Lietti], but also [Fabrizio] Ferracane and [Andrea] Fuorto. As for the girls, we went looking for them in the region of Abruzzo, we saw over three thousand of them, but even then, it was their wonderful personalities which made it clear to me that they were the ones; I sensed that they had the human qualities required to play l’Arminuta and Adriana.
(Translated from Italian)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.