Francesco Munzi • Director
"Xenophobia and violence, without prejudice "
Francesco Munzi’s The Rest of the Night [+see also:
film profile] has come to the Directors' Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival (and will be released domestically on June 11) just as Italy is in the midst of discussion the “Romanian emergency”, following episodes of violence caused by illegal immigrants.
In the new film by the director of Saimir, the young Romanian maid Maria (Laura Vasiliu, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days [+see also:
interview: Cristian Mungiu
interview: Oleg Mutu
film profile]) of a wealthy family in Turin is fired upon suspicions of having stolen a pair of earrings and returns to her ex-boyfriend, who is also Romanian and has recently been released from jail for robbery.
Cineuropa: The film seems almost a response to a very current political question...
Francesco Munzi: It is not a film with a “thesis statement” – that that would only weaken the material. But it has definitely becomes a political film for its subject matter, because it eviscerates other elements of the question. The daily news have exceeded the film, the Romanian problem is the order of the day. We talked about the screenplay a lot with the Romanian actors, no one was afraid of playing an ambiguous character. Laura initially objected saying, "My character is immoral". I told her that the greatest characters of literature are ambiguous. I thought of Dostoevsky, for example, while writing the screenplay.
Were you at all afraid that this ambiguity could be exploited?
I thought that some might see the film as stigmatising Romanian immigrants, but I accepted that risk because it was the least trivial way of tackling the subject – not giving a sweetened nor overly dark image. The characters in the film need nuances, like literary characters, in order to gain greater depth. Maria did steal, but in an almost infantile, not criminal, spirit. I don’t want to justify her though. While writing the script I wondered whether to make her innocent or guilty, then I decided that the screenplay would be better [if she were guilty], even at the risk of exploitation.
Did you have a dramatic ending in mind from the very beginning?
I don’t know when it came about, but I was somewhat afraid of it for the absolute freedom it gave the viewer. There is no judgment, there is mystery with regards to the characters that end the film, the only possible ending for these stories, which give the viewer maximum freedom of movement.
The dialogue is stripped to the very essentials.
Sometimes acting relies too much on dialogue. By eliminating it an unbearable tension is created in the actor, an unease that produces a good result.
The scene of the violence is not directly shown. Was that a choice?
A film becomes stronger when it allows the viewer to imagine what is happening. Television has made us accustomed to stereotypical crime scenes. I had to choose between hyperrealism and the other extreme, of not showing anything, and evoking with sound what is happening on the other side of the wall, to make the tension felt.
There is a continuity in this film with Saimir in the adolescent perspective of the young Romanian boy.
Naturally, my film is affectionate towards the Romanian boy and the son [of Saimir] because they’re not corrupt, they haven’t made any definitive choices yet. I hope they’re different from the adults around them.
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