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Monday, September 7, 2015

72nd Venice Film Festival- Interview with Actor Sebastiano Filocamo of Marco Bellocchio's "Sangue del mio sangue"

Marco Bellocchio’s new film, Sangue del mio sangue (Blood of My Blood) is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival. There is not much information available online. However, the Toronto Film Festival, the next stop for the film, gave the most detailed description that I could find, calling it “one of the strangest and most haunting films in Marco Bellocchio's long and illustrious career.”  They went on to say, “It has elements of a vampire film and is set between two very different time periods. Much of it has to do with the Inquisition. It is dark, troubling, enigmatic; a kind of nightmare of interlocking narratives. It also shows that Bellocchio has lost none of his power to surprise, a quality evident in his brilliant Fists in the Pocket, still one of the most impressive first features in the history of cinema. The film opens with some startling imagery. A bearded man arrives at a monastery to find a nun hanging from the ceiling from her feet. Federico Mai (Filippo Timi) has come on a mission: his brother committed suicide and cannot be buried in consecrated ground unless his lover, Sister Benedetta (Alba Rohrwacher), confesses to their sin, thereby saving the dead man's soul. Benedetta is subjected to trials by water and fire and questioning by the apostolic hierarchy, whilst Federico watches — and hopes. Yet his vigil takes a strange turn. Ruptures in time project us into the present day, in which a Russian wants to buy the monastery where Benedetta's torture occurred. Living in the monastery is a strange assortment of people, among them a Count and a woman whose husband has disappeared. But this is just the beginning of the mystery. Sangue del mio sangue demands careful attention, for Bellocchio has detailed a labyrinthine story of conspiracy, betrayal, and corruption where the ground under your feet shifts constantly. With this brave and elusive narrative, the director captures the sense that corruption and duplicity are timeless, and that little has changed over the centuries.”

All the mystery surrounding this film raised some questions, so I went to someone that over the course of a year, has become one of my favorite filmmakers, not only for his beautiful, intense performances, but also for the passion he has when speaking of his craft. I first interviewed actor Sebastiano Filocamo in March about his role in Anime nere. I was thrilled to see him among the cast of Sangue del mio sangue. I asked him about the film, his character and what it was like to work with a true maestro like Bellocchio. 
 
Filocamo answered my questions in Italian, so both versions are included.

Tell me about this story and what makes this so-called haunted monastery unique? 

It is set and filmed in Bobbio, a place dear to Bellocchio. My scenes were all filmed in a real convent that had been closed for decades and reopened just to make the film. Sangue del mio sangue was first a short film starring myself along with the director's brother, Alberto and inspired by some reflections of Bellocchio’s favorite themes. One of those themes, perhaps the most delicate and profound, involves a tragedy that has significantly affected the life of one of the characters, the twin brother of a character that committed suicide. It is a film where the past and present are united and where everything is not always explained or even capable of being explained. 

Posso dire che è ambientato e girato a Bobbio, luogo caro a Bellocchio. Le mie scene sono state girate tutte all’interno di un vero convento che era rimasto chiuso per trent’anni e che è stato aperto per l’occasione del film. Sangue del mio sangue nasce prima come un cortometraggio che mi vede protagonista insieme al fratello del regista, Alberto e prende spunto da alcune riflessioni del maestro su temi a lui cari. Tra cui uno dei temi, forse il più delicato e profondo, arriva proprio da una tragedia che ha toccato in modo significativo la vita del fratello gemello suicida. Qui viene riproposta in modo trasversale, indiretto. È un film dove presente e passato si ricongiungono e dove tutto non è sempre spiegato o spiegabile.
 
Tell me about your character, Padre confessore.
The padre confessore is a very discreet, impervious character and the only male presence in this strange convent. He is a complicated character in his construction and human transformation, and interpreting this character was a liberating experience. Getting into the head of a priest from the 7th century and giving credibility to his thoughts and words of passion and truth was both a great stimulus and a difficult work. In becoming this character, I concentrated on postures, looks, voice and the Latin language. I had long conversations with a priest, so that I could better understand the gestures, the movements and the intonations of the rites, thus giving more consistency to my character. The padre confessore is simple and compassionate but reflective and intense. Bellocchio directed me with such kindness that each take just made me give more and more but with pleasure, not anxiety. Padre confessore is a different character from my recent roles in “Anime nere” and “Tutti i rumori del mare”. 

Il padre confessore è un ruolo molto ermetico, schivo ed è l’unica presenza maschile dentro questo convento “strano”. E’ stato un personaggio complicato nella sua costruzione e trasformazione umana quanto liberatorio nella sua interpretazione. Entrare in una testa di un prete del 600 e rendere credibili i suoi pensieri e le sue parole per passione e verità è stato un grande stimolo e un non facile lavoro. Posture, sguardi, voce, imparare il latino. Fare conversazioni lunghe con un sacerdote che mi era stato data dalla produzione per capirne i gesti, le movenze, le intonazioni dei riti, dando sempre più consistenza a questo personaggio così distante nel tempo e nei pensieri e renderlo vero in tutti quei caratteri così diversi da quello che io sono. Tutto questo è il padre confessore nel film. E’ un padre confessore semplice, compassionevole ma ieratico. Bellocchio mi ha diretto con tale amorevolezza che poter dare sempre di più ad ogni ciak era solo un piacere e non un ansia. E’ un personaggio molto diverso da quelli interpretati ultimamente in Anime nere e in Tutti i rumori del mare. 

Sebastiano Filocamo on set with Marco Bellocchio
What was it like to work with Marco Bellocchio? 
For an actor like me, working with Bellocchio is like trying to build something outside of myself. Remaining credible and revealing, then interpreting the character in ways beyond thoughts and words is one of the most important things that an actor could do. I have never felt so cared for by a director. I have a lot of respect for him, so much that I didn’t want to address him in the informal Italian tense, even though he said that it was ok to do so. There were light moments off the set during lunch and dinner breaks that gave me the opportunity to spend time with him and his entire family, so I was able to get to know them. He gave me a poster of the film and I wanted to ask him to autograph it, but I didn’t want to bother him. Then a friend asked him for me, and he wrote very nice things. Just thinking about it makes me smile because it was a special and unique experience, also because some of the crew members will go on to be directors and producers like Simone Gattoni, one of the producers on this film and Bellocchio's next as well.

Lavorare con Bellocchio è, per un attore come me che cerca di costruire qualcosa “fuori da se” rimanendo credibile e rivelando poi nell’interpretazione il carattere, i modi e i pensieri oltre le parole, sia una delle cose più importanti che ti possano accadere. Non mi sono mai sentito così accudito da un regista. Alla fine del lavoro, io ho avuto la fortuna di lavorare nel cortometraggio (un grazie va a Stefania de Santis che mi ha proposto) in un atmosfera più rilassata e di conoscerci un po’di più, nonostante la mia timidezza. Ho conosciuto un po’ anche tutta la sua famiglia e a cena o a pranzo erano momenti di leggera conoscenza che esulavano dal set. Io non riesco ancora a dargli del tu nonostante sia stato lui a chiedermelo. Alla fine del lavoro mi ha regalato una stampa. Io avrei voluto chiedergli una dedica ma non ebbi coraggio. Allora una ragazza del corso, Miriam glielo chiese per me e così ho una sua dedica in cui ci sono scritte delle cose molto belle su me ma che restano ovviamente private. Sorrido. E’ stata davvero un'esperienza speciale ed unica anche per la situazione che si era venuta a creare non solo tra noi del set ma anche tra i ragazzi del corso. Alcuni poi sono diventati dei bravi professionisti chi come regista, chi come produttore, come Simone Gattoni che è uno dei produttore di questo e del prossimo film del maestro.
 


Music plays a huge role in Bellocchio's films. Will that be the case also with "Sangue del mio sangue"? From the trailer alone, the music seems to have a far range from mystery to comedy to drama.  
Music is a very important element for Bellocchio. I know that he’s worked hard on this film with the composer, Maestro Carlo Crivelli. It’s a very demanding plot that ranges from the 7th century to the present day, so the music follows the different eras. 
 
La musica è per Bellocchio un elemento molto importante e mai didascalico o di commento. So che ha lavorato molto su questo film insieme al maestro Carlo Crivelli.
E come sempre è stato esigente visto la trama che varia dal 600 ai giorni nostri. Credo che le musiche seguano questo rivelarsi di epoche diverse. 

The film has already been selected for other international film festivals. Do you feel the story will translate well to audiences outside of Italy?
The elements of this film- the intensity on the faces of the actors, the photography of Daniele Ciprì, the costumes of Daria Calvelli, the music, the town of Bobbio and the film’s locations- in particular the convent with the walls that tell you about the silences and the cries of years so far away from us- the poetic and the unique way in which Bellocchio tells of this pain cannot be translated literally. Instead, all of these elements will be understood by the innate senses of the viewer in the profound form of art that has no barriers.  

Io credo che l’intensità dei visi degli attori scelti, la fotografia di Ciprì, i costumi di Daria Calvelli, le musiche, Bobbio e i suoi luoghi, quel convento con le pareti che ti raccontano i silenzi e le grida di anni così lontani da noi , la poetica e la mano unica  e “dolorosa” di Bellocchio possono anche non essere tradotte e arriverebbe comunque come arriva l’arte quando tale è, senza barriere, in tutta la sua profondità, con la vista e gli altri sensi che si accompagnano. 

The translation of Sebastiano Filocamo’s words wasn’t easy. He speaks so poetically and philosophically about his work. Having met and interviewed Bellocchio last year, I can say that the collaboration of these two artists is a match made in heaven. Although Sangue del mio sangue will not be available online through the Venice Film Festival’s Sala Web program, it will make its North American premiere in Toronto next week on September 15th. Click here for the complete schedule of all Italian selections. 

Then in October, the film will make its way to Korea for the 20th edition of the Busan International Film Festival, where it will be shown in the festival's World Cinema Program and then to England for the BFI London Film Festival.

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