"Authentic, perceptive and hugely moving"
THE SON'S ROOM
Directed by Nanni Moretti
WINNER OF THE PALME D'OR, CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2001
Giovanni (Nanni Moretti, Caro Diario, Aprile) is a psychoanalyst living a contented, middle-class existence in a small town in Italy. In the consulting room that adjoins his apartment, he spends all day with his patients listening to a long list of neuroses, a sharp contrast to the calmness of his own existence. He adores his wife, Paola (Laura Morante), and shares a great relationship with their two adolescent children, Irene (Jasmine Trinca) and her younger brother Andrea( Giuseppe Sanfelice).
One Sunday morning Giovanni receives an urgent call from a patient and is forced to postpone a promised jog with Andrea, a decision destined to haunt him. Because of this change in plans, Andrea decides instead to go diving with friends, and never returns. The consequences of a small decision, the sense of loss and the processes of grief reveal to Giovanni and his remaining family more than his professional practice of psychoanalysis has ever done.
With this film, do you think you have changed direction by choosing a darker,
less humorous approach?
"In La Stanza Del Figlio I felt the urgent need to relate this pain, the death of a loved one, the different ways in which those close to the victim react to his death. I really felt an important need to make this story into a film. I have never felt so involved in the feelings of a film as I did in this case."
Can you tell where this pain, and the desire to relate it, has come from?
"I had already written the treatment for the film after Dear Diary. Where does it come from? In part from the fact that as time goes on, one starts to think more and more about death. It is not connected at all to my cancer [Moretti's skin cancer was part of the story-line of his 1993 film Dear Diary] because at that time I was never afraid of dying. I just hadn't had time to make this film up until now. It concerns the death of others. How does one react to the death of a loved one? What is life like after the death of another person? As one grows older, one starts to think more and more about death and so, naturally, it's a fear that I have tried to confront by directing a film about it. So I wrote the treatment after Dear Diary. But at that time, at the end of 1995,something distanced me from it. My wife and I were expecting a child and, quite frankly, it didn't seem right to continue writing and then make a film about the death of a child during Silvia's pregnancy or during the first few months of this child's life. I couldn't do it. I didn't want to either. So I put the treatment of La Stanza Del Figlio to one side knowing that, whatever happened, this was the film I would make later on. Once I had completed Aprile, I started to write the script with Heidrun Schleef, a screenplay writer, and the author Linda Ferri."
What did these two collaborators contribute?
"I had a 25-page story: there was the family, there was my character as a psychoanalyst. Then together we wrote the screenplay. The opening scene in the film, of me running, could have come from one of my previous films. And moreover, the next scene after that opening one, where I am having a cappuccino in the bar, is exactly the same as the final scene of Dear Diary. In the first part of the film - not voluntarily but perhaps not by chance either - there may be situations and characters that are familiar from my previous films. But then this is of course all blotted out by the interruption of this great pain - the son's death. But I believe - in as far as I can gather - that this film integrates and completely redevelops my previous films. So actually it's not all that unusual in comparison to the others."
Why were you so keen to play the character of the psychoanalyst? Have you
read a lot of books on psychoanalysis?
"Yes, I read books on psychoanalysis before making this film. But I read more of them out of simple curiosity than to look for clues for the film. I had the screenplay read by several psychoanalysts and asked them for their advice - which needless to say, I followed cautiously! And some of the patients in the film are based on true cases which we found in psychiatry and psychoanalytical magazines and then redeveloped to our taste when writing the screenplay."
Surely it couldn't have been easy to play this character?
"Without a doubt I would have written and acted differently fifteen years ago. And for the first time in this film, the characters I come into contact with are not mere satellites of my own character. It's the first time I have let myself get so carried away with the feelings and atmosphere of a film. When I was filming the third part of Dear Diary - the part in which I looked back on my illness and my discovery that I had cancer - I didn't feel any anxiety, pain or panic whatsoever. I didn't in any way relive the confusion of this period, all I thought about was directing and acting. This was quite contrary to La Stanza Del Figlio, where I was totally absorbed with the pain that I wanted to convey."
Why did you opt to move away from Rome, to film in Ancona, a town that few
people outside Italy will have heard of?
"Not many Italians will recognise it either. This was one of the first things that I thought of when the film was still in its development stages. I felt that the story should be set outside Rome, in a small town where there would be two or three professional psychoanalysts at most. That way, the central character wouldn't be perceived as just one among so many in a large city. Moreover, I wanted the story of the family to take place in a small urban area. I didn't want to go to Geneva because it's an amalgamation of many towns, many identities, a town that is difficult to understand. I ruled out Livorno because I didn't want to invade the territory of the film director Paolo Virzi. La Spezia seemed too picturesque and too pretty; Bari and Taranto are in the south of Italy, and people would expect a sociological film about the North-South divide, which wasn't my intention. Thus I revisited Ancona and realised that it was the most appropriate setting I had located."
Why is the scene in the Chapel of Rest filmed so realistically?
"Usually, in Italian cinema, there are two ways of depicting such a scene. First of all, the grotesque way: characters dancing a kind of tarantella around the corpse or even scenes with mobile phones ringing, relatives bickering. The other possibility is that everybody sobs, an external pain expressed by the director, the actors, the extras.
But I tried to film this moment in a realistic light. I am not religious - neither are Giovanni or Paola - so for myself and for Giovanni, when the coffin is sealed, it really is the end. That is why, as a director, I didn't avoid the harshness of the scene. Their son is dead, Giovanni and Paola will not see him again, in any form."
Nanni Moretti, born in
1953, is based in Rome, where he continues to devote himself to his two passions
- cinema and water-polo. In 1970 his skill in the latter earned him a place
in Italy's junior National team. It was his passion for cinema, however, that
prompted him at the end of his high school studies to sell his stamp collection
in order to buy a super8 cinema camera with which he started making short films
in 1973. His professional career started with Ecce Bombo in 1978, a nation-wide
success which still enjoys cult-movie status in Italy.
His films are characterised by his sharp observation of contemporary Italy, often laced with a wry humour that has earned him the nickname of "The Italian Woody Allen". His 1990 documentary on the reconfiguring of the Italian Communist Party, La Cosa, indicates a more politically-based social agenda than is evident in the work of the American director, but films such as Caro Diario (1993) do demonstrate a similar willingness to put himself in the role of everyman. Moretti habitually writes, produces and appears in his own films, recently making them under the aegis of the company Sacher Films.
"A movie more to be prescribed than recommended - as visually bland as a dentist's waiting room, complete with soothing Muzak and a cushion of predictable narrative rhythms." J.Hoberman, Village Voice
"Moretti never feels the need to ram his key moments home with flashy
camerawork or intrusive close-ups, and Nicola Piovani's score is a quiet, compassionate
presence. This makes it all the more moving."
Philip Kemp, SIGHT AND SOUND
|Raffaella||CLAUDIA DELLA SETA|
|DIRECTOR AND STORY||NANNI MORETTI|
|Notes Compiled by:|