Giorgio Cugno • Director
"A mother losing herself"
Vacuum, the winner of the Cineuropa Prize in Lecce, is a subtle exploration of post-natal depression. The film also won the Jury's Special Prize and the FIPRESCI Prize at the festival.
Cineuropa: How did the project for Vacuum [+see also:
interview: Giorgio Cugno
film profile] start?
Giorgio Cugno: It started first of all as a project for a documentary. In the space of a about year I shot the images for this documentary. Then at the end of this year, when I found myself with the results of the filming, I didn’t feel like carrying through with this sort of project, for ethical, personal reasons. I was balancing on a tightrope: I risked exploiting others’ suffering and that wasn’t my intention at all. The project stopped and the filmed material was then useful for the first draft of the screenplay and above all for constructing the character together with the actress.
The film explores the very intimate details of motherhood. How did you do your research?
During shooting we had medical staff there, on top of the interviews which we used as background for writing. As for using elements of every-day life, I thought that the every-day might be the best way to convey such an internal process of going astray.
What happens to the young mother during the film?
In the first part of the story, we have a classic and serene situation of a mother who welcomes her motherhood. Then, as events unfold, we reach an internal degradation until we find the protagonist losing herself within herself. It’s as if a woman – and I allow myself to talk about it even though I am not a woman, and I would not like to come across as arrogant because of that – lost a bond with herself and did not only have herself to take care of. It’s as if during the film the main character lost her own identity to the point of taking on the pure function of nourishment.
With regards to the style, you make frequent use of out-of-focus. What did you want to express?
The technique and the aesthetics of the images had already been decided during drafting. It was almost all shot inside with a 50 mm to reduce depth of field as much as possible and to create this suffocating effect, as if the house were a sort of uterus tightening around the main character. The purpose was to create a physical story, the fact of always keeping on top of the main character with very close close-ups is an attempt to get under her skin. The 50 mm was very useful because it allows you to manage focuses with quick movements, especially close up. The out-of-focus was chosen because it is very destabilising and it increases in the course of the film, as she begins to lose herself.
In what way can your film be considered as a portrait of a generation?
Nowadays, and I’m talking of my generation, you often become a parent as a kind of palliative or as a solution to something, or it is done with total unawareness, to reach a certain milestone, it often happens without knowing what a child brings and that you have to be ready to put yourself to one side.
The difficult thing to do was to synthesise many different stories and testimonials in one character. It’s as if the actress, Simonetta Ainardi, embodies all the material collected during those interviews.
You’re also a leading actor in the film. How did you choose the actress for the role of the young mother?
More than an actress, I needed to find a woman who would be able to carry that emotional burden inside of her. An actor or an actress, are of course above all human beings. I had to find someone strong. Our casting took a while, but it actually took longer for the child. As for me, working with the actress – and a lot of work went into constructing her character – after a while we found a sort of synergy. She herself suggested we work together, which was, besides, something we had already done.