The birth of a nation
by Camillo de Marco
- The destiny of three young revolutionaries involved in the struggle for Italian unity. A historical fresco with contemporary echoes unveiled in competition at Venice 2010
The much-anticipated Italian film in competition at the 67th Venice Film Festival, Mario Martone’s We Believed [+see also:
interview: Mario Martone
interview: Mario Martone
film profile] is a 170-minute-long journey into nineteenth-century Italian history through the destinies of three boys from the South.
Loosely based on real historical events and on Anna Banti ’s eponymous novel, the film has obvious links with the present. "We Believed is constructed from rigorously historical material", explained Martone at the press conference. "We wanted viewers to be the ones to create the connection with the present. We didn’t want to give a nod to current events, but bring nineteenth-century language alive, delving into the fabric of our present".
To make the connection with today’s world more obvious, the director does however use a few visual devices: a modern garage, a prison still used in the 1970s for the Red Brigade terrorists and one of the monstrous buildings that blight the southern coast.
Co-screenwriter Giancarlo De Cataldo described the adventure of a journey through the many documents and letters with which "we constructed this story, until we felt transported to that era. Free from prejudice". Indeed, there are two opposing theories about the Risorgimento: one sees it as the endeavour of young and beautiful heroes fighting for Italian unity, while in reality the different factions remained hostile; and another represents it as a sort of "deception" perpetrated to the detriment of a population that didn’t want to be freed at all and adored the Bourbon kings and popes.
In the film, after the fierce Bourbon repression of the 1828 uprisings, involving their families in Cilento, Domenico, Angelo and Salvatore decide to join Giuseppe Mazzini’s Young Italy. Their future lives as conspirators and revolutionaries are told in four episodes, up to Italian Unification, through insurrections, anti-monarchist attacks, Garibaldi expeditions, long periods of imprisonment and shootings. This is all heightened by Hubert Westkemper’s original music compositions and pieces by Verdi, Bellini and Rossini conducted by Roberto Abbado.
To describe the tragic events, conflicts and incurable divisions that gave birth to Italy, Martone has cast some promising young talents (Andrea Bosca, Edoardo Natoli, Luigi Pisani); rising stars of Italian cinema (Michele Riondino, Stefano Cassetti, Guido Caprino, Peppino Mazzotta, Giovanni Calcagno); and established actors (Luigi Lo Cascio, Valerio Binasco, Luca Zingaretti, Andrea Renzi, Luca Barbareschi, Fiona Shaw, Renato Carpentieri, Ivan Franek, Franco Ravera and Roberto de Francesco). Toni Servillo is a gloomy Giuseppe Mazzini, while Francesca Inaudi and Anna Buonaiuto play Cristina di Belgiojoso, whose Parisian drawing room was a meeting place for exiles and intellectuals.
(Translated from Italian)