"A political film full of incurable romanticism"
by Camillo de Marco
- Based on the eponymous book by Giancarlo De Cataldo, Romanzo criminale is the director’s most accomplished and stylistically complex film
Cineuropa: The film came about when Cattleya acquired the rights to the book, convinced that it could be successfully adapted for the big screen. How did the project develop?
Michele Placido: The names of various Italian directors were suggested, like Marco Tullio Giordana and Roberto Faenza. I got a screenplay written by [Stefano] Rulli and [Sandro] Petraglia and only after finishing it did I read De Cataldo’s book. I was moved when I read the screenplay for the first time, and subsequently did some work on it. I cut down the number of lines, I made everything drier. I did as I had always done on the other political films that I’ve directed or acted in, from Ordinary Hero (Un eroe borghese) to Forever Mary (Mery per sempre), following the lessons of those who taught me this craft: Francesco Rosi, Elio Petri, Damiano Damiani, Marco Bellocchio. I hope that Crime Novel [+see also:
interview: Michele Placido
film profile] re-opens a classic trend of Italian cinema. Our history is beset with closets full of skeletons asking to come out and be recounted.
What struck you most about the novel?
I immediately sensed that I could make a good movie from this book, because it speaks of facts that have marked recent Italian history, and beyond. It is also about human tragedy, an event that directly touches upon love, hatred and passion.
Nevertheless, it was not an easy story to adapt into a film, considering the number of characters and events.
It was certainly a question of finding the right style for bringing these pages to life. An overly realistic style would have emphasised its documentary-like aspects and probably would not have satisfied the tastes of an audiences used to more modern and efficient narrative styles. Seeing as how the novel allows it, I chose an approach somewhere between realism and tragedy, which draws the audience closer to the characters. Especially in the second part, I drew the actors’ face in tighter with continuous close-ups, to delve into the intimacy of these dramatic lives. The result is a very physical and passionate film, focused entirely on the actors’ bodies.
The actors seemed to have really gotten into their parts…
I was lucky to have been able to work with excellent actors. They were free to choose their own roles, which was a new experience for me. There was moreover so much collaboration between us, we discussed every scene. They have all worked in the theatre, and they gave their characters a certain pietas, a hint of fragility, making them even more tragic.
Was there any risk of overly legitimizing these criminals?
There are no positive characters in the film, even though the characters in De Cataldo’s book have a powerful epic and human depth. We were careful not turn these delinquents into big heroes, but the actors knew how to portray their [characters’] existential turmoil.