"As truthful as possible"
by Fabien Lemercier
- An interview with the actor-turned-director who uses simple realism to explore childhood and human complexity
At 36, Italian actor Kim Rossi Stuart – who recently starred in Gianni Amelio’s The Keys to the House [+see also:
film profile] and in Michele Placido’s Crime Novel [+see also:
interview: Michele Placido
film profile] (see Focus) – took on a dual role to make his directorial debut, Along the Ridge [+see also:
interview: Kim Rossi Stuart
We met with the new director – in October in Paris, where he was supervising the dubbing of his film – who shows an instantaneous charisma as an actor, hiding an intensity that has found a new outlet in directing.
Cineuropa: When did you decide to become a director?
Kim Rossi Stuart: Between [the ages of] 17 and 20, I wrote a script, but I wasn’t able to make the film. I was very interested in the acting profession and that allowed me to study how directors worked. Now, being known in Italy probably helped me make Along the Ridge, but at the beginning I didn’t want to act in the film. I had to step in after an actor dropped out. Two weeks before shooting, the production crew said to me: either you act in it or we don’t make the film. So that was it … it is a wonderful role, but I would really have preferred a pure directing role.
Why did you choose childhood as the theme?
At that age, events happen that mark you for life. It’s probably the most important time in life. From this perspective, the subject seemed to have universal appeal. I thought up of the story about three years before making the film and I insisted on working a lot with my co-writers because I often saw too many films arrive at the directing stage with poorly developed scripts. When writing, we tried to describe complex personalities, that were real therefore contradictory, no “good guys” or “bad guys”, even if adults are very selfish. I wanted to tell a story of unhappiness, of a young boy who does not enjoy a carefree childhood, but rather one of loneliness and suffering. However, I wanted to avoid a unilateral treatment and tried to make the first half of the film more of a comedy.
Highly realistic, does Along the Ridge conceal significant psychological violence? How did you work in this area?
It was only afterwards that I realised how much psychological violence exists in adult-child relationships, although I was partially aware of this when writing. This sense of truth is a code that I used from the scriptwriting stage, first as a personal preference, but also because I wanted to make a film with children and if we wanted to make it sincere and not artificial, we had to try and make it as truthful as possible. Tommy’s life is not sad, but difficult, because of the feelings of his family and this is why I chose Barbora Bobulova to play the mother. This character needed to have a certain purity, an ability to express complex problems: running away from herself, the fear of not accepting her current life and wanting another one perhaps, and escaping her neurosis.
Along the Ridge uses very few camera movements.
I wanted the camera to move only with the inner movements of the characters, their souls. And I wanted to stay as close as possible to the audience’s point of view, by putting them in the position of spying on reality. As for the sound, the technicians were a little taken aback because we shot it directly, with noises from the street. That could have posed a problem, but I liked that in the mixing, to hear people moving, life going on outside while our characters are experiencing such serious events. So, I preferred not to filter out these sounds. There is also very little music.
What were your major influences?
I am not a big film lover and I don’t want to condition myself through seeing too many films because my goal is to create something unique that cannot be called beautiful or ugly – but personal. Nevertheless, I do have my favourites: Paul Thomas Anderson, Pasolini, Cassavetes, Bergman, Truffaut, De Sicca, Kieslowski, Téchiné... It’s more difficult to like American films, but when I do, it’s extraordinary. On the whole, I prefer European cinema, in particular French films, because they are more introspective.