"I look for a strong emotional impact with the audience"
by Camillo de Marco
- There was much applause at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for the harsh and direct style of Gomorrah
There was much applause at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for the harsh and direct style of Gomorrah [+see also:
interview: Domenico Procacci
interview: Jean Labadie
interview: Matteo Garrone
film profile], along with much interest from the international market (it immediately sold to a dozen countries). All this while in Italy, released theatrically 48 hours earlier, it had already grossed €1m. "I’m happy about the success,” director Matteo Garrone told the press at Cannes. "My film is not a thesis film, I hope it makes people reflect upon the consequences of wrong choices”. A few days later, the 40-year-old director walked away with the Jury Grand Prize.
The film’s impact on audiences and critics alike has been powerful. Some in Italy fear what the film will do for the country’s image but Garrone isn’t worried. "I don’t understand why American and Israeli directors who speak of their countries are considered necessary filmmakers,” he maintains, “while those in Italy who speak of their country are accused of defamation".
Moreover, Garrone is convinced he has satisfied a profound desire of his people. "We’re tired of the folkloric imagine that television shows so often present of crime,” he says, adding that his film is also political. "However, it’s political value lies in the language, not the content".
He adds: "I wanted the film to have a strong emotional impact and to give the audience the sensation of being there, of smelling the smells of those places". One of which is Scampia [a Neapolitan suburb made up of massive apartment complexes]. "Blaming the architecture is too easy. Near Cannes I saw the same immense building, by the same architect, Franz Di Salvo, maintained as a great luxury palace".
At Scampia and other surrounding locations, the director worked "with a lot of collaboration from the local people. They were always around me, they have me precious advice, friendships were formed. I was moved by the profound humanity of the many who aspire to a normal, legal life and are instead crushed by crime.”
Garrone received no threats whatsoever although Roberto Saviano, the author of the book from which the book is based, lives under police protection in a secret location. "He didn’t receive death threats for the book,” the director explained, “but for having named names, the bosses of the Camorra, during its presentation. The Camorristi were perhaps even flattered that we shot a film about them in their area. They didn’t disturb us. They understood that this was best for their business.”
There are masterly performances from the actors, some of which come from the theatres of the Volterra and Rebibbia prisons while others were chosen on the streets. The director was helped in the casting by Nunzia, whom Garrone met at Scampia and has since become involved with. "Nunzia was very helpful in choosing the actors. I was oriented towards strong, peasant faces but she explained to me that the Camorristi looked like that 20 years ago while today they look like television guests, they depilate themselves, wear earrings, they want to look like football players. So I re-cast the film".
Also fundamental to Garrone’s work was meeting with Camorristas themselves. "A boss of 30 years, worn out by the wars between various clans, who looked a veteran of the war in Iraq, told me that only in jail could he rest. His favourite film is The Gladiator – because he feels like an heir to the Roman emperors, certainly not the American mafia".
Money, in all its forms, is the true main character of the film. "So much so,” says Garrone, “that the rustling of the banknotes is an essential part of the soundtrack, created in Los Angeles by the best sound designer around [Lesli Shatz] who at the age of 18 created the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now".
(Translated from Italian)