"A couple that views reality through ideology"
by Gabriele Barcaro
- A few days ahead of the theatrical release of The Front Line, Cineuropa interviewed the film’s director in Rome, as well as screenwriter Sandro Petraglia
Cineuropa: What sources did you use to approach the historical events in The Front Line [+see also:
interview: Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne
interview: Renato De Maria
Renato De Maria: We did a vast amount of research, beginning with countless newspaper articles on terrorism, as well as the books written by the judges who followed the investigations. We also saw La Notte della Repubblica, a series of documentaries made for television by Sergio Zavoli and, naturally – since the inspiration for the film was Sergio Segio’s novel Short Fuse – we also spoke at length with Segio and Susanna Ronconi, the film’s other "character".
What inspired you to tell this story?
R.D.M.: There were many reasons. To begin with, Italian films have hardly every dealt with these subjects. At most, they concentrated on the Red Brigades, and in particular on the kidnapping and killing of Aldo Moro. But one of the aspects that most struck me was the protagonist’s age: Segio was 25 when he attacked the Rovigo prison; he commits the murders we show at 21 and 22. These aren’t reasons to pity him, but they certainly heighten the desire to understand him. How could that happen? The explanation, at least the one I’ve come up with, is that they lived detached from the world. Clandestinity alienated them from the real world, from everyday life, in a vortex of violent actions that led them to murder.
Sandro Petraglia, screenwriter: We wanted to make a simple film, on a couple in love that could have had a normal life, and instead chose to view reality through ideology. As well as their victims, who in their eyes weren’t human beings. The only thing that mattered was their function: they were killing a judge, not a father.
How did you depict this alienation stylistically?
R.D.M.: I wanted the main characters to always see the world “indirectly”, sometimes through a car window, other times from behind the walls where they lived clandestinely. Detached from everyday life, far from real life. The Dardenne brothers liked my interpretation.
Your objective was to make a simple film: is this why the socio-political context remains in the background?
S.P.: We wanted to make references to the political context at the beginning of the film, we depict that period of Italian terrorism through archive footage. Our country’s history is complex. To analyse it in-depth you need to write an essay, which is not what we do. Besides, it is precisely the terrorists who are often the ones who most want to highlight the context in which they acted, because in some way they feel justified by the scenarios of that time.
The film is “loosely based” on Segio’s book. In what way does it diverge from the book?
S.P.: We began with the book, which had practically nothing about his private life, and invented a lot, as is always done in cinema. In particular, the biggest change was the creation of the character Piero....
…A friend of theirs who shares their revolutionary ideals but decides not to take up arms. Some say you created him to give into the associations of the victims’ families. And today even Segio says he’s anything but satisfied with the result…
S.P.: There’s a lot of confusion over this: no association ever read the screenplay, I would never have allowed that. With regard to Segio, who from the beginning was not meant to be part of the writing process, our relationship with him was very clear: we showed him the film treatment, in various versions… In many instances, his knowledge of the facts is based on what he read in the newspapers. We’re sorry he didn’t ask us directly.
R.D.M.: Segio perhaps didn’t like the film’s tone, the idea that it begins from the ending to depict, through different time frames, the events of Prima Linea [“Front Line”, the political organisation to which Segio belonged]. He might have preferred for it to begin in the beginning, but this very cinematic, “in reverse” construction was what immediately fascinated me about the book.