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Interview: Mario Martone • Director

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A 19th century between the past and the present


- Cineuropa caught up with Mario Martone at the Venice Film Festival, where his period piece We Believed, inspired by true historical events of the Italian Risorgimento played in Competition

Interview: Mario  Martone   • Director

Cineuropa: We Believed [+see also:
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interview: Mario Martone
interview: Mario Martone
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certainly reflects the current Italian political situation.

Mario Martone: The film came about as a thrust to the present, which was then rigorously traced back to a historical profile. We didn’t want to force things or make references to today. All the words spoken by historical figures come from their writings or letters – it is a rigorously documented work. At the same time, the relationship with today is very strong, but I want the viewer to grasp that relationship.

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Several modern elements appear in the film.
With the production designer and the entire crew I tried to recreate the 19th century different from the one we’re used to seeing. A different historiographic vision corresponds to a different iconographic vision. We didn’t want a Visconti-esque 19th century, which is the matrix of the entire 19th century presented in cinema. On the one hand, there is maximum rigor, topographical as well, such as the trial of the Orsini gang in Montefusco Prison. On the other, it was important to point out that we were not reconstructing, but seeking the revival going on today.

Was it hard to maintain the use of a language that dates back to the 1900s?
Long dialogue in an obsolete language scared the producers, but I didn’t give in. It is from original texts, thus the actors could work with the original language of the 19th century. The actors accepted the challenge of re-infusing life into that language, making sure their characters didn’t speak like today’s young people, but trying to make understand the relationship between that past and our present. I asked them for an anti-naturalistic, theatrical style, and that it relate to the music.

The music is an essential melodramatic component.
The original idea came while listening to Othello – Muti was conducting at the Rome Opera – the aria “Dio! Mi poteva scagliar”. Because we were in the theatre I could hear the orchestra separate from the voice and I understand that that music is somehow melodramatic yet also very tormented. Starting from that, we then sought out music that always had the characteristic of something similar, and we found them disseminated in various works, mostly by Verdi.

In the ending, the character of Angelo speaks about the "petty, arrogant and murderous" Italy before him.
These are the closing words of Anna Banti’s novel. They refer to Italy right after Aspromonte [when the royal army blocked Garibaldi and his volunteers from completing a march from Sicily to Rome and drive out Pope Pio IX], yet this Italy continued to exist in the years that followed, through to today. Luckily, a democratic Italy opposed to that also persisted. This clash originated from our Risorgimento and traverses all of Italian history that ensued.

It’s not a clash between the left and right, but between the country’s two anthropological souls: authoritarianism and democracy, which can be expressed in various ways. In the film, the contexts in which this dialectic unfolds are different, for example in the jail. In Italy there exists an authoritarian vein, a relationship between the deep fears of our country and the need to trust an illusory force that firmly guides us from above and which in 150 years has actually produced many tragedies.


international title: We Believed
original title: Noi credevamo
country: Italy, France
sales agent: Rai Com
year: 2010
directed by: Mario Martone
screenplay: Giancarlo De Cataldo, Mario Martone
cast: Luigi Lo Cascio, Valerio Binasco, Toni Servillo, Luca Zingaretti, Michele Riondino, Francesca Inaudi, Anna Bonaiuto

main awards/selection

Biennale di Venezia 2010 In competition

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