“I tried to avoid Mafia-film clichés”
by Domenico La Porta
- At the 71st Venice Film Festival, Italian director Francesco Munzi presented Black Souls, his latest family drama set against a backdrop of vendettas and the Mafia
In the Official Competition at the 71st Venice Film Festival, Italian director Francesco Munzi presented Black Souls [+see also:
interview: Francesco Munzi
film profile], his latest family drama set against a backdrop of vendettas and the Mafia. Cineuropa noted down the filmmaker’s remarks during his visit to the festival.
Cineuropa: How did you work with the actors so that they would be able to master the dialect used in the film?
Francesco Munzi: I chose actors who knew the Calabrian dialect because they originally came from the region – people such as Marco Leonardi and Giuseppe Fumo – or others who were able to pick it up quickly because they were familiar with another dialect. The latter ones, people like Peppino Mazotta, learnt the language because it was required for the shoot. Fabrizio Ferracane had to play a character who was older than he was, and he’s Sicilian. He really had to build up his character from scratch over a number of months.
What was your original intention?
I hadn’t intended to convey a message with this film. The challenge was to infiltrate a criminal family and to show the more raw aspects, to bust some myths about the Mafia. It’s a family that is imploding because of an internal conflict, rather than a clash between two clans.
What is the meaning behind the scene where we see the ashes being drunk by Luciano’s character?
I had to choose a certain number of beliefs from the region for realism’s sake, and I elected to film the one about the saint’s ashes, which, once swallowed by a believer, are said to cure you of your spiritual ills. Luciano drinks them by diluting them in a glass of water, but they’re not pure. He mixes them with a drug – he combines the old with the new. Traditional beliefs are merging with modernity. This scene is one of the key moments that allow the audience to understand a film that also combines two eras, two different mentalities.
Did you do any writing in the area where the film was shot? What did you learn from these surroundings?
Yes, I spent a lot of time in that spot. The main difficulty was managing to look past my prejudices and the preconceived notions about this region, a place that I had no knowledge of from the inside. I found that it was very easy to develop the movie there because there was a positive atmosphere all the time. This form of immersion helped me to avoid the clichés you find in classic Mafia films. Of course, the novel also enlightened me a great deal, but the essence of the characters comes from that village and its inhabitants. They are men and women who are wary of those in power. They don't trust the authorities. They live in Italy, but they don't feel truly Italian; they feel like outsiders in their country.
(Translated from French)