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"Human Capital, a human comedy which avoids being moralistic”

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Paolo Virzì • Director


- An interview about the film based on Stephen Amidon’s thriller, which infuriated Northern League party members

Paolo Virzì • Director

The portrait Paolo Virzì painted of Brianza in Human Capital [+see also:
interview: Paolo Virzì
film profile
is coming out today. The film is based on American writer Stephen Amidon’s book, and is set in Lombardy. It shows the pitfalls of ambition and avidity tied to modern day financial speculation (the film is set in 2010) and the consequential cultural degradation.   

“I know, we mistreated northern populations,” the director jokes when he meets Cineuropa in Milan. Virzì says the locations used for the film were only used as “symbols of the unstoppable degradation of society and its ruling by money.”

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Cineuropa: But in Como, one of the cities with the highest GDP in Italy, they were upset.
Paolo Virzì
: I know. Because of what I said about the abandoned Politeama theatre and the fact that it expressed a decline in culture, but I worked in Como like I would have worked in Connecticut, staying faithful to the themes in Amidon’s book. The closing of a theatre is one of the biggest symbols of degradation of an entire nation, which is now under siege. I come from Livorno, a city, which used to be full of factories and workers who would go to the cinema. Now all the cinemas are closed.

How did locals react to you during filming?
We also filmed in Varese, a rich and ferocious place, where Piero Chiara set many of his tales. The centre comes across as a drawing room but there is also the urban, social decay element. We weren’t exactly welcomed. People would swear at us from their cars. But I liked this kind of reception, which transpired on film. This is what we wanted. They looked on at us with the right kind of disgust. A kind of natural casting. A filmmaker does not seek out easy places. I look for real problems and disasters.

You almost had to choose to film in the rich provinces of the north…
It came to me naturally to think of Lombardy, I couldn’t think of any other location. I feel lost there, and I was interested to use that feeling of discomfort. I used it to create atmosphere as a perfect stranger. I was looking to find somewhere else. I wanted to use this rich province with its deep and secret discomfort, which comes to light in the third part of the film, in an apologetic way. This kind of untraced alarm was an ingredient I wanted to use in the film. Some people didn’t like it, but all I am is a filmmaker who used an emotion to make a noir film.

The noir that remains in the background…
Yes. With this deterioration, which is reflected in human relationships. All of the characters are monsters without knowing it. And the film says a lot of things about today’s Italy, but without being moralistic. It is a human comedy.

What remains at the end of the film are the destinies of the three youngsters. Their futures are uncertain.
The three young main characters from the film seem to have no autonomous future. They have no way of imagining a life that would be different from that which was led by their parents. All they do is pay for their choices. The film’s finale is open, but I should confess that we filmed more than one ending, and all of them are quite different. In one of the versions, each character is given an epilogue. You can see realtor Dino Ossola for example (played by Fabrizio Bentivoglio) open a poker video bar in Lugano. Young Serena (Matilde Gioli) wants to become a neuro-psychiatrist, and after failing to get into Columbia University, Massimiliano (Guglielmo Pinelli) gets into a New York acting school with the aim of becoming a television star. We then decided to get rid of these conclusions, but we would quite like to film a follow-up, at least that is what my producers are excited about. 

(Translated from Italian)

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