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Surviving the plague with Maraviglioso Boccaccio

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Paolo and Vittorio Taviani • Directors


- After Caesar Must Die Tuscan directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani stage the Florentine novellas with a fantastic cast full of young actors

Paolo and Vittorio Taviani  • Directors

With Caesar Must Die [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
film profile
(Golden Bear at the 2012 Berlin Festival and a David di Donatello) brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani had staged Shakespeare, played by Rebibbia prisoners, today they re-interpret the novellas of Giovanni Boccaccio, whose work Shakespeare drew on to create a new idea of literature. The movie title, Maraviglioso Boccaccio [+see also:
film review
interview: Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
film profile
is an invitation to experience the narrative charm of one of the greatest European storytellers of the XIV century. And to interpret the five stories chosen amongst the hundred that make up the Decameron, the Tuscan directors have brought together a group of some of the youngest and most promising actors on the Italian cinema scene. "The plague that Boccaccio wrote about is present all over the world today, think of the Isis followers that cut off peoples' heads, of the injustices of some wars like in Libya and of the domestic plague affecting the unemployed youth", said the Taviani brothers, famous for their political cinema. Naturally, the reference is the setting of The Decameron: we're in fourteenth-century Florence struck by the plague, which pushes ten young people to flee to the countryside where, to while away the long days, in turn they begin to tell each other stories. "These young people aren't really fleeing; they're distancing themselves from a place that rejects them, in order to arrive at another in which nature is a friend, where they will rebuild a community embryo". 

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Cineuropa: So you've used the plague to discuss young people today.
Paolo and Vittorio Taviani: We love the Decameron because of its synthesis and also because Boccaccio dealt with stories from the great European popular heritage, which means tapping into the most profound social reality of our peoples. We felt that the time had come to tell those stories. And that's where we start, from the desperate willpower of young people to leave rejection behind. 

Women appear to play a key role in the movie and in the novellas told.
This is a female movie. Women have the initiative: to leave the city, to tell the novellas and to draw on art in order to survive all together. Although, it's a man who perceives that the time has come to return to Florence. It's a time of great melancholy and desperation. They must return to the horror. The rain pours down like a purifying bath. There's a sweet and melancholic farewell, they might meet again. We filmed that first scene in so many close-ups and then in long shots, but it was really moving: the film ended, we said goodbye to the gang, the actors who participated in this project. They learned from us and we learned a lot from them. 

How did you choose the novellas?
We had chosen loads and then someone suggested to us that we make them into a TV series to be filmed by young directors! There were three driving forces: the plague, young people and fantasy. We wanted to combine them and to illustrate how the Decameron is full of different emotions. We decided to use three dramatic and two grotesque ones, with the Calandrino in particular – the opportunity to become invisible – we wanted to tell the story, of how we see the world. 

What are the similarities with Caesar Must Die?
The feeling that incited us to make the two movies is the same; in both cases we deal with suffering. Even though the prisoner serving a life sentence is guilty, it's only when they discover theatre and they go on stage that they feel free, they're no longer the same, they imagine a possibility for survival. The young people in Maraviglioso Boccaccio can live again by telling each other novellas. 

The light, the colours of the costumes and the landscapes restore the great Tuscan art...
We were inspired by Giotto and Masaccio! The director of photography Simone Zampagni, created a cruel light in the first part of the plague, and later it was more melancholic, with violent reds. A yellow sky hangs above the man who lets himself die with his family. Each novella has its own predominant colour.

(Translated from Italian)

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