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“The choice to make a fantasy film in Italy today is a masochistic one”

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Matteo Garrone • Director


- CANNES 2015: Matteo Garrone talked to the press about his new film, Tale of Tales, screened in competition at Cannes

Matteo Garrone  • Director

Alone in front of a sea of journalists, standing “so that he wouldn’t feel so embarrassed”, Matteo Garrone answered questions from the press on his new film, Tale of Tales [+see also:
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Q&A: Matteo Garrone
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, which will be shown in competition at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival and was premiered in Rome. 

Why did you choose to make an adaptation of Basile’s work?
Matteo Garrone: He’s a writer I’ve always been familiar with, nothing short of a genius. His stories struck me for the beauty of their characters, their visual richness, their originality. Deciding to venture into fantasy in Italy today is an unconscious, masochistic choice, but in my artistic process it came quite naturally: in my previous films I started with reality and ended up in a fantasy world, here I tried to do the opposite. As a painter, I found that wealth of images resembled my own work, just like the mix of reality and fantasy, comedy and tragedy. I was keen to explore a new genre and give visibility to a writer like Basile. Perhaps not everyone knows this, but “Tale of Tales” was the first book of fairytales to be written in the seventeenth century and inspired many great authors, such as the Brothers Grimm, Andresen and Perrault.

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Did you feel like you were taking a big risk with this film?
There were a lot of risks. It wasn’t easy for me to secure funding for a fantasy film after producing such seemingly different work in the past. Then we had technical problems, with special effects, the set design, the costumes – everything that could have gone wrong did. For me, a person used to being in control of everything on the set, not knowing exactly what the finished scene would look like, as we often filmed with green screens, was a bit frustrating. It was an adventure. One of the risks with this project was that we’d end up copying Anglo-Saxon fantasy films, but we made sure we maintained our personality, authenticity and vision, rooting it solidly in Italian culture. For us it was important to maintain a handmade quality and use digital effects as a way of supplementing this: those creatures, the dragon, the giant flea etc., had to be real and tangible on set.

How did you choose the cast and locations?
We went round Italy looking for locations for eight months; we were spoilt for choice. We were looking for real places that looked like they had been reconstructed in a studio. At the same time, the reconstructed locations almost looked too real. The film moves constantly between reality and fantasy. We chose the cast based on the physicalities of the actors, not just their skill: Hayek struck me as the right choice for a Spanish queen of the seventeenth century whereas Cassel, with his double comic/dramatic register, reminded me of Gassman. Bebe Cave was a surprise; she was the only person I saw for the role of Viola and impressed me straight away. The actors and actresses were given the freedom, despite the rigid script, to build their characters on their own personalities. As always in my films, the characters and people playing them became one.

Tale of Tales is about birth, death and sacrifice. Could you also describe it as a film about the laws of desire and changing bodies?
Desire is an important guiding force for these characters. The body and the way it changes has always been somewhat of an obsession of mine. I was surprised by how modern these stories are: in the seventeenth century Basile was already tackling issues of cosmetic surgery and facelifts. It wasn’t easy for us to choose which stories to use for the film, in the end we opted for three stories about women covering three different eras.

This film was almost entirely self-produced, but on a large budget. How did you structure the funding? Did it change the way you worked?
This is actually the first film I’ve produced on this scale, with a budget of 12 million euros. RaiCinema believed in the project right from the start and gave me a significant base amount, together with the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, which was then added to by the Apulia Film Commission. Funding for the film initially came from Italy, then France and England weighed in. It wasn’t easy; I couldn’t find a bank willing to give me cash flow as mine is a small production company. Thankfully I found a financial institution in France. I worked in a different way on this film; it grew from the bottom up. I had to give up on the idea of filming in sequence; I couldn’t do it with such expensive actors. And there were no hand-held cameras at all.

(Translated from Italian)

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