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Francesca Comencini • Director

"I wanted to tell a story about a woman who isn’t a victim"


- Roman director Francesca Comencini talks to us about her new film Stories of Love That Cannot Belong to This World, screened at Torino and in Italian cinemas from 29 November

Francesca Comencini  • Director

After its debut at Locarno, Francesca Comencini took her new film, Stories of Love That Cannot Belong to This World [+see also:
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interview: Francesca Comencini
film profile
, a sentimental comedy drama from her book of the same name, to Torino Film Festival (Mobile Festa section). The film stars Lucia Mascino (recently seen in On the Trail of my Father [+see also:
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 by Marco Segato and TV series Suburra: Blood on Rome), and Thomas Trabacchi (Nico, 1988 [+see also:
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) as the protagonists. The film is due to hit Italian cinemas on 29 November with Warner.

Cineuropa: Your film is somewhat reminiscent of Woody Allen's Annie Hall, but from the point of view of a woman. Was it a reference point when adapting the book into a film?
Francesca Comencini:
I don’t dare say so as that film is a masterpiece, but in fact yes, it was a film that we watched a lot and touched upon with screenwriters Francesca Manieri and Laura Paolucci. Despite it being from a male point of view, there is a similar narrative: a man who neurotically obsesses over his relationship after a breakup. Annie Hall is so iconic in terms of freedom and irony, and pain, too, so it was inevitable that we thought of it. 

In a way, the story is articulated through the flow of consciousness of the protagonist, but every now and again we hear a man's voice. How did you structure the film?
When I initially started making notes for what would later become the book, I imagined four voice-overs coming from four main characters, as a sort of uninterrupted monologue that would demonstrate four different points of view. The book is actually structured that way, it's more choral. Then when writing the film with the screenwriters, we realised that the strongest narrator was Claudia. The film was already fairly chaotic and fragmentary, so multiplying the number of narrators became impossible. Flavio’s voice does sometimes makes an appearance, however.

The protagonist's neuroses are taken to the extreme, touching on the absurd at times, particularly at the beginning. Did you intentionally create this detachment from reality?
Yes, because she is suffering from this sort of continuous hyper-narration that people fall into when they're in love and go through a breakup. Any one of us with a friend that has been broken up with recently will know that they will have to resign themselves to only hearing about that for the next six months. It's a funny and potentially ironic thing about the character, but in general I tried to tell the story of a woman who isn’t a victim. She is desperate, but her excessive way of being was a way of making her hyper-reactive. I also wanted to create a character that didn’t fit into the standard canons. When you’re a woman wanting to express your own subjectivity, sometimes at the risk of being harassed, you risk becoming a bit excessive, because the world isn’t expecting it. Your excess is not being able to live in the world as it is, that is, a world narrated by men.

Was Lucia Mascino on the cards to be the protagonist from the beginning?
Honestly, no, we found her through casting. I had already seen her perform in theatre productions, but I did not think of her immediately because I initially imagined an older actress. But when she did the test, I immediately realised she was the one. I'm happy to have given both Lucia and Thomas Trabacchi the main roles, they are two very good actors, with a lot of theatre experience and technique under their belts, but also an innocence and ability to get involved. 

One particularly fun scene focuses on a university lecture on "heterocapitalism," where you calculate the age of a woman based on factors other than her actual date of birth.
The film does tackle the concept of age, which is different for men and women. Not biologically speaking, but rather in terms of the permission that the world gives men and women to get older in a patriarchal system. That particular scene, in fact, is based on a very important text by a philosopher called Paul B Preciado, who is extremely intelligent and ingenious about the normative constructions of heterocapitalism. We filmed it ironically, as it’s a very effective way of understanding how age, roles and gender stereotypes are all social constructions. In the real world if you are divorced, don’t have a job, or have children you're not worth anything, you are considered to be seventy-something even if you are like 46 years old. I have heard many people say that women age more severely than men, but it's bullshit.

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