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Marco Filiberti • Regista

"I was inspired by Death in Venice, but this isn’t ‘gay cinema’”

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Marco Filiberti • Regista

“I think that ‘serious’ gay cinema has had its coming out and should be considered ‘cleared through customs’. In any case, I’d be happy if people didn’t speak of Il Compleanno [+see also:
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(“The Birthday”) as a ‘gay film’, also because if the main character Matteo had been attracted to a girl, instead of David, the dialogue and the sense of the film would be the same”.

At a moment when the news are filled with homophobic violence, Marco Filiberti is bringing to Venice Il Compleanno, a contemporary melodrama that was overtly inspired by Douglas Sirk’s films and Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice. It tells the story of a well-heeled, rational man, a therapist, who experiences overwhelming and unexpected passion for a friend’s son.

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Produced by Zen Zero S.r.l. with participation from the Ateliers d'écriture Evian éQuinoxe 2007 at the Royal Evian Resort, the film is the second feature by the director of Little More Than a Year Ago (2003), and will be presented in Controcampo Italiano on September 8. The film, about two families that spend a summer together in Saubadia that will change their lives, stars Massimo Poggio, Maria De Medeiros, Alessandro Gassman, Michela Cescon, Christo Jivkov, Piera Degli Esposti and newcomer Thyago Alves.

Cineuropa: How did this project, which seems like a tribute to Sirk’s melodramas, come about?
Marco Filiberti: The idea came from two main sources. The first is light as a visual but not revealing factor, which does not shine on something to expose the truth, but to blind and bring a sudden epiphany. The second is the myth of Tristan and Isolde, filtered by Schopenhauer and Wagner, in which I’m inescapably interested. There are aspects of life that offer choices while others, like death, sickness or a revelation, reawaken in us realities we have not perceived because we weren’t ready to do so. In Il Compleanno, the disruptive force comes in the form of David, whose arrival overwhelms Matteo.

With regard to the tribute to Sirk, I wanted to make something that explicitly drew from the syntax of the melodrama. I can’t do without this [cinematic] language, which abjures realism in order to transform it.

What lies at the heart of the film?
It is an exploration of shadow zones, from which emerge three, interconnected elements of the forbidden. The first is the total love of a married adult, who feels an uncontrollable homosexual passion. The second is Leonard (Jivkov), who harbours a deep wound and now suffers from chronic depression. The third is Giuliana, the patient who does not love her daughter. Of these, the first plays the most important role, while the other two are references and mirrors.

The film depicts a gay love that creates a scandal, at a moment in which the news are covered with homophobic violence…
At the end of the film there’s even a pretty strong sex scene, which is not gratuitous, however. It wasn’t done to stimulate audiences’ basest instincts, but to respect the main character’s arc. I couldn’t not show it and I hope that no one will walk out of the film talking only about that.

With respect to current events, I like fighting for my ideals but I’m horrified at the idea of instrumentalizing them and just want to say that, unfortunately, violence exists, but not only against gays. There are also victims who are women, blacks, foreigners and minorities in general.

Are you happy to be selected in Controcampo at Venice?
Yes, it’s a new section that takes up the one [Carlo] Lizzani wanted at a time when auteur cinema was strong. I think the section’s films will garner attention, also because there are few in competition. At the Lido we will also present the book Mélo Ritrovato, dedicated to my film and film melodramas in general.

Do you have new films in the works?
I have three new film projects. In November, I’ll shoot Gli Eterni Stranieri (“Eternal Foreigners”), which I wrote in Sabaudia and is set among art restorers and critics, whose apparent tranquil world is disrupted by a subversive element. I also have a project on the life of Lord Byron and a comedy on the film world.

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