Uberto Pasolini • Director
“A low-key film on the value of life”
- Uberto Pasolini presented his second film in Rome, Still Life, to mark the film’s upcoming release in Italian movie theaters.
With its Horizon award for best director at the last Venice Film Festival, Still Life [+see also:
interview: Uberto Pasolini
film profile], is the second film by the Italian filmmaker currently living in the UK Uberto Pasolini, after the acclaimed Machan [+see also:
film profile]. The film stars a public worker whose job it is to organise the funeral of those who have died alone. The job is done with dedication and compassion. The director, who also wrote the screenplay and produced, talked about it with the press in Rome, to mark the release of the film in Italian movie theaters.
Cineuropa: What does the title of your film, Still Life, refer to?
Uberto Pasolini: It is a title that can be read in various ways. Still life refers to the life of the main character, which stands still. But it also means life once more, which for me is the most important of its meanings. In Italian, you could also translate it into the depiction of a still life through art. But mine is a film about life, not about death, a film about the value of people’s lives.
Why did you decide to tell the story of this man whose job it is to uncover the relatives of people who have died alone?
Because of my social curiosity about the theme of isolation, which is increasingly strong in western society. There is no more sense of closeness. Before starting the film, I didn’t know who my neighbours were either. Now I know all of them, in this way Still Life changed my life. But beyond the social research aspect, there was also a personal question. I recently got a divorce and after living for so many years with a wife and three children, there are now nights when I find myself coming home to a dark house where no one is waiting for me. So I projected myself into the life of those who are lonely every day. The visual starting point for the film was the image of a solitary burial, with no one around. Who hasn’t asked themselves how many people would show up to their funeral?
How did you find out more about the particular job that is being a funeral officer?
Everything started with an interview I read in a London newspaper of a Westminster funeral officer. I decided to get in touch with him. It is a job that has always existed. There is one in in every part of London. I met about thirty of them. I saw the houses of the deceased and I went to funerals and cremations for six months. Some have a bureaucratic relationship to their work, others take more time for the memory of those who died alone. My film’s main character, John May, is a combination of two or three of them. There is little that has been invented. Even the cards and photos seen in the film are true.
Eddie Marsan is considered one of the best British character actors. This is his first time as the main character in a feature film. Why did you choose him?
Because he is an actor capable of giving so much while he looks like he is doing very little. I met him on the set of The Emperor’s New Clothes, which I produced. He was cast as Napoleon the valet. With just six jokes in three different scenes, he managed to make the character emerge in all its complexity. I wanted a very low-key film. To me, that makes it easier to capture the spectator’s emotion and Eddie’s mastery and humanity brought truth to actions and the small changes that mark the character’s life.
The stillness in the main character’s life is reflected in the filming technique. How do both evolve?
The camera is almost always immobile. The world needed to be seen and perceived from the point of view of the main character. This meant we almost always filmed from his perspective. It is once he meets Kelly, the daughter of a deceased man, that we adopt the perspective of a different person. John has no idea he is leading a limited life. He feels a deep sense of understanding towards others, but not himself. But as the story unfolds, his life gains in colour: from greys, to blues and browns. Life’s tastes: the film, in part, is a journey of rediscovery for the senses.
(Translated from Italian)
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