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CANNES 2018 Competition

Matteo Garrone • Director

“By the end of the production process, there was not much of the true story left in it”


- CANNES 2018: We sat down with Italy’s Matteo Garrone to talk about his competition title Dogman, which is based on a disturbing true story

Matteo Garrone • Director
(© M Petit/Cannes Film Festival)

Italy’s Matteo Garrone returns to the competition at the Cannes Film Festival with Dogman [+see also:
film review
interview: Matteo Garrone
film profile
. It is the director’s fourth attempt at winning the Palme d’Or. The filmmaker discusses how he was inspired to make the film about a man who grooms dogs, looks after his daughter and takes a stand against a former boxer who terrorises the local neighbourhood.

Cineuropa: How did you discover your main actor, Marcello Fonte?
Matteo Garrone: Marcello lives in a social centre near a prison, where he works as a guard. In this place, there are rehearsals for stage performances. There is a theatre group made up of ex-prisoners, and Marcello always used to watch this group rehearse. One day, just a couple of days before my casting agent went to meet this group at the theatre, one of these guys went into the bathroom and died. Marcello took his place in the group, as he had been watching the rehearsals every day and could slip into the role fairly easily. So when the casting agent went to meet the group, Marcello was there – it’s a very tragic coincidence, but that's how we came across Marcello.

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What attracted you to him?
I think when Marcello came on board this project, he brought his humanity and natural comic timing. So for me, he was like a new Buster Keaton. And the idea of the film was to pay tribute to the silent movies, to the great Keaton or Chaplin, especially in the first part, when he plays with the dogs and is so tender with his daughter and is trying to be loved by the community. It was really important because he brought light to this story.

The narrative is based on a true story, isn’t it?
This film is based on a true story that happened in the 1980s. It's very famous in Italy; unfortunately, it’s infamous because it’s a tale of cruelty and torture. It's about this man who is a good guy, and then he has this relationship and becomes sort of a monster who cuts off parts of his victims’ bodies. Of course, I was not interested in that particular aspect, which made this story famous, so I took out that part and tried to follow this character.

Marcello is a man who seems concerned by his relationship with those around him…
The relationship between him and the community in this story is very important; that's why we chose a village that resembled a western movie, sort of a frontier land. It’s important during the film to see how the community changes its point of view regarding him. By the end of the production process, there was not much of the true story left in it. We shot in sequence, so Marcello followed the journey of the character with me, and for us, it was very natural to change the elements of the story and nudge it in a new direction.

Can you tell us anything about how you worked with the dogs, especially in the massaging scene?
That scene is inspired by Buster Keaton. I like to work with dogs a lot because they can surprise you. When I make movies, I like to be surprised, and I also like to work with kids. Personally, I get very worried when I have to work with actors who are well structured, who follow rules, whereas they are wide open. I think for an actor it is a real gift to work with other actors when you don’t know what they are going to do, as it helps you to always remain on your toes in the scene, as you have to be ready to follow the others all the time. With Marcello, we didn’t have that problem, because he loves working with kids and dogs. He’s like a kid, and his approach is very instinctive.

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