Valerio Mastandrea • Director of Ride
"There are many ways to experience pain"
- The popular and award-winning actor Valerio Mastandrea talks about his first film as a director, Ride, presented in competition at the 36th Torino Film Festival
An actor in over 50 films (the last one being Euphoria [+see also:
film profile] by Valeria Golino) and winner of four David di Donatello Awards, Valerio Mastandrea debuts behind the camera with Ride [+see also:
interview: Valerio Mastandrea
film profile] – the only Italian title in competition at the 36th Torino Film Festival and due to hit Italian screens on 29 November – in which a young widow deals with mourning for her husband's death in her own way, after he is killed during an accident at work.
Cineuropa: Your first experience behind the camera, the 2005 short film Trevirgolaottantasette, also dealt with the theme of death at work. And so did your first feature film as a director, 13 years later. Is the theme particularly dear to you?
Valerio Mastandrea: It’s not a personal obsession, per se, but I also don't think anything's really changed since then, if anything, the way we communicate and convey what’s happened has got worse. I think the media acts in good faith, delving into the topic in question for a few days, but then we move onto the next thing, but there is also a risk of becoming addicted to this sort of powerful social issue. Death at work is more absurd than death itself, it is unacceptable, but we’re almost getting used to it. The film’s initial aim was to show how difficult it is to get in touch with your emotions these days, whether it is great joy or great pain, with the naturalness and spontaneity that comes with those emotions. I asked myself whether or not media attention allows us to feel pain as we should? I really wanted to examine how much society influences us and prevents us from experiencing emotions in a healthy way.
The film is about is a widow who is unable to cry, despite trying everything.
There are many ways to experience pain, we must be free to experience it as we wish. It’s different for all of us. Death in the workplace is a symbol of the hypocrisy of a society that condemns it, judges it, but doesn't actually do anything about it. A character in the film says, "you die at war, not at work" and this sentence embodies the recrimination of a world that prevents the protagonist from being alone with her pain. It’s the same for the son, who sees a public funeral as an opportunity for redemption, an affirmation of his identity: he and his mother have very different defence mechanisms and strengths.
The people around the protagonist seem to be out of touch with their emotions, too.
The people that enter Carolina's house are moving examples of how to mourn, but they’re mourning for their own personal reasons, not for her. They are not really attentive to her pain. And Carolina attempts to mimic their behaviour. They’re almost like "mines," which are placed in the house, and then when people leave, she jumps on the mines, but they don't explode. The film is divided into separate stages because I wanted to separate the characters. It's the day before the funeral and everyone needed to be on their own. The editing then brought things together, but there’s no one single ending.
As a director, you've brought back the same blend of lightness and commitment, pain and humour, that characterises your work as an actor.
There was once a football player who said, "you act as you live", which can be attributed to many things. Many directors' films say a lot about them; this film includes so much about me, not only in terms of its tone, but also its human and professional contradictions. Being a director is a profession that allows you to get in touch with yourself and the world around you. We wanted the film to include some comical moments, such as when the son is rehearsing for the journalists, but I never really discussed which register to adopt with my co-writer, Enrico Audenino. The only thing we talked about was how to shoot the film, we opted to stay very close to the characters and to show how they were feeling the day before the funeral. In truth, the film was much more entertaining on paper.
How did you direct your life partner, Chiara Martegiani?
Casting her in the role was difficult because it meant combining our lives in a very profound way. Work is not that different to having a child, in some respects. The rest of the time, we separated the two things, apart from a couple of discussions on set as if we were in our living room. I didn’t think I would be the director I was when filming this film, I thought I'd be available, and instead I was almost angry, I don’t like to repeat things too many times. I must specify, however, that Chiara and I were together beforehand. It’s easy to fall in love with someone while you are working on a film... the real challenge is maintaining the relationship once everything’s wrapped up.
(Translated from Italian)
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