Carlo Sironi • Director of Sole
“I’ve continued to wonder what my life would have been like if I’d actually become a father”
- VENICE 2019: We talked to Carlo Sironi, director of Sole, selected in the Orizzonti section of the festival
Cineuropa had the opportunity to ask some questions to Carlo Sironi, director of Sole [+see also:
interview: Carlo Sironi
film profile], competing in the Orizzonti section of the Venice International Film Festival. The film centres on Ermanno, a boy who pretends to be a father in order to help the young Lena, who has arrived in Italy from Poland to sell the child she is pregnant with.
Cineuropa: How was this touching reflection on fatherhood born? Does it feature any autobiographical elements?
Carlo Sironi: There are indirect autobiographical elements in the film. I can say that I was guided by sensations that were part of my experience. When I was very young, life gave me the choice of becoming a father or not, and it didn’t happen. From then on, I’ve continued to wonder what my life would have been like if I’d actually become a father; it’s a question that has always been with me. I do not have children, therefore I felt an emotional closeness and a freedom to tell the story of a boy who, having to only pretend to be a father, gets to feel like one.
Newcomer Claudio Segaluscio plays Ermanno, and Sandra Drzymalska plays Lena. How did you choose the actors who would play these roles?
I was certain that Ermanno had to be played by a non-professional actor, devoid of self-awareness. I had in mind the antiheroes of Japanese cinema, with this kind of melancholy sweetness hidden behind an impassive mask. Claudio proved to be perfect, with this apparent distance and that pain in his eyes.
On the other hand, I was certain that Lena had to be played by a professional actor: I wanted her greater preparation to be felt in her dynamic with Ermanno. We searched in various countries in Eastern Europe and when I found Sandra, with her slightly childish lightness and her almost ghostly presence, I understood right away that her way of interpreting the character was much more interesting than the one I had in mind. She seemed to have come out of a Balthus painting.
The dark cinematography echoes the lives of these restless characters well. What visual references did you take into consideration? In what way did Hungarian DoP Gergely Pohárnok contribute to your vision as a director?
I wanted to work with a simple and essential language. I watched the extraordinary films of Mikio Naruse. Before the shoot, I prepare an accurate shot list, which I then bring to the DoP and I listen to his impressions: it’s the only method I know that allows me to then, eventually, look for other ways. With Gergely, we had decided to make certain characteristics of classical cinema ours. He recommended we use old lenses from the 1960s, which helped bring to life a look that was non-contemporary and timeless. As for visual references, I mostly looked to photography: American photographer Todd Hido, most of all. His pictures of bare interiors guided us a lot for the atmosphere, the colour palette, and the decor of the film. This was the first time I worked with Gergely: to say that I am happy with the result would be an understatement.
The film was developed and supported by the Cinéfondation in Cannes, Berlinale Script Station, EAVE and TorinoFilmLab, among others. In what ways did Sole benefit from these opportunities?
The film benefitted from them enormously. Since my first short film, I’ve been working with my screenwriter, Giulia Moriggi. We know each other perfectly, and for the writing of the draft, we were joined by Antonio Manca. Having the more distant and objective impressions from the tutors helped us a lot, especially regarding the way in which the viewer’s perception changes in various moments of the film, a point of view which I began mastering only after the first draft. I especially want to thank Tobias Lindholm and Marietta Von Hausswolf Von Baumgarten.
Any other projects you’re working on?
I’ve begun working on my second film, I’ve written a short plot and I’m enriching it with notes and impressions. In parallel, I am working on the adaptation of a marvellous Japanese novel by Kawabata Yasunari, a more ambitious project which I’ve been dreaming about since I was 20 years old. I will better know what to focus on after the emotional rollercoaster of Venice and Toronto is over. I cannot wait to show the film to the public.
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