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ROME 2019

Andrei Konchalovsky • Director of The Sin

“Michelangelo was lucky to be considered a genius”


- Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky tells us about The Sin, his film about Michelangelo and the special closing event of the 14th Rome Film Fest

Andrei Konchalovsky • Director of The Sin

The special closing event at the 14th Rome Film Fest, The Sin [+see also:
interview: Andrei Konchalovsky
film profile
is the arthouse blockbuster that 82 year old Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky has dedicated to Michelangelo Buonarroti, entirely shot in Italy during fourteen weeks. A co-production between Russia and Italy, the film is produced by the Andrei Konchalovsky Foundation for the support of Cinema and the Performing Arts, and by Jean Vigo Italia and Rai Cinema. The master of the Renaissance is played by Alberto Testone (the lead actor in Pasolini, The Hidden Truth). The Sin will be released in Italian cinemas on 28 November via 01 Distribution. In Rome, Cineuropa talked to the director, winner of the Silver Lion in Venice in 2016 for Paradise [+see also:
film review
film profile
and in 2014 for The Postman's White Nights.

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Cineuropa: Why a film about Michelangelo? What attracted you the most about this great artist?
Andrei Konchalovsky: The best answer is, why not. I love Italy, I travel in Italy a lot, I admire Italian culture and I love “Fiorentini” [citizens of Florence], they have a very bad character and they’re very proud of their city. As they say, 70% of the art of the world is made in Italy, and 70% of Italian art is made in Florence, so every great artist came to Florence sooner or later, and from Florence went to Rome, Venice, or to Düsseldorf, Munich, like Dürer. Michelangelo once said to his disciple, “thank God Dürer lives in Germany, because if he lived here he would kill us all,” because Dürer was such a great artist. The life of an artist is never easy, but during the Renaissance there were so many of them, and I don’t know why some of them are not considered to be geniuses, although they’re not worse or less powerful than Raffaello, Canova, Canaletto... Michelangelo was lucky to be considered a genius. Then you read his poetry and you realize his life was not that sweet, it was full of travels and conflicts, and that becomes a story: why was a genius so unhappy with his life? That’s why I made a film about Michelangelo.

You say this is not a film, it’s a vision. What do you mean by that?
I didn't want to portray the Michelangelo everyone knows, or to do a biopic. It is not a film about the sculptor, but about a vision of a very selfish, hard, yet very tender human being who lived during the Renaissance. This is why I never show Michelangelo sculpting his famous statues or painting the Sistine Chapel: I was more interested in his talented personality – he knew the Divine Comedy by heart – but also in those less uplifting sides that nevertheless do not prevent us from loving him.

Your portrait of the XVI century is raw, dirty, cruel.
We are very far away and it is difficult to tell what that period was really like. We must think about the noise of hooves in the street, and about the smell that was then. The main thing for me was to tell this period not in an exotic, but in a natural way. But life then was very different from what I’ve shown, it was much more difficult and cruel. The fire of the Inquisition was everywhere, death was everywhere, and I’m not talking about endemic things like “la peste”… I didn’t want to show the reality, every film creates an illusion of reality: if you believe it, it’s real.

What was the biggest challenge in making this film?
To recreate manufacture in gold marble. The most complicated thing was to make a reconstruction of the whole process and then shooting this process all together. You have a block of a hundred tons that you bring down from the mountain, put on the carriage, and then you get 35 bulls from the mountain to pull the cart. Today, you need 30 trucks to bring the bulls, to feed them and to clean all the shit they leave: it’s much more difficult than to work with actors.

How did you find Alberto Testone?
It was very difficult to find an actor to play Michelangelo because I was offered so many famous actors, and every time I said, “but they don’t look like Michelangelo!”. I asked for an actor with a broken nose, because Michelangelo had a broken nose. “Look for boxers”, I said. Then I asked for an actor who looked like Pasolini, because Michelangelo physically looks like him. So here’s this actor who played Pasolini in a film. We had a few rehearsals and I found that Alberto physically and temperamentally was the right person.

You’re working in theatre in Rome, at the moment.
I’ll have two plays on stage next month in Rome, as a director: Scenes from a Marriage at Teatro Eliseo, and Amadeus at Teatro Quirino. I’m also finishing my new film, Dear Comrades. All of this at the same time. Now, I’m going to rehearsal, and then to the editing room. I’ll be back at midnight.

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