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VENICE 2020 Out of Competition

Andrea Segre • Director of Venetian Molecules

“Places speak to me in an entirely different way”

by 

- VENICE 2020: We interviewed Andrea Segre, director of the pre-opening film of this year’s Venice Film Festival, the intimate documentary Venetian Molecules

Andrea Segre • Director of Venetian Molecules
(© La Biennale di Venezia / ASAC / Jacopo Salvi)

We seized the opportunity, once again, to sit down with Venetian director Andrea Segre who, after Il pianeta in mare [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Andrea Segre
film profile
]
, is returning to the lagoon-based city with a new documentary intitled Venetian Molecules [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Andrea Segre
film profile
]
, which is screening out of competition as the pre-opening film of this year’s Venice International Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: Before starting work on this film, you were involved in two other projects: one a film project and the other theatrical. There was no way you, or anyone else, could have foreseen the pandemic. At what point did you realise you were working on another film?
Andrea Segre:
When I returned home to Rome from Venice. When I was in Venice, in the first instance I carried on shooting what I’d originally planned to film, but I did start to get a sense of what was about to happen. Then I decided to down tools, and I asked my family to join me. Every now and again I went out with my camera, I tried to gather a few notes, but without really knowing what I was doing. It was clear that I wasn’t working on the two original projects anymore [a theatre-film project about Venice’s rising waters and a full-length film on tourism], which I’m now back to working on, among other things. In this sense, I carried on filming.

When I returned home to Rome in early April, I started to look at the images and to think about what I’d just experienced, about my relationship with the city, with my father, with silences, with voids... I pulled out my dad’s old archives and began the personal – and somewhat psychological - journey that you see in the film. I started working with the editor around mid-May, because we couldn’t meet up beforehand. It was a film that “sprung from the water” - unwitting, highly instinctive and devoid of any rational planning process.

What were your main challenges?
My real worry was understanding whether there was any sense in me sharing such personal things about myself. Or rather, if there was any sense to my thoughts that could extend beyond my own experience and become a story which, through the figure of my father, could also speak of something else. This was the hardest question to answer. The writing and editing were also a delicate process: the balance can be disrupted by the slightest thing.

How was it, working on the film’s music with Teho Teardo?
I’d already made the decision to work with Teho Teardo on my other two projects – and I will work on them with him – but we’d also started talking about Venice together. Then what happened, happened and I returned to Rome. Teho has a studio near my home, so even during lockdown I managed to meet up with him. I brought him a few of the images I’d shot, told him what was happening to me, and he suggested that I try to use some music he’d already composed for something else. I gave his pieces to the editor and we used them to get the editing process going. After the initial stages, he started to look at the material and to work on the film’s original soundtrack, starting with the ideas we’d gleaned from his existing pieces. That said, I have to say that the most intense discussions I had with Teho began when I asked if we could record my voice in his studio. It was when we recorded that voice together that we both understood where the film was going.

How much has your relationship with the city of Venice changed, after all this?
A lot. Its places speak to me in an entirely different way. The experience of those days and those individual moments has made me feel so differently about its places, its identity, the intensity of the relationship between the city’s beauty and fragility, its fears, the unknowns in terms of its future, the big questions relating to the impact of tourism, our desire to keep on living, but to find a new way of existing within the world which can no longer consist of simply “using” its many wonders.

Beyond a few explicit references – I’m thinking of Camus, for example – was there any particular work that influenced the making of this film?
Gun Island (2019) by Amitav Ghosh. It’s a novel by an Indian writer which includes important passages on the relationship between the real and the surreal, or rather things happening that go beyond real life. From this viewpoint, Ghosh’s book is a very interesting read, and it’s partly set in Venice.

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(Translated from Italian)

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