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VENICE 2020 Out of Competition

Daniele Luchetti • Director of The Ties

“If your parents are wrong, it doesn’t mean you will be right”

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- VENICE 2020: We talked to Daniele Luchetti, the director of this year’s opening film, The Ties, the first Italian title to kick-start Venice in 11 years

Daniele Luchetti • Director of The Ties
(© La Biennale di Venezia / ASAC / Jacopo Salvi)

Based on the novel by Domenico Starnone, Daniele Luchetti’s The Ties [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Daniele Luchetti
film profile
]
shows decades in the life of a couple, Aldo and Vanda (played by Luigi Lo Cascio and Alba Rohrwacher, as well as Silvio Orlando and Laura Morante), struggling both to stay together and to be apart. We talked to the director about the film, which opened this year’s Venice Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: When you decide to adapt a novel, you have to be prepared to let go of some of the things you loved about it. But was there something you particularly wanted to keep?
Daniele Luchetti: I wanted to keep its cruelty – cruelty that characterises the story of that couple. It reminded me of what we experienced as children, as my parents’ generation was quite indifferent to our feelings. Not to mention that relationships between a man and a woman were based on a very macho attitude – it was the last generation of sexists, if we can call them that. These men wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t express their emotions and couldn’t wait to escape from the house.

How did you want your actors to show all those years of hidden frustrations?
I prepared an “emotional map” for these characters. In this type of film, things usually go from anger to, yes, frustration. But in real life, things are more complex. I will give you an example: let’s take the scene where Vanda and Aldo break up. He tells her that he was with another woman. We tried many approaches, and in the end, we chose love: I asked my actors to express affection. The idea was to avoid reactions that are instinctual, but also the most banal ones. Also because then, I would have a film in one tone – they would just be fighting all the time. Now, Alba cries, then she becomes aggressive. I wanted to show all of these different shades.

Aldo has a box from Prague where he “hides” a part of his life. But everyone is hiding something in this film! Even their own intentions, because they don’t know them at all.
This film has a lot of secrets. Especially when it comes to these 30 years we know nothing about that have passed between the first and the second part. That’s the biggest secret of all [spoiler alert] – why did they stay together? We can only see the consequences of that decision. They have transformed their relationship into one based on sadism and masochism, and left traces of their betrayals all over the house, plus Aldo seems to be taking his revenge in such small gestures as the name of the cat. During the shoot, I would often hear people say: “Don’t we want to make it clearer? Shouldn’t we say why this person is behaving like that?” I would say that here, what’s hidden is just as important as what you can see.

Alba’s character observes that they got married because it was “something you did” – the same with becoming parents. Still, their kids, who have more freedom, don’t seem much happier, do they?
They made completely different mistakes. They created imperfect lives, but with different imperfections! They can’t communicate in a healthy way, because they were denied this chance early on. Which just shows that it takes more than one generation to get rid of the previous one’s mistakes. So many films tell you an outright lie: that characters come to some conclusions, and then they become better people. They do it to make their audience happy, but life is not like that. If your parents are wrong, it doesn’t mean you will be right.

Why did you decide to jump through time like that? You show Vanda’s point of view, then Aldo’s.
In the first part, everything that happens seems to suggest she is right. She has been betrayed, and the way she sees it, this man has cheated, and now he is gone. But in the second, we can see how her sadism influenced Aldo’s entire life. He went from alpha male to beta male. My objective was to reveal one card at a time, to tell a story that seems very simple, yet by switching these points of view to always discover more, even if it’s just a small detail.

When they finally confront each other, neither of them is telling the truth. They just want to hurt each other some more. He says he never gets angry, but he is angry; he says you shouldn’t talk about things, but he is talking. Their words are one thing, but what’s really behind them is that this couple will never break up. Because why do people stay together? The most obvious answer would be love and sexual attraction, but as time goes by, it can change into friendship or complicity, if you are lucky, or into something based on mutual torture. How many couples do we know where making the other person feel small is a part of their game? And yet, when they break up, it’s not the end of the story. After all, you used to love your wife once, there was physical and emotional intimacy – it never ends. I wanted to show how easy it is to come back to all of that.

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