Mauro Mancini • Director of Thou Shalt Not Hate
“I wanted what the characters don’t say to one another to be more important than what they do say”
- VENICE 2020: Cineuropa interviewed Mauro Mancini, the director of Thou Shalt Not Hate, the only Italian film in competition in International Critics’ Week
We sat down with Mauro Mancini, the director of the dramatic picture Thou Shalt Not Hate [+see also:
interview: Mauro Mancini
film profile], the only Italian film competing in this year’s International Critics’ Week.
Cineuropa: How did the story for Thou Shalt Not Hate come about?
Mauro Mancini: The subject of human contradictions is one that has always fascinated me. When, many years ago now, the film’s co-screenwriter Davide Lisino and I read a news item about a doctor of Jewish heritage who refused to perform a routine operation on a patient in Germany because he had a Nazi tattoo on his shoulder, it immediately struck me that this could make for a very powerful narrative hook. While that German patient went on to operated on by another doctor, with impunity, we took as our starting point the hypothetical consequences that such a gesture could have if that doctor had been faced with a life or death situation. That’s why we decided to lend a dramatic twist to our protagonist’s ethical dilemma, putting him on the spot.
How was it to work on set with Alessandro Gassmann? How did you develop the character of Segre together?
During the scriptwriting process, I often found myself imagining Simone Segre as Alessandro Gassmann. I wanted to break with the cinematic stereotype of the tall, slim Jew with a hooked nose. Alessandro’s refined acting skills and his imposing on-screen presence fitted perfectly with this aim. From the very first draft, my objective was to try to convey feelings and emotions through the film’s mise en scene, using light, camera movements and particular shots. For this reason, I leaned more in the direction of verbal austerity, trying to shift the weight of every scene onto the visual.
The character of Alessandro in particular, and, generally speaking, the other characters in this film are alone; they’re islands. They don’t confront one another. They shout voicelessly. Their requests for help are mute so far as others and the rest of the world are concerned. I wanted what the characters don’t say to one another to be more important than what they do say. I wanted the fundamental grammar of this film to be represented by silences, looks, pauses between one line and the next, the protagonists’ secret thoughts. Alessandro and the other protagonists’ work on their performances involved a total stripping back, to lend strength to the unsaid and the smaller details.
How did you choose Luka Zunic and Sara Serraiocco for their respective parts? What type of qualities were you looking for in their performances?
Sara Serraiocco is one of the most talented and interesting actresses on the national film scene today. I saw her act in a film I really liked, and in her case, too, I thought of her from the very first draft of the script. It took longer for her to inhabit the part she was playing because Marica Minervini is perhaps the film’s most complex character. She represents the link between two very distant worlds. Marica Minervini is a crystal lioness. A woman who grew up too quickly and who, having distanced herself from a world which she hasn’t rejected altogether, but which has wounded her nonetheless, finds herself having to contend with it once again. Sara Serraiocco underwent an incredible transformation, she really worked on her body and her movements, adapting them until until they matched the character’s perfectly and delivering a highly measured performance, always paying attention to the tiniest detail.
Luka Zunic, meanwhile, is an entirely different story. Marcello Minervini is the first co-lead character Zunic has played and it is, without a doubt, the most delicate role in the film. To find him, we carried out lengthy research, so much so that, at a certain point, we didn’t think it would ever end. Then, one day, a tall, skinny boy with undercut, platinum blond hair turned up to auditions, clearly heavily into the world of trap. He couldn’t have been further away from how I’d imagined Marcello to be. And yet, as soon as I looked into his eyes, I knew I’d found him. I remember thinking: “I hope he auditions well!”
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on a new screenplay, once again with Davide Lisino, the title of which is Nato di notte. It’s the story of a tormented priest who returns to his small provincial hometown after years spent working as a missionary. Here, too, we’re looking to investigate human contradictions.
(Translated from Italian)
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