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VENICE 2020 Orizzonti

Pietro Castellitto • Director of The Predators

“It’s a film which goes against all the rules of screenwriting”

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- VENICE 2020: We chatted with Pietro Castellitto about his debut work The Predators , awarded the Best Screenplay trophy in the Orizzonti section

Pietro Castellitto • Director of The Predators
Pietro Castellitto with his Best Screenplay trophy in the Orizzonti section (© La Biennale di Venezia/ASAC/Andrea Avezzù)

Pietro Castellitto made his acting debut in 2004, directed by his father Sergio in the title Don’t Move. The Predators [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Pietro Castellitto
film profile
]
marks Pietro’s first outing as a director and the title won the newcomer the Orrizonti’s Best Screenplay award at the recently concluded 77th edition of the Venice Film Festival. In the movie, the Pavones and the Vismaras are two Roman families from totally different social and cultural backgrounds: one is middle-class and wealthy, the other working class and fascist. A minor accident sees the two families collide, leading to the revelation of one or two secrets…

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Cineuropa: Let’s start with a statement you made in Venice following the film’s screening: “It’s a film that’s anti-middle-class, not anti-fascist”. Can you explain what you meant?
Pietro Castellitto: The film starts off from the perspective of the young protagonist Federico, who’s middle-class and who comes into contact with a family which is the antithesis of his own. The starting point is Federico’s frustration, which is similar to how I felt. And the fact that I felt alienated or lost didn’t have anything to do with neofascists, if you know what I mean. A film against fascism would have made sense in the ‘20s, but nowadays it would smack of intellectual racism to exclude the other, those who think differently from us, in an attempt to completely delegitimize them. The fascists in my film are like brightly coloured animals with their eccentric shirts and tattoos, like those creatures who want to give the impression that they’re poisonous when it isn’t really the case.

In the scene where the family are eating dinner in a restaurant, Federico tells his parents: “you were the first young arseholes in History”. It’s a generational clash in a middle-class setting.
Those who were young in the 70s-80s were the first to impose themselves as youngsters. They were the first “youths” of recent History. There was also Francis Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920s, for example, who wrote a book at 23 years of age, but they were already men, they had more of an adult handle on the world. It’s the “juvenile power” of more recent years that Federico is lashing out against. It’s an instinctive attack fuelled by anger and it’s not very well thought out.

One actor in your film, Massimo Popolizio, spoke about a mix of three styles: Buster Keaton, a French, family-focused play and an Italian comedy along the lines of Ettore Scola’s masterpiece Brutti sporchi e cattivi. What type of cinema was your real inspiration?
The only family-based film I could have had in mind was American Beauty, in terms of its tension. Obviously, Sam Mendes’ work is a more dramatic film, as well as being a masterpiece. And those are the ones we need to draw inspiration from, not mediocre films. Brutti sporchi e cattivi is a film that I love, maybe it inspired me on a subconscious level. Scola was perhaps one of the biggest “jokers” of Italian cinema. Jokes were always credible in the mouths of his characters. But I wasn’t thinking about any particular film while shooting.

What was harder: writing the film, shooting it or finding a producer who didn’t only want to work with you because you’re the son of a very famous film professional?
I wrote this film when I was twenty years old. I’d stopped acting, I’d convinced myself that it wasn’t my calling. It’s a wonderful profession if you can play brilliant characters. I was also conscious of having to contend with prejudice, gratuitous viciousness. So it was easier for me to write; I had more of an uncluttered mind back then, and I didn’t have a choice. It was that or nothing. The irony is that I only managed to make the film because I got back into acting again. Before, what I wrote was considered “sweet”, but after starring in The Armadillo’s Prophecy [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
I gained greater credibility. Domenico Procacci of Fandango read my screenplay. And when I went to meet with him, I noticed that the atmosphere in the room was different than usual, battle-like. And I thought to myself “shit, here we go”. But the hardest thing was convincing myself that the film could be made. Because it’s a film which goes against all the rules of screenwriting. And against all the advice you’re given for your first film. There were so many characters, so many different locations. This is a profession where you learn through making mistakes, and you only have the courage to make mistakes when you’re young.

The film has a few elements in common with Bad Tales [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Fabio and Damiano D’Innocenzo
film profile
]
by brothers Fabio and Damiano D'Innocenzo
We’re close friends, we’ve known each other for a long time. We shared a certain sensitivity which helped us to understand one another instinctively, as happens between animals. The fact that there’s a bomb in both of our films is mere coincidence and, like all coincidences, there’s nothing casual about it.

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(Translated from Italian)

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