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Italy / Ireland

Carlo Lavagna • Director of Shadows

“Directors must showcase their original visions in genre films”

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- Carlo Lavagna’s second feature film Shadows is a tense psychological thriller shot in English, which is now available on Italian VOD platforms

Carlo Lavagna • Director of Shadows

Following on from the award-winning Arianna [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlo Lavagna
film profile
]
, Carlo Lavagna’s second feature film Shadows [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlo Lavagna
film profile
]
is a tense psychological thriller shot in English which sees youngsters Mia ThreapletonLola Petticrew and Saskia Reeves step into leading roles. Written by Fabio MolloDamiano BruèVanessa Picciarelli and Tiziana Triana, the film will be available on Italian VOD platforms from 19 November.

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Cineuropa: Your film is being released directly on streaming platforms. The pandemic seems to have accelerated a process which was already underway.
Carlo Lavagna: Ultimately, television did it; it has defeated film, Steven Spielberg’s prophecy has come true. We all grew up with the cinema, we know what it means to go to the cinema and to make films, as an existential condition and as a working approach, and I see this in my younger collaborators. It would be brilliant if cinemas were able to reinvent themselves, if they were able to become places which younger people see as the only viable option for viewing blockbusters, and to remain a setting for greater experimentation. We need to work on products which, short of any other options, go straight to TV in the hope that we might reach audiences even wider than those afforded by cinema.

There’s a pretty clear link between your first film Arianna, which tackled the question of gender, and this work Shadows - that is, your interest in the female universe, the coming of age tale, family relations…
With this film, there’s an earlier, very brief version of the script which is the same in structure as the final draft, and which drew out factors which really moved me, such as the discovery of oneself, of one’s own identity. In Arianna, it was related to gender, whereas here, it ties in with a trauma and the development of an external body, a double of oneself. Ultimately, there are elements they have in common, such as water, rebirth. Things come back to us, subconsciously.

How did the film come about? Was it suggested to you by producers?
Andrea Paris from Ascent Film, who I’ve known for a while, had seen Arianna and had this screenplay by Fabio Mollo in her possession. Mollo was no longer in a position to make the film, but Andrea Paris and Matteo Rovere were determined to shoot it, also because they’d already mobilised a series of funds and finance for the project, so they came to me. They had a very precise idea of what they were looking for and there was a degree of mutual distrust to begin with, because they were worried I’d veer too far away from it. But as things moved forwards, a brilliant relationship developed between us.

Ascent Film and other independent, Italian production companies founded in recent years are showing signs of a tendency towards international co-production, developing genre films which are often shot in English but which maintain their cultural identity.
I think that, on the one hand, there’s a certain appropriation of Anglo Saxon cinema taking place, which allows films which are often didactic but also highly eclectic to travel to those places usually dominated by North American cinema. But this provides European directors with the opportunity to showcase their original vision. I think we can afford to be a lot more daring and that, in Italy, our cultural and imaginative talent pool has been largely underexploited. We make boring films because they’re characterised by a type of neorealism whose protagonists are no longer of the people but of the middle classes. Our comedy only works in certain cases and, last but not least, there’s a new way of making film which we really need to engage with, as we’ve done in times gone by. Sergio Leone started out by reinterpreting the western genre, and he ended up making masterpieces. We still qualify as authors if we make films rooted in “genre” cinema.

And how would you define genre cinema today?
I’m not sure. Shadows starts out as a horror film, then it loses its horror features and turns into a psychological thriller, with shades of the coming of age tale. It’s a genre which incorporates other genres. Just like trap in the music world!

How did you develop the film’s music and scenery?
In terms of the film’s emotional tone, I first worked on the scenery and then carried this through to the music and the light, trying to create the beauty and aesthetic directness of Italian films from the 1970s, in all their material quality. For the music, we turned immediately to Michele Braga; no electronic music - only instrumental, alienating tunes. 

What was it like to work with an Anglo-Irish cast?
Mia Threapleton was a find - a real revelation. I like working with actors who still have a lot to say. Lola Petticrew has more experience, she trained in the Irish theatre world; she’s complex but sweet and very skilled. Saskia Reeves, the mother, starred in Butterfly Kiss by Michael Winterbottom. She really intrigued me: she managed to lend softness to a very hard character.

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(Translated from Italian)

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