Laura Bispuri • Director of The Peacock's Paradise
“You are all invited to sit down at the table with my family of protagonists”
by Jan Lumholdt
- VENICE 2021: The Italian director breaks down her “difficult third work”, her relationship with actress Alba Rohrwacher and more
Slowly but surely, Laura Bispuri is adding characters to her stories, from one in her debut, Sworn Virgin [+see also:
Q&A: Laura Bispuri
film profile], to three in her follow-up, Daughter of Mine [+see also:
interview: Laura Bispuri
film profile], and now 11 in The Peacock's Paradise [+see also:
interview: Laura Bispuri
film profile], which is playing in the Orizzonti section of the 78th Venice International Film Festival.
Cineuropa: There’s a myth about the “difficult third work” by an artist. Did this one throw up any particular challenges?
Laura Bispuri: Isn’t the second one already difficult? In any case, this one had quite a strange birth as well. I was working on a big film for two years, with a political theme and lots of people in it. Then the pandemic hit, and we had to stop the whole thing. But I remembered a little storyline that I read two years ago by Silvana Tamma, a student of Francesca Manieri’s, who wrote Daughter of Mine with me. It stuck in my mind and in my heart. So I decided to do this story instead. It was fun and went very fast. We wrote it, found the money, shot it and edited it, all in eight months. It’s a small production but feels like a kind of passage in that I was about to work on a big film and, instead, this little pearl came to me.
The family gathering has been portrayed many times on film and gives the storyteller the chance to be quite personal. How did you approach this theme?
I looked closely at two other films, Ettore Scola’s The Family and Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies, in order to get some inspiration. During the scriptwriting process, I did indeed discover some shared traits with my own family, but since there are a lot of characters, I hope there will be at least one person that the viewer can identify with or that will bring to mind a relative. At least that’s the intention – you are all invited to sit down at the table with my family of protagonists.
What made you choose Dominique Sanda as the matriarch?
We wrote it in quite a short period of time, so I thought about the casting early on. The first character was, of course, Nena, as it’s an important part. I naturally considered an Italian actress, but then both my casting director and I started thinking about Dominique Sanda, whom I’ve adored since I was very young and who certainly has made great Italian cinema, with De Sica, Bertolucci – so many. I saw a photograph of her as she looks now. And there was Nena! I sent the script to Uruguay, where she’s been living for 20 years. She works very little, preferring to do sculpture and enjoy her house by the sea. And then she came all the way to me, during COVID, and did this film. Very brave.
Alba Rohrwacher plays major parts in all three of your films. Coincidence or part of the plan?
With Alba, the relationship is becoming more and more important – both professionally and as part of a human bond. My encounter with her some ten years ago was very important. I think it was the same for her. She has the kindness these days to tell the press that I, Laura, could give her a script with blank pages and she would still do it. I try to involve her in things as much as possible.
For each new film, you seem to expand the number of characters. Again, part of the plan?
Yes, there’s one character in Sworn Virgin, three in Daughter of Mine and 11 in The Peacock's Paradise. But I will try, as always, to get as up-close to the characters as I possibly can, digging into the inner life of each and every one of them. It’s my desire to hold all of them by the hand, caress them and explore their intimate universe. I try to unhinge them from conventional roles, take stereotypes like families or mothers, and then turn them upside down, break them up and put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
What about the big film you were preparing – will it still happen?
I think not. Right now, I’m writing another big film that I can’t talk about quite yet. And Silvana Tamma is writing with me again on this.
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