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Mattia Temponi • Director of Nest

“The family unit isn’t a safe space in any way, shape or form”


- We met with the new Italian director to discuss his horror film, which is currently competing in the Trieste Science+Fiction Festival

Mattia Temponi • Director of Nest

We met with Mattia Temponi at the Trieste Science+Fiction Festival, a director whose first feature film Nest [+see also:
film review
interview: Mattia Temponi
film profile
is screening within the event’s Official Selection. It’s about a young woman (Blu Yoshimi) and a volunteer (Luciano Cáceres) who are trapped in a refuge, hidden away from a zombie pandemic. It’s a mix between a horror film and a theatrical play which has since become a reflection of the real world, in light of the pandemic.

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Cineuropa: The film is set in an unspecified location but filmed in Spanish. How did this collaboration between Italy and Argentina come about?
Mattia Temponi: Meeting producer Rosanna Seregni was a key factor in this. The screenplay, which was written in 2015 alongside Gabriele Gallo and Mattia Puleo, lent itself to various production options. Conscious of what the story’s limits and potential were back then, Rosanna immediately thought of Latin America, and suggested we take part in Blood Window, a genre film line-up at the Ventana Sur film market. Obviously, it was an extraordinary experience. She pushed the idea of a co-production with Argentina but also of using the Spanish language so as to make the film international. It needed to be a collaboration that was more than just financial, that didn’t just revolve around international sales and potential markets; it also had to be artistic. This not only allowed me to work with an actor, Luciano Cáceres, whom I would describe as the best of his generation, without exaggerating, but also with an incredible musician in the form of Julián Vat, the director of the Quinteto Fundación Astor Piazzolla. This artistic contribution could only have been made by Argentina.

The film’s score is actually quite far removed from classic horror film music.
Even when it’s not the tango, Argentine music is imbued with a spirit combining love, life and death with a constant languor, which never overpowers the film. 

Can you talk to us about the mysterious hexagons which seem to dominate the set design?
Straight away, set designer Giada Calabria and I first took a thematic approach and then a visual one, with the idea that “the nest” represented an extremely rigid and sectoral society, so we looked for a figure which we could replicate obsessively: in nature, hexagons are geometrical shapes which make the best use of space, like the cells in a beehive.

What was it like to film in a restricted environment with just two actors?
It was a huge challenge. I decided that the best solution would be to think of the film as if it were a dance, a dance where you move away and then move closer together, a dance of violence, seduction and sweetness. We spent a lot of time with our actors and the camera ended up hovering around them. The many sequence shots in the film were a result of this.

Did Covid-19 have an impact on the film and is it impacting film more generally?
The screenplay was already written; it worked, and we received funding, so it was “safe”.  It goes without saying that, as we were filming, we realised that we were actually seeing that thing, i.e. a dangerous pandemic, happening for real. But I think there must have already been something in authors and screenwriters’ subconscious. Somehow, we knew that the next crisis wouldn’t be a war, but something more natural. Maybe we were mostly thinking it would be a climactic crisis…

There’s another important theme in the film: domestic violence, mostly against women.
It was the main theme we were working with while writing the screenplay: the idea of talking about a place which appears to be a safe space, but which really isn’t; a person who seems to be a “saviour” but who really isn’t; a creature which seems to be a monster, but really isn’t. We wanted to subvert the flawed form of the zombie genre which was born in the USA: when the zombie apocalypse hits, society falls apart and the only thing left is family. But this is totally false, or in most cases it’s false, because up until now it’s been too rigid and hierarchical; it’s not a safe space in any way, shape or form. And this isn’t just true for women, even if they’re undoubtedly the main victims of the patriarchy; it’s also dangerous for the many other people who might not conform to the classic definition of masculinity or normality.

Do you plan to make more horror films?
I’m most at ease with genre films because a metaphor always finds its way into the story and it allows you to see the world from a certain viewpoint, without having to say anything explicitly.

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(Translated from Italian)

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