Fulvio Risuleo • Director of Ghost Night
"When there’s less time, we pay greater attention"
- The Italian filmmaker discusses his third film, unveiled in Venice and competing in the Les Arcs Film Festival
Discovered in Rotterdam in 2018 by way of Look Up [+see also:
film profile], Italian filmmaker Fulvio Risuleo captivated viewers the following year with The Dog Snatch [+see also:
film profile]. His third feature, Ghost Night [+see also:
interview: Fulvio Risuleo
film profile], was unveiled within the most recent Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti Extra line-up. We met with the director on the occasion of the 14th Les Arcs Film Festival where his film is being presented in competition.
Cineuropa: What gave you the idea for this night where two characters flit through the streets of Rome?
Fulvio Risuleo: I had a suggestive image stuck in my head, of two characters in a bar, one older, the other younger, and the former coerced the latter to dance with a girl. I liked the dynamic of that particular narrative line and I started to think: why are they doing that? Who are they? When I decided that the older one would be a police officer, I thought: OK, it’s that kind of a story, so now I need to go back in time. I started to write the story from the beginning, trying to find out how these two characters met and why one of them might become the other’s slave. That’s how I developed the script, with a very precise initial idea, but without knowing where it would lead, to the extent where the story took a different direction from what I’d initially imagined.
Was the decision to have the story unfold over just one night an easy one to make?
Yes, it came to me as I was writing. I really like films which take place over the course of one night, stories squeezed into just a few hours, as a viewer but also for the short films I’ve directed myself. When there’s less time, we pay greater attention, smaller things become far more important, and we can focus on the details which we have to detach ourselves from by necessity with long stories.
In terms of the part of the young protagonist, why did you choose an Italian of Cambodian descent, a second-generation teenage immigrant?
I started with the idea of him being second-generation because it helped me on a narrative level, firstly as a catalyst for the first scene when he’s arrested, but also because it opened up different narrative possibilities. But I wasn’t sure what his country of origin would be, that wasn’t actually important. That was a decision I made during auditions. I actually started out thinking that he’d be a Moroccan boy. But when Yothin Clavenzani turned up at the auditions, it changed everything. He was so different, not least because of his build. So I rewrote the part for him, which wasn’t difficult because I like my scripts to be quite vague so that I can change them according to the actors and the setting. I’m not one of those filmmakers who have everything clearly set out in their heads, in great detail. I don’t start with images, I start with narrative catalysts, dialogues and moods. So with Yothin, the character took on a totally different form.
The film details the mechanisms behind the power one human being has over another…
Yes, that was the starting point. But I didn’t want to reflect upon the power itself so much as the way in which it’s exercised and, above all, the words which are used. Because when the boy is arrested, he’s clearly in the wrong, but the way the police officer acts is a minor abuse of power which sets the story in motion. But what I was really interested in was the fact that the police officer constantly swings between making sure his role is respected and being a human being, and sometimes the two things don’t go so well together, because in real-life we’re not always as radical as we should be in applying the law. The way the police operate is always fairly ambiguous, generally speaking, but in this story where the policeman also has psychological issues - which we slowly find out about - his power is even more dangerous.
The movie reveals a version of Rome which isn’t often shown in film.
It’s not an unrecognisable version of Rome, because it shows the really busy Roman neighbourhoods, but it’s not a tourist’s version of Rome. It does show some really symbolic places, such as Verano Monumental Cemetery, the biggest and oldest in the city, Tiber Island, Trastevere, and San Lorenzo, which is an area where lots of students live. I wanted to offer up a Roman person’s idea of Rome. The story moves around a lot, but I wanted it all to be perfectly credible, because not many hours means not many kilometres, and I wanted the car trips to be realistic. I drew inspiration from an interview with Scorsese about Taxi Driver. Also, the night hides things a little, it transforms surroundings, and I spent a lot of time on the light and mood in this respect. And I wanted the film to end on the Tiber, right at the heart of the oldest neighbourhood.
Was it challenging to shoot the whole thing at night-time?
I hadn’t shot very much at night-time before. What interested me most was creating light without the sun, which is the most common source of light in films. Moreover, night-time lighting in Rome is strange because there’s old lighting - so yellows - and LED lighting, which is blue. It doesn’t make for a very nice mix, photographically speaking, as it’s a bit of a clash. I didn’t want that, so I got them to turn off all the streetlamps and to light everything up using cinematic techniques. The night is a studio, of sorts, where you can totally recreate a mood.
What’s your next project going to be?
I’ve started writing it with the novelist Simona Vinci. It will be a film which will move slightly away from realism while staying in the realism realm, with sci-fi, horror and drama elements. I’m going to work with the same producers as for Ghost Night, but I don’t know when the film will see the light of day because it’s a more complicated and more expensive project.
(Translated from French)
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