Virginia Eleuteri Serpieri • Director of Amor
“The film is a positive mirror of a dark river, it’s another side of Rome”
- VENICE 2023: The Italian director and video artist chatted to us about her documentary which explores the mystery of her mother’s passing in the river which winds through Rome
Teresa allowed herself to be carried away by the waters of the Tiber, and her daughter Virginia’s latest work sees the latter setting out in search of her, charting timeless paths through the heart of the city, the river and its undulations. Rome turns into Amor [+see also:
interview: Virginia Eleuteri Serpieri
film profile], “the planet of care”, which welcomes Teresa into an enchanted dimension where the past, the present and the future intertwine to form a painful yet magical tableau. This is the journey embarked upon in this third work by Virginia Eleuteri Serpieri - whose father Paolo is a huge comic book author, famous for his Western-style Serpieri Collection and his sophisticated erotic-sci-fi saga Druuna – which was screened out of competition in the 80th Venice Film Festival.
CinecittàNews: Water and mourning the loss of your mother – which you explore with rare, poetic delicacy - were also the focus of your short film Il racconto dell’acqua, but you explored them from more of a soundscape angle.
Virginia Eleuteri Serpieri: Naturally, the trauma of my mother’s death has affected my relationship with water. It happened in ’98, when I was very young and starting out on my creative journey, which was hugely impacted by it. Water has become an element which pervades everything I do, firstly with its sound, which contains all kinds of frequencies and is therefore highly evocative. I started out by recording the river’s sounds at its many different points - under its bridges, inside and outside of Rome - like a kind of sound archive, which we then developed with Beatrice Mele (Ed. recording) and Vito Martinelli (Ed. sound design mix)”.
You work a lot with stills or with images with minimal movement, which inevitably remind us of your father’s art of comic book writing and illustration.
My dad’s work has influenced me, to put it mildly. His imagination was closely intertwined with the film world, from American Indian stories to tales about the West, reminiscent of John Ford, and science fiction too. In my mind he was a film director: every illustration was a freeze-frame, with great visionariness, and also the iconicity of the female body. We lived and breathed all of this at home, and it was passed down to us quite organically, so much so that my sister later became a painter. I designed comic books when I was small, like she did, but then I felt the need for sound, using a recorder, and maybe this distanced me from drawing, because I always felt that something was missing: audio.
It’s also a very effective way of grieving.
Precisely. Film rescued me. After what happened, I had a recurring nightmare: I would throw myself into the water, like my mother, and be drawn to flashes of light, which I realised were fragments of pictures of her which were impossible to put back together. Film helped me to put them back together without faltering. When you’re faced with such a tragic trauma, you can either repress it or face it head on, but with the risk of losing yourself in it. If you spend too much time with ghosts, you die inside. And film is an art which revolves around ghosts and illusions, but it creates a path, it helps you not to lose yourself. You can be with the dead but create something new, like with Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken vases with golden seams: the vase will never be the same again, but you’ll have a new and different vase. Film allows me to look at life and the future.
Science fiction bursts onto the scene at the end of the film with Teresa’s Assumption into Amor.
It no doubt comes from my dad’s suggestions. As I analysed the dream, I realised that the fragments were familiar images, and that there wasn’t just my mother in the water’s depths, but the whole of Rome. This story didn’t just belong to me but to the entire city. I realised that the story had to pass through Rome, so I built an atlas of images of the city, which is a city of water: it was born on a river; it saw the creation of the most sophisticated hydraulic system in the world. It’s a city of fountains. This map gave me a path; like my mother I became a wandering traveller, and like all travellers we ended up on a happy island. Amor is a positive mirror of this dark river, it’s another side of Rome. Yes, it’s a violent, cruel city which is full of negativity, but there’s also a fundamental gentleness to it, which I know welcomed my mother and took her to a world where everyone takes care of others. Rome has this potential about it, and I wanted to home in on that. It’s a city which can be maternal; you can see it in its mythology, its baroque architecture. It’s full of positive symbolism”.
In collaboration with
(Translated from Italian)
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