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BERLINALE 2024 Generation

Carlo Sironi • Director of My Summer with Irène

“I just don’t feel the desire to depict people my own age”

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- BERLINALE 2024: The director of the award-winning Sole braves the Sicilian heat to tell the story of two girls who run away and experience a proper summer together

Carlo Sironi • Director of My Summer with Irène

Clara and Irène (Maria Camilla Brandenburg and Noée Abita) meet at a camp, organised by the hospital where they are being treated. They are both 17, but so different. Still, their friendship blossoms quickly. They decide to run away and experience a proper summer together. It’s 1997 and the world is their oyster – luckily, they also have a camera to capture it all. Director Carlo Sironi breaks down his Berlinale Generation 14plus entry My Summer with Irène [+see also:
film review
interview: Carlo Sironi
film profile
]
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Cineuropa: You are interested in the experience of youth: Sole [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlo Sironi
film profile
]
also comes to mind. Why are you so drawn to this?

Carlo Sironi: I ask myself the same question. I just don’t feel the desire to depict people my own age. I don’t know why – it’s very strange. So far, this urge has not been there. It’s not like I don’t see myself as a grown-up, but there is a part of me that’s still so interested in the feelings you experience when you are a teen. Also, I set this one in 1997 – that’s when I was that young, too. I think I know something about the way we used to be back then. This movie just had to be set in the past.

You show the kind of summer that people remember for the rest of their lives. Also, let’s face it, everything is more intense when you are young. Maybe that’s why you like it so much?
Yes, but I also really didn’t want to talk about today’s confusion. What’s fascinating is that when you are that young and someone special looks at you in a particular way, you actually feel you can change. That’s what happens to Clara. She feels like a different girl because of Irène’s attention.

Thinking about what you mentioned before, I would say that Sole is a film with young people, but it’s not about being young at all – it’s almost the exact opposite. They have never been young, in a way. In that sense, My Summer with Irène gave me a chance to make a proper coming-of-age movie. I have always loved them. It’s so much fun, and you feel so free when writing this kind of story. The thing with young people is that their life might seem very simple, but it’s anything but.

These girls are interesting together because they are both on the verge of leaving their girlhood behind. Is that why you wanted them to look a bit boyish or androgynous, perhaps?
They are also in between illness and freedom – almost recovered, but still forced to check in every once in a while. During our research with Silvana [Tamma, co-writer], we understood that’s how their hair would look. The goofiness of their clothing came later. I remember that back in the 1990s, when I was young, some of my clothes were still so childish. We wanted to play with that. They are not confident women yet.

Summer movies are usually connected to stories about growing up – it just makes sense. Everything would happen during holidays.
I was actually imagining a short retrospective of those summer flicks. There are so many masterpieces among them – just think about someone like Maurice Pialat, who would never judge these teenagers at all, or even something as recent as Licorice Pizza. These references were already there in our heads when we were writing.

I also have to admit that this movie came to me in a very strange way: I kept listening to that song by The Cure, “To Wish Impossible Things”. It has this very “watery” quality to it. Soon, I started seeing these girls, and at first, there were three of them, grappling with their illness. It wasn’t rational. I saw so many scenes from this film even before I shot Sole. Later, it became a bit more concrete, and we started our research. It was supposed to be set in a hospital, but they actually organise these summer camps for sick kids. Thanks to that change, it’s no longer a film about sickness.

These girls create their own reality – they film people and literally create fictional stories about them.
I wanted to use some of the old 1990s tools so badly. We had the same camera, me and my friends, and we filmed so many summer videos. Back then, it felt magical, being able to use it. It made everything feel bigger – not always in a good way. I remember that we would act so childishly in front of it. Now, people act like adults in front of their cameras and their phones – more adult than they actually are. When people ask me about this film, I say: “It’s just a teen movie.” Of course, we tried to make sure it would be a bit more than that, but we also decided to stay close to their point of view and avoid being yet another adult, looking back at the past with nostalgia.

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