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BERLINALE 2024 Competition

Margherita Vicario • Director of Gloria!

“You grow to appreciate the sisterhood; it’s such a powerful bond”

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- BERLINALE 2024: The Italian singer-turned-director introduces us to an isolated lead character who discovers the joys of music, teaming up with a group of talented girls

Margherita Vicario • Director of Gloria!
(© Dario Caruso/Cineuropa)

Italian singer-songwriter Margherita Vicario debuts as a director, delivering Gloria! [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Margherita Vicario
film profile
]
, a melodic story set in the 1800s and in an orphanage/conservatory that’s difficult to escape. But that’s also where isolated – and supposedly mute – maid Teresa (Galatéa Bellugi) discovers the joys of music, teaming up with a group of talented girls. Vicario breaks down her Berlinale competition entry for us.

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Cineuropa: What made you want to move into directing?
Margherita Vicario:
I’ve just always wanted to do this. It was such a big dream. I started out acting, then moved into writing songs. But I have always been working on possible ideas for movies, and this one came to me even before I decided to direct it myself. I was busy with music, there was never enough time, and then I met this producer. I heard: “Do you have a story?” I was already researching this place, so I went: “Actually, I do.” I don’t consider directing to be such a big change, because ultimately, I want to do it all.

You were even on Woody Allen’s set [for To Rome with Love [+see also:
trailer
interview: Woody Allen
film profile
]
], so you are not exactly a rookie. In Gloria!, you show how much joy music can bring. Do you still feel it yourself?
Of course. It’s not just the joy; it’s the extasy of music. For me, it’s such a powerful feeling. Music is joyful when you are alone, but also when you are surrounded by other people. I am a performer, and it feels so good to be able to express all these feelings this way.

In the film, someone says: “I am singing my thoughts.” It’s so simple, but it makes perfect sense.
For a songwriter, that’s the whole secret. Of course, in pop, you often get a whole team of people working together on the perfect song. But I still like it when you hear something and feel like you understand the person who wrote it.

During the screening, two people sitting right next to me kept moving along to the rhythm.
Maybe they were my friends? So many of them came to Berlin [laughs]! I don’t want it to sound trivial, but I was thinking about rhythm a lot: about Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times or old Disney films. But there is a deeper meaning here, too: Teresa leads a very difficult life. Music is her only refuge. I would say that my music is joyful as well, even though the lyrics aren’t sometimes. Still, with films, I like it when they just hit you, when it’s intense. Even tragic stories need to have at least a little bit of hope, however; otherwise, I get angry. I need that 1% of light because that’s how I see the world. It’s full of pain, but there is music, poetry. There is cinema.

Period films sometimes surprise you with their use of contemporary music – like Marie Antoinette, for example. It can be a powerful contrast, but why did you want to do it?
I wanted this film to be realistic, even though it’s a fable, and I saw these girls’ creativity as something very personal, but also internal. Nobody knows anything about them! We don’t have many compositions left from these orphans. [Italian composer born in 1745] Maddalena Laura Sirmen was one of the few we actually remember. Her works exist because her maestro basically told her: “You are talented, but you have to marry a musician. This is the only way for you to continue.” The way I saw it, Teresa could play whatever she wanted – after all, she isn’t classically trained. I am a self-taught musician as well. It’s about her personal fantasy. It’s not accurate, obviously, but it’s part of that dream. 

One of her partners in crime, Lucia, wants to share her compositions with their teacher and is immediately rejected. Was this moment, when you are not even given a chance, something you could recognise?
Of course. It happened at the very beginning of my career. I was told by someone: “Okay, I guess I can hear your stuff.” It’s the most painful thing, when others already think they know what you are capable of and you are not given opportunities for no apparent reason. The history of music is full of such cases. In order to create, you had to be someone’s daughter or wife. These female composers were eventually able to attain fame, but many looked down on them anyway.

Gloria! is about these girls learning to work together. It’s rooted in female solidarity, but you are not too starry-eyed about this kind of dynamic. They fight.
I have sisters, and sometimes we just hate each other. I think that we are finally getting rid of that idea that women are envious of each other. It can happen, sure, but men also perpetuate this belief. It just feels old-fashioned, and I am not interested in it. When I was younger, I didn’t have too many female friends, but the older I get, the more it changes. You grow to appreciate the sisterhood; it’s such a powerful bond.

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