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BERLINALE 2024 Berlinale Special

Fabio and Damiano D'Innocenzo • Directors of Dostoyevsky

“We wanted to talk about a man who has given up on himself, who is in the process of abandonment”

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- BERLINALE 2024: The Italian siblings discuss their first foray into the series format, a crime story following a rather unusual detective

Fabio and Damiano D'Innocenzo  • Directors of Dostoyevsky
(© Greta de Lazzaris)

The first series made by brothers Fabio and Damiano D'Innocenzo was presented at this year's Berlinale, as a Berlinale Special screening. Dostoyevsky [+see also:
series review
interview: Fabio and Damiano D'Innocenzo
series profile
]
is a crime story that follows an unusual detective who comes dangerously close to the serial killer he is trying to catch. The siblings talked about their aesthetic and dramaturgical approach, and why they wanted to make the series with Sky on board as a producer.

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Cineuropa: How would you characterise Dostoyevsky?
Fabio and Damiano D'Innocenzo:
We call it a tale, a novel – a novel that’s been made into a series but which will also be seen in the cinema.

How did this journey begin?
Undoubtedly, it was essential that Nils Hartmann from Sky would be willing to produce it. We couldn't have done it with anyone else. We remember Nils saying, “We would like a noir, a thriller.” In ten minutes, we’d written the plot, and in four hours, we’d written Dostoyevsky's epilogue. And then, from there, the [main] writing work began. We wanted to tell of the winter of a human being. We wanted to talk about a man who has the duty, but also the desire, to chase another human being, and to intercept his scent, his taste, the taste of death.

We wanted to flesh out the detective. Our vision was that of a completely dry tree. We wanted to talk about a man who has given up on himself, who is in the process of abandonment. What was important was that we wanted to explore a different narrative – one that would start with a “what the fuck” moment, where the risk is that the audience will stop watching the show. But that’s exactly what we were looking for when we agreed to work with Sky, and we are happy it was possible.

Could you tell us more about your storytelling concept?
It was important for us not to follow current trends. As viewers and, consequently, as filmmakers, before we enter the plot, we have to be able to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere. And it was fundamental to be able to create the habitat and to create those things that are intangible – if not with the cinematography, then with all of the subconscious elements that this wonderful art of audiovisual storytelling, whether it's cinema or television, allows you. So, we wanted to start with rather short scenes and allow the audience to lose themselves inside the places, to really belong to this village and these characters. We ask the viewer to take an active approach towards the narrative; he or she has to actively participate. And this is something that we ask of the auteur when we are viewers.

How did you know that actor Filippo Timi would be the best fit for the main role?
As is the case with all of our films, it was important for us that the actors would get the chance to get to know us and be able to find out if both sides were a good fit for each other. Filippo arrived at the auditions on the first day, and we knew it was going to be him. The icing on the cake was when we saw him coming out of the audition, hugging a tree.

Your protagonists are often on the fringes of society; what fascinates you about this?
It’s important to be true to the complexity of human beings. This is only possible with the absence of judgement. The prerequisite for our work is to be open towards life, in the sense that we are curious and want to observe everything, but then to avoid falling into the trap of being judgemental is the ideal outcome. Besides, why should we judge? We already live in a country that is a dictatorship controlling our thoughts. So why do it also while telling a story?

You worked with a brand-new crew for the series; why so?
We changed the entire technical crew because we were looking for a new approach. That doesn't mean that the old one was no good, but we became friends. Inevitably, when you become friends, you become loyal, you get used to it, and you tend to give less. We felt, however, that it was time to get to know new names and new ideas.

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