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Salvatore Mereu • Director

Mereu’s anti-hero Sonétaula

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Salvatore Mereu • Director

The Sardinia of the “criminal years” just before and after WWII is the backdrop to the coming-of-age story in Salvatore Mereu’s wonderful second feature Sonetàula [+see also:
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, presented in the Panorama section at last month’s Berlinale and released today by Lucky Red on approximately 30 screens.

The co-production with France’s Haut et Court and Belgium’s Artemis should allow the film, which is being sold internationally by Celluloid Dreams, to soon find distribution abroad as well. The director spoke to Cineuropa in Rome.

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"After Three-Step Waltz,” says Mereu, “I was asked to make another film on Sardinia. I had read Giuseppe Fiori’s novel and thought that it lent itself very well to cinema. In adapting it into a film, I avoided the sociological part to focus on the coming-of-age story. A life “not lived”, such as Sonétaula’s, which already seems marked by events and places, is universal. It can be found in any part of the world, from Calcutta to New York. I wanted to depict this story with the idea of compensating that life".

Sonétaula seems to have been shot with great freedom. "I shot instinctively, without calculating much, but I think that the result awarded the gamble. There were numerous production problems, being as it is a period film set in another time. And it had a documentary-like approach with methods little used in contemporary cinema. Luckily, the producers gave me a lot of freedom and I was allowed to shoot the scenes chronologically. This very much helped the actors to identify with their characters day by day".

Actors that were furthermore almost all non-professionals. "We had daily difficulties on set because I was working with actors who couldn’t always guarantee results. For the main character Sonétaula, who in the film ages from 12 to 25, we immediately asked ourselves how to resolve the problem of such a wide narrative arc.

"However, we gave the part to just one actor, Francesco Falchetto, because as a spectator I’m always diffident when I see actors of different ages play the same character. Luckily, the boy was growing right in that period, and he literally exploded before the camera. He was very good and was helped as much as possible by my make-up and costume collaborators".

With light playing such a fundamental role, four DoPs worked on the film. "In Three-Step Waltz I’d already used four different directors of photography. This was necessary because the film took unfolded over a long period of time, a whole year with a number of interruptions, but in the end the continuity in photography was maintained, it almost determined itself, because the faces and locations suggested the DoPs choices".

Mereu’s future in depicting his land will be based on the success of this film. "I think it’s more efficient to talk about what you know best,” he states. “This film needs good word-of-mouth to find its audiences. I will continue to approach film not as a job but as an opportunity. But with a certain idea in mind, hopeful that I’ll find the suitable production methods for carrying it out ".

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