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VENICE 2010 Competition / Italy

Costanzo’s horror film of feelings


Costanzo’s horror film of feelings

Oops, wrong theatre. This must be a retrospective of the 1970s films of thriller master Dario Argento. No, this really is it, Saverio Costanzo’s highly-anticipated The Solitude of Prime Numbers [+see also:
interview: Luca Marinelli
film profile
, the fourth Italian title in competition at the Venice Film Festival, based on Paolo Giordano’s eponymous best-seller (which sold one million copies in Italy in 2008 and has been translated in 40 countries).

Costanzo has once again changed style, after his documentary-like Private (Golden Leopard at Locarno 2004) and the minimalist In Memory of Me (in competition at the Berlinale 2007). In The Solitude of Prime Numbers, described by Mostra director Marco Müller as "a supernatural thriller", there are elements of the 1970s horror and sci-fi movies Saverio enjoyed as a boy: Argento, Carpenter and Kubrick. And there are hints of Bergman and Antonioni’s existential films.

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Costanzo describes it as a "horror film of feelings, something analogical and electric blue". This is also down to the soundtrack, punctuated with synthetic Goblin-style sounds and disco songs. "The film is set in specific times: from 1984 it moves to 1991 and then 2001, the music had to historicize the three periods, make a lot of noise and then be silent for the ending".

The three temporal levels intersect during the 118-minute-long film, which centres on Alice and Mattia, whose childhood is marked by tragedy. She an anorexic and he a self-harmer, they identify with each other’s pain and build a lasting friendship. They represent "two archetypal images of the primal wound", according to the director.

Those who have read the book know the story well. For this reason, Costanzo has reorganised the chronological structure on several interwoven levels, shifting further on the tragic events that the author sets out at the start of the book: the skiing accident that leaves Alice lame and Mattia’s abandonment of his autistic twin sister, whom he will never see again. The director explained: "I needed to create the disorientation required of a film, shifting the question from 'what happens?' to 'why does it happen?'”.

Giordano, who co-wrote the screenplay, echoes this: "I didn’t want to relive a story that had obsessed me and I soon forgot the book as an object produced by me".

But the main focus of Costanzo’s work was on the bodies of lead actors Alba Rohrwacher and newcomer Luca Marinelli, who lost and gained several kilograms respectively, in a metamorphosis of pain. "We had the opportunity to explore the bodily epic, in its authentic and pure form, which is a political issue today and I believe has also been one of the central themes of the films at this festival", concluded Costanzo.

As we await the verdict of the international jury, this Italian/German/French co-production will be released in Italy tomorrow by Medusa on 380 screens.

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(Translated from Italian)

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