N, Napoleon and Virzì
"A bit comedy, a bit black fairy tale, a 19th apologue and a story of a generational clash" is how director Paolo Virzì describes his film N.: Napoleon & Me [+see also:
film profile] , the first Italian film of the Premiere section screened for the press at the RomeFilmFest. The film will be released tomorrow in Italy by Medusa and next Wednesday in France.
N is Virzì’s first period film and yet another set in Tuscany. The Napoleon in his film, played by Daniel Auteuil, is that of his period of exile on the Island of Elba, where he is warmly welcomed by the general, uncouth populace but with hostility by the young Martino Papucci (Elio Germano), an idealistic teacher imbued with patriotic literature who hates the former emperor and wants to kill him.
As fate would have it, Martino is called to be Napoleon’s scribe and spends entire days at his service. "What happens when you find yourself face to face with the object of your hatred?", Virzì asked himself and, along with other questions, developed his story together with screenwriters Francesco Bruni and Furio Scarpelli, from the eponymous novel by Ernesto Ferrero.
"Roberto Benigni told me about the book,” continued the director, “which offers a novel perspective on Napoleon’s exile, told by a person who detests him". The tyrannicidal undertaking proves, however, to be more difficult than the young man imagined, also because the private Napoleon is far different from his reputation as a ruthless tyrant.
To Martino, Napoleon seems like a sad man at the end of his glory, full of remorse for all his bloody actions that caused thousands of victims throughout Europe. This is precisely how Auteuil prepared himself for the role: "I will play Napoleon,” he told Virzì “as if he were an old actor at the end of his glory who is afraid of having lost his success".
The film pits idealism and naivety against the malice of power: "Actually, my Napoleon,” explains Virzì, “is a man in exile who is bored. He is far from the battlefields and the great war strategies. He thus decides to have fun seducing this young teacher from whom he perceives a certain hostility".
Besides Francesca Inaudi, Valerio Mastandrea, Massimo Ceccherini, Sabrina Impacciatore, the cast also includes Monica Bellucci, in the comical role of the treacherous wife of an elderly baron, who is first the teacher’s lover, then Napoleon’s: "She’s a bit pleasure-lover, a bit slut", said the actress.
(Translated from Italian)
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