admin On agosto - 22 - 2013

by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Venezia salva, is Serena Nono’s screen adaption of Simone Weil’s tragedy: in 1618, a conspiracy hatched by the Spanish Ambassador and the Viceroy of Naples, tried to take hold of Venice, on the night preceding the Feast of the Ascension, a Venetian religious and secular feast.

Director, Serena Nono, who comes from an artistic family, is an acclaimed painter and has recently been active in film-making, inspired by homeless people who live in the Casa dell’ospitalità and transformed them into actors. Her neorealistic approach recalls the way the Taviani brothers transformed jail detainees in actors in their ‘Caesar Must Die,’ where these wretched souls vented, through their theatrical roles, their true life struggles, discomfort, pain and suffering.

What inspired you to cast the homeless guests of Casa dell’ospitalità?

I’ve been working with the guests of the Casa dell’ospitalità since 2006. We had art classes and subsequently we made two films before Venezia salva. It has been very stimulating to work with them, it’s a consolidated collaboration although in Venezia salvasome of them are gone and some are new.

Can we consider Venezia Salva part of a trilogy, since it follows the projects ‘Ospiti’ (Guests), a documentary of 2007 and ‘Via della croce’ (The Way Of The Cross), a docufiction of 2009, that also starred the people housed in Casa dell’Ospitalità?

Not exactly a trilogy, but a natural evolution of our filming experience. The first two films you mentioned are documentaries in which some of the guests tell their own stories, or talk about themselves; in Venezia salva we moved on to dealing with a theatrical text where they must start to interpret a role. Also it is the first time I have filmed with a real troupe, even if it was a very small one, and with a budget. On the first two films I did everything on my own: filming, editing and so on. Venezia salva was filmed in 4 weeks with a tight schedule and a proper crew and cast. The choice of this play had to do with the themes of the play and with the Venetian setting.

You chose to adapt as a feature the work of philosopher Simone Weil, who conceived her play as a greek tragedy. Can you explain how you maintained this classical form, in your direction?

I tried to structure the film like a tragedy, with a prologue, 3 acts and two stasimos between the acts: a comment of what’s about to happen built with fragments of the work done during the preparation of the film, which are meetings about the play, the discussions and the rehearsals in the Groggia theatre, that the assistant director and I filmed. I also tried to follow Simone Weil’s “director’s notes”, published in the Adelphi Italian version of the play Venezia salva. In directing Venezia salva I tried to make the actors really understand the different characters of the play and to almost identify with them, after having discussed a lot together about the different roles in Venezia salva. I didn’t try to correct their accents or control their performance as they represent a group of foreigners, and I tried to reduce the theatricality in their acting as much as I could. It had to feel real even if set in 1618.

Tell me about the workshop that developed into Venezia salva in the course of two years…

We started working on this project with the guests in 2011, with Manuela Pellarin, first assistant director and editor, and with Giovanni Benzoni, president of the Foundation Casa dell’ospitalità, and proposing the book-play Venezia salva. We had meetings and discussions about the play, with the historian Gino Benzoni and with the theologian, Giovanni Trabucco. We worked in a theatre for many months, and David Riondino, the only real actor in the film, and his producer, came to rehearse with the actors a few times, helping with the acting. We went to visit the locations, especially the Doge’s palace, which was a discovery for me, too. When we had to prepare the costumes and the props, we had our base at a nuns’ convent. They hosted us for months and together with some of the guests we fixed props and scene objects and prepared the costumes. We were ready in March 2012 to start filming.

As an artist what was it like to “paint” the storyboard of something that would have become live and in movement?

The storyboard has helped me a lot. I started painting it after a few months since we had the workshop with the actors. In the storyboard the cast was already decided, and I could imagine the development of the story, the rhythm, the colours, and the colour changes, the costumes, and the feel of an environment. But I could also already imagine the characters, their faces, and have an idea about the staging, and the possibilities of composition. I also tried out the chosen locations and tried to imagine how to do the shootings.

What themes were dearest to you in this story?

The main theme of Venezia salva is the conversion to beauty of the main character, which is able to arrest an escalation of force-violence. Beauty, in this case, is not only the beauty of Venice, it is also its culture, its people’s lives. The main character, leader of the conspiracy, gives up his power in order to save the city, losing all his friends and losing his own life. As the theologian Giovanni Trabucco says in the film: “By paying attention to the other people’s needs, we are aware that other people exist. This is our battle to win, rather than imposing force on them.” This is the theme which triggers Jaffier’s choices. And he has no redemption for saving the city. I also like this. The reality of it.

What do you think you have in common with Simone Weil?

Nothing! I have read her books and Cahiers, I deeply appreciate her thought, her language and her way of conceiving or feeling faith. Reading her books and writings, even if I don’t understand it all, as I lack the philosophical background, has touched me and maybe, if I may say, enriched me like no other author.

You are a Venetian, is there something you discovered about your hometown that you didn’t know before the making of Venezia Salva?

Yes, I had a chance to explore some places in Venice for this film, which I hadn’t seen before. As I said, the Doge’s palace was a wonderful discovery, even if I had been to visit it as a little girl. I learned a lot about that period wandering around the palace, and discovering parts of it which I hadn’t seen before, like the inquisition room, the torture room, the chancellory, the boat-like structure under the roof. The architecture and paintings make you understand a lot about the history, and make you also feel you can travel back through time! I also discovered the variety of angles and frames Venice can be seen in, how rich she is, and how beautiful. Also beautiful in her relation to the environment, and how she should be treated with more respect and care.

Is the film going to other festivals? Where will it be distributed?

We don’t have a distributor yet. We have just been told that we’ll be at the Religion todayfilm festival in Trento in October, after going to the Giornate degli autori-Venice days,Venice film festival, now in September.

Do you think you’ll be focusing more on motion pictures in the future, as opposed to painting?

When I was working on the film I missed painting, mainly the quietness and the isolation of painting. On the other hand, I think that having tried film it will be difficult to not do it again. I really enjoy it and there’s a lot to try and to explore. I also enjoy the deep bond that is created between the people who work together in such an experience and the great possibility of learning from each other. I think painting and film feed off of each other. After I finished editing the film with the editor, I painted some oil-paint portraits of some of the actors of Venezia salva, in their period costumes. It was as if I had to capture them with paint too, and I enjoyed this painting time again.

They will be shown with the storyboard from August 25th until September 10th at the Galleria Traghetto in Venice; 283 watercolours divided in four sections, three depicting the three acts of the tragedy and an extra section dedicated to costumes.

The Exhibition at Galleria Traghetto is located in Campo Santa Maria del Giglio and will be open from Monday to Saturday, from 3pm until 7pm, or exceptionally by appointment.


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