Paolo Virzì: 'I'm worried about the great drought of politics'

The film, presented in Venice and due to be released on September 29, is a photograph of the decadent future, so terrible and isolated, that it seems to await us. 'Society is collapsing - says the director - while in this electoral campaign, ridiculous and hysterical, everyone is talking about something else'

  79 Venice International Film Festival 2022 Paolo Virzì with his partner Micaela Ramazzotti in Venice: a love that resists push and pull Photo

Drought by Paolo Virzì is like a huge photograph. We are here, and there is our world. There is what we have been and what we could have been; and there is also the decadent future, so terrible and isolated, which seems to await us. It's a comedy, but it has the bitter taste of great truths. It contains more plots, more ideas, and each character is like an absolute mask: melancholy, uncertainty, fragility, anger, anxiety; love lost and love found. An army of actors - from Valerio Mastandrea to Silvio Orlando, from Monica Bellucci to Claudia Pandolfi - for a brutally honest and visceral story, which investigates, suggests and relaunches. We talk about climate change and empathy, and everything in between. Drought it premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, and there, says Virzì, 'it went well and we also enjoyed it': 'I was excited to finally see a screening in a large and crowded room; I closed the film at Christmas, but we decided to hold out and wait for the following season, with the hope of a restart of the theaters '- Photo

A restart that has not yet taken place. 'Some things, perhaps, are irreversible ... But, here, let's not deprive ourselves of the possibility of hope: they tell me that Gianni Amelio's film ( The lord of the ants , ed) started well. Maybe we are not yet at pre-pandemic levels, but we must believe that there is a desire to turn the page, to leave the house, to watch a film with others ».

He told me about Venice. 'The welcome was even warmer than expected. I realize that I have in my hands a film that can strike terror, that does not even try to hide its perception of the end of the world but that, on the contrary, wants to handle it with irony, as if we deserved this apocalypse. Besides, I was curious ».

About what? 'To be able to test the strength of such a complex and choral narrative mosaic'.

Ettore Scola remains one of his great references, also for this film. «Well, if you mention Scola to me, I instinctively nod and smile with gratitude. It does not seem to me, however, that in this case it matters much. If I have to mention other films, different names come to mind. But let me tell you something: when you work on a new project, you don't think about someone else's film; thefts are better if they are involuntary and unconscious ».

She doesn't like the word 'dystopia', she said. Because? “Abused words soon lose their meaning. In any case, once a film is seen it no longer belongs to the director and the authors, but to those who watch and evaluate it, to those who love or hate it: everyone must feel free to define it in the way they deem right, also “dystopian” ».

So, should films be let go? “I have three children and have made fifteen films, and I consider myself a rather permissive father. As that Gibran poem we had in our teenage bedrooms says: “Your children are not your children; you are the bow that hurls the children towards tomorrow '. They must be left free to be whatever they want, both the children and the films. They have to discover their life and their identity. Oppressive parents end up condemning their offspring to unhappiness '.

The story of Drought began during the first lockdown. “Yes, we felt right in those days of isolation. I stopped preparing a movie I was about to make, and switched to home mode. And through the screens, in that forced solitude, we began to talk ».

About what? “About what would happen next, and the possible afterwards. Of the way in which cinema could have told a moment like that ».

Paolo Giordano worked on the screenplay of the film with her, Francesca Archibugi and Francesco Piccolo. 'At first I felt above all with Paolo because, in addition to being a good writer, he is also a physicist-mathematician, a scholar of science, and in those days on Corriere he wrote the most reasoned and lucid pieces on what was happening to us. We wondered about the task of art, which often coincides with knowing how to look a little further ahead; and we came up with the idea of ​​Drought. It had to be a collective film, about society, and not the story of a single person ».

What do you mean? 'All those rambling destinies, afflicted by loneliness or troubled by the struggle for survival, could become a grandiloquent fresco of a society that is collapsing.'

Is there no hope? «No, look, the very gesture of telling presupposes a hope. First of all, there is the hope that someone will listen. Then there is the hope that the narrative can give an intelligible sense to the senseless chaos of reality. When you tell stories, you always come back here. And if you don't, in my opinion, you don't even deserve to be considered. In the end, telling means exactly this: to hope ».

Another solitude is that of Rome, which in this film is isolated from the rest of Italy. 'We wanted this inexplicable element - the drought only in Rome, aided by the water tanks that come from other parts of Italy - to have its own hyperbolic, non-naturalistic dimension. Say the word metaphor, please: don't make me say it. We listened to the pessimistic predictions of scientists on climate change, but we could not imagine reading on the front pages of the newspapers about drought and water shortages. And so a film that tried to talk about the present starting from an imaginary future ended up becoming a topical film ».

One of the catchphrases of the last two years has been: 'We will come out better'. In your opinion, was it so? Did we come out better? 'For nothing. The separations and distances that have been created have left a trail of unease that has dried up relationships. If we want, however, there is also a positive side: the pandemic has managed to open our eyes to something '.

Her thing? 'In this ridiculous and hysterical election campaign, everyone is talking about something else, while scientists warn us that the dramatic countdown is getting closer and closer. What happened made clear the bond that holds everything together: environment and health, climate and well-being, care for the planet and our future ».

He almost felt it was his duty, he said, to stage this story. “It is also the task of those who make cinema. We need visual matter to nourish our new awareness. With Diccità we tried to create a vision that would remain etched in the imagination and that could look far away '.

And you have succeeded: you have foreseen many things. 'Well, in the film there is also the brief description of a personality of the new political power, embodied by a woman of short stature with a very martial and assertive way of doing'.

Are you a political author? 'What do I know, what kind of author am I?' I try to be honest, and it is already a huge effort of shamelessness. I expect a description of my work from others. I read with critical curiosity and reviews. Often I find reasoning about what I have done that I had not even taken into consideration. But I can tell you this ».

Tip. 'In my life, there has always been a passion for politics. And she went hand in hand with a passion for cinema and literature. I come from the popular neighborhoods; I was an anarchist high school student and I dreamed of fighting to change the world. Cinema was a response to this need, and the art of storytelling has become not only my profession, but also my hope '.

Thanks to this film, he found Silvio Orlando. How did she go? 'After so many films in which Silvio was an intellectual, a journalist, a professor, the alter-ego of famous novelists, I asked him to come up with something simpler and more essential, a kind of innocent ebetude, similar to that which he had during his debut as a comedian. The character he plays is a bewildered creature, frightened by the world; at the same time, however, he is capable of a moving stubbornness. And Silvio, like all the other actors in the cast, was generous: he lowered himself into this unguarded little man with genuine fervor, and he seemed really happy to push the laundry cart of the Rebibbia inmates ».

His film comes out on September 29, shortly after the elections. How do you see them? “In my opinion, they didn't want us. Parliament and the parties had a duty to let the emergency government end the Recovery plan, led by a technician who turned out to be a true politician, in the highest sense, offering a guarantee to other European countries with his own authority ... Anyway , look, if I open my mouth on this subject I let myself go to really violent words ».

What are you worried about? «I am not worried about Giorgia Meloni, a fascist; it just seems to me that he has neither the ideas nor the right tone to lead our country in such a dramatic situation. He worries me even more the general desire, not only Italian, of fascism. Think of Sweden, France and the United States. There are urgent considerations to be made on the profound crisis that democracy is going through, and we must quickly run for cover ».