Emanuele Crialese put in a buoyant performance at the Venice Film Festival Sunday, during which he discussed how his identity informed his Golden Lion contender L’immensità.
“The inspiration was my childhood and my story that is being transposed and reinterpreted,” Crialese said of the flick. “I tried to find the good interpretation in it. I didn’t want it to be self-referential. I didn’t want to talk about just me. As I try to do with every film I make, I’ve tried to somehow represent in a broader way the topics I really care for like migration. The migration of a soul. That means a transition from one state to another one.”
Crialese added that he cares deeply about the topics in the film, which he said he “interpreted in an autobiographical way.”
Set in 1970s Rome, the film follows the Borghetti family that has just moved into one of the many freshly-built apartment blocks in the city. Despite the beautiful, sweeping views of the city from their top-floor apartment, the family is not as close as they once were. Clara (Penélope Cruz) and Felice are no longer in love but are unable to leave each other. Clara finds refuge from her loneliness in the shelter of her special relationships with her three children. The oldest, Adriana, an unknown child in their new neighborhood, deliberately presents as a boy to the neighborhood children, pushing the family’s bond towards breaking point.
The film is produced by Mario Gianani and Lorenzo Gangarossa for Fremantle’s Wildside with Dimitri Rassam for Chapter 2. Warner Bros Italia is also co-producing and will distribute the film in Italy. France 3 Cinéma and Pathé are also co-producing in France. Writers are Crialese, Francesca Manieri and Vittorio Moroni.
Crialese, who previously directed Respiro, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes’ Critics Week, was asked about the nuances of his identity during the press conference, to which he responded: “I think the best part of being a man is being a woman. I don’t really see the difference for me from being in one world or the other. I am who I am and I keep in myself both polarities,” he said.
He later added: “I am never going to be any other man. I was born biologically as a woman. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have in me a huge part of a female character.”
Cruz stars alongside Luana Giuliani, Vincenzo Amato, Patrizio Francioni, and Maria Chiara Goretti in the film. During the presser, Cruz was asked about her role as a mother in the film as well as her tendency to be cast as a mother figure throughout her career.
“I’ve played so many mothers. And even when I was very young with Pedro, I’ve made seven films and in five of them I play a mother and he’s always seen me as a mother and I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” she said.
“I have a very strong maternal instinct. I’m really fascinated by what happens inside any family. Things happen everywhere. Different things but all fascinating. Every single movie I make could be made around a family.”
Cruz also speaks Italian in the film, a language she said she picked up by luck.
“When I was 18 or 19 I was enrolled in Italian projects and so I learned Italian. I’ve always liked foreign languages. I always like studying different accents. This is a real passion that I have,” she said. “And the more I work the more I learn and this is so useful when you have to communicate with other people. I feel very lucky I can work in foreign languages.”
Nearing the end of the presser Crialese spoke at length about his own childhood and growth after being asked how art has helped him move through his personal transitions.
“We don’t decide to do a journey such as mine. You are born that way. I don’t have memories where I was ever perceived differently than I am. So there is no choice about it,” Crialese said in response. “You come into the world just the way you are. Then the choice is to continue believing in yourself and in your journey or to die. There are now alternatives so when we talk of choice, that is how I understand choice.”
L’immensità is set to debut on the Lido this Sunday.
Venice runs from August 31-September 10.