Archive for October, 2011

The “Passenger” That You Didn’t See (October 1975)

I have always thought that scripts are dead pages. I have also written it. They are pages that presuppose a film, and without the film they have no reason to exist. They don’t even have literary value. The following sequence was not included in The Passenger for reasons of length. Therefore, there should be no reason to publish it. But I filmed it, and therefore it is a sequence that exists somewhere, inside a box at the bottom of some warehouse, and it exists in my memory and in the memory of whoever saw it screened – for example, of whoever edited it with me.

I confess that I liked this sequence, not just because it was splendidly acted by Jack Nicholson and the German actor, but also because, in supporting the theme of the film, it also gave quite an unreal dimension to the reporter’s character. Carried out on the ambiguous thread of memory – you know that memory offers no guarantees – this sequence opened for Locke, the journalist, with daydream moments he enjoyed exploring.

The name of an unknown woman, Helga, brings unexpectedly to his mind the memory of a red bicycle. Helga and the bicycle never encountered one another, but the fascination of the game issues exactly from that. For a man like Locke, who has already given up his own identity to assume another’s, it cannot but be exciting to run after a third one. He doesn’t even need to wonder how it will end.

I filmed the scene with sinuous and barely perceptible camera movements. To think of it now, it seems clear to me that I was unconsciously trying to carry out a movement similar to that of our imagination, when it attempts to give life to images that don’t belong to us, but that, little by little, we make our own. We color them, we give them sounds – glimmers of color and sound – but lively, just like our memories. Or like dreams, which are inadequate and laconic as far as content is concerned, but very rich in sensations and thoughts.  Continue reading

The American Desert (August 1968)

What will your film be called? 

Zabriskie Point. It’s the name of a place in Death Valley, in the California desert.

Blow-Up represents your English experience. Will the new film deal ‘with an analogous experience in the United States? Or aren’t places important to you? 

Places are important. But Blow-Up’s story could have happened anywhere. Zabriskie Point, instead, is a film about America. America is the real protagonist of the film. The characters are just a pretext.

Don’t you think that the themes of your past films (incommunicability, solitude, anguish, alienation and so forth) find their greatest confirmation in Anglo-Saxon society? That is, don’t you think that these themes are, after all, the real themes of the most advanced form of neo capitalism? 

Yes, that’s true. These themes have a clearer, more extreme, more profound resonance here in the United States.

How does the revolt of young people (students, hippies, beatniks) fit into your usual world? I mean: until now you have shown us the middle-class grappling with its problems, but you have shown us them from within, you’ve accepted the values of the bourgeoisie itself.  Students, young people, it seems to me, deliberately place themselves outside of the system; they try, as they say nowadays, to challenge it. Does this dissent interest you? 

Yes, it interests me; in fact, I have incorporated it into the film.

In what way? 

I can’t say. I’ll limit myself to mentioning that the characters of Zabriskie Point are in a certain way typical of the present American situation. More than a psychological affinity they share an ideological affinity. Ideological affinity in turn becomes a means to communication, to mutual understanding.  Continue reading

The White Forest (1964)

It is very cold. I know it. I see it in the others. The ice would enter my bones if I let it pass through – that is, if I’d get distracted. But I have too much to do. Not that I have specific things to do. As a matter of fact, I am doing absolutely nothing – that is, whoever looks at me certainly thinks this. But it is not true. I am observing the forest, which, little by little, is becoming white. I also have other minor practical tasks, such as to ascertain that every job is done properly, to indicate the points of the underbrush and the still – green tops of the pines to the painters – they know that I do not want dark spots, but one always escapes notice. Painting a bush is simple; but the top of a forty-meter-tall pinion pine which looks, from the ground, like a small patch of green, becomes, for the painter who sees it from the ladder pushed far up in the tree, a tangle of branches that you cannot finish whitewashing. The man leans out as much as he can on the ladder, which twists frighteningly, and I hold my breath because that man is in danger for me, and even though it may appear so, I am not insensitive to these things.

But beyond these simple tasks there is another one that occupies me completely, and it is watching the forest change color. In the dark, or better, in the artificial light, I am trying to understand what these white – or rather dirty, gray-trees will be like tomorrow, against the gray sky (a layer of clouds has covered it for a week), near the cement of the factory, near its towers. Since for now, as it stands, this question can­ not have anything but an intuitive answer, I keep asking myself, more and more insistently. To be honest, I began to formulate it just a little while ago. The question was not there when I said that I wanted a white forest, the sentence came out of me spontaneously, suggested by an image that flashed in my mind. I had not even the shadow of a doubt. Not even when, as soon as I said that the forest had to be white, I noticed that they looked at me as though they had just heard this color named for the first time (if white is a color). And immediately they wanted to know why. As if changing the color would have been enough to make them agree with me. As if with red, or blue, or yellow – which are, perhaps for the time being, the three fundamental colors of the chromatic scale – that question would not have had any reason to exist. Continue reading

Profession Against (August 1983)

I considered refusing the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, but I could not come up with a good enough reason. I would have refused it on instinct alone. I have received many awards, at almost all the film festivals – Cannes, Venice, and Berlin. The only place I have not yet won is Moscow, but that’s such a particular festival that I could do without. So, when I think of another Golden Lion added to the one I already have, it is already too much. I do not know how to say it – I mean, it puts me into a situation – that is, it gives me another responsibility in dealing with the past, and this is what bothers me. I do not want this responsibility. My films are what they are, I do not know if they deserve another Golden Lion or not, and I do not want to have to talk about it. This is how I feel about that prize.

Then what made you accept it? 

I did it because it is very difficult to say no to Venice. It seems a bit presumptuous for me to say: “No, I do not need another award, I am already who I am.” After all, I guess it is OK to have another one.

Maybe you don’t like these festivals because they show films that no longer satisfy you as they did when you filmed them, films that you have regrets about. Have you ever thought about that? 

Well, in my professional life I have regrets in the sense that when I see one of my films again I do not always like it. That is, I might not like the whole film, but rather just parts of it – certain sequences, or maybe its subject matter. I would not say that I am satisfied with the entire film. There has not been a film of mine that has completely satisfied me.

Not even one? What about The Girlfriends, The Cry, La notte, Red Desert, Identification of a Woman, The Passenger?  Continue reading

My Method (December 1982)

To begin with, we want to ask a ‘very simple question, the same one that the child asks Niccolo in Identification of a Woman: “Why don’t you make science-fiction films?” Let us ask you the same thing. 

A question like that isn’t for you – it’s OK for a child like the one in the film! You know well that I haven’t been able to do everything that I wanted to do. I suggest ideas, but it is the producer and his distributor who make the decision. It’s very difficult today to make suggestions for films, especially for a science-fiction film; they immediately make comparisons with what the Americans are doing in this field, even though we don’t have access to the same resources as they do. It’s useless to try and compete with them; we have to do something different. In the end credits to Blade Runner; there were at least forty technicians. There aren’t that many in the whole of Italy! And even if there were, they would cost too much to hire. 

I thought your film was trying to be an answer to American science fiction films – an answer to E.T. and Blade Runner, a European ‘version of these things, dealing with everyday issues. 

Perhaps. What you say is interesting. Why did you think that?

The character of Niccolo – the director seems very interested in everything that has to do with science. The telescope allows him to approach the farthest his human eye can reach. And then there is the issue that recurs throughout the film: the issue of otherness, be it a woman or other objects. Or perhaps the “other” is extraterrestrial? 

That’s interesting. I like interpretations, a film is always open. You can interpret it any way you want. Seeing a film is always a personal experience. I would like to make a science-fIction film, but to do so in an Italian style isn’t easy. It’s such an alien mentality to us. Still, I did write a script for a science-fiction film: it’s half classic science fiction, with extraterrestrials; but then that format gives way to a different type of science fiction, where you find yourself inside the characters, who are all characters from science fIction. It was interesting, but I wasn’t satisfied with the production deal so I didn’t go ahead with it. Continue reading

The Night, The Eclipse, The Dawn (November 1964)

Your three previous films, L’avventura, La notte, The Eclipse gave, the impression of developing out of one another and standing along the same line of inquiry. And now you seem to have reached a new destination with Red Desert. For the ‘woman in the film, perhaps, it is a desert but for you, it is something fuller; more complete: it’s a film about the whole world and not just about the world of today.

For the moment, it’s very hard for me to talk about Red Desert. It’s too recent a film. I’m still too close to the “intentions” that drove me to make it; I don’t have the clarity of thought and the detachment necessary to judge it correctly. Still, I think I can say that this time I haven’t made a film about feelings. The results that I had obtained from my previous films – good or bad as they may be – have by now become obsolete. The question is completely different. At one time, I was interested in the relationships of characters to one another. Now, instead, the main character must confront her social environment, and that’s why I treat the story in a completely different way.

It’s too simplistic to say – as many people have done – that I am condemning the inhuman industrial world which oppresses the individuals and leads them to neurosis. My intention – and I realize that one always knows where one starts off, but very rarely where one is going to – my intention was to translate the poetry of that world, in which even factories can be beautiful. The lines and curves of factories and their chimneys can be more beautiful than the outline of trees, which we are already too accustomed to seeing. It is a rich world, alive and serviceable. Continue reading

The Eclipse (October 1975)

Thirteen years ago, The Eclipse appeared as the film that would complete the existential discourse that began with L’avventura and was followed by La notte. Their common theme was alienation and the crisis of emotions within a bourgeois context. The Eclipse ended with the total silence of the human voice, with man reduced to a simple object. How would you represent middle­ class man today? The same way you represented him then or would you give him a different destiny? 

I would say that the bourgeoisie of that time was quite different from the one of today. From what it’s possible to understand – from things that happen every once in a while, most of all in Italy – it seems to me that the middle-class is very much involved in social and political life in order to defend its privileges, but also because of an internal corruption, which will eventually bring the middle-class, I believe, to its extinction. Society is proceeding along certain channels where it’s difficult to find a way out. I am neither a sociologist nor a politician, but it seems to me that – not only in Italy, but throughout the world – we are moving toward a certain type of society. The middle-class is showing signs of deterioration with its “angry” reaction to the leveling-out that is taking place in society. Therefore, if I had to make The Eclipse today, I would be even harder on them, more violent.

In the film I directed thirteen years ago, there are signs of violence that are connected with money. Today it would be even more so. It probably would no longer be connected with the Stock Exchange, because the Stock Exchange – although it still survives-already shows signs of its ineffectiveness. Probably – but I am not sure of it – the society of tomorrow will no longer have a need for the Stock Exchange. The changes in the price of gold, of the dollar, of the lira, the “monetary serpent” and all of these things so difficult to follow (I studied finance when I was at the University and it was so abstruse that I had to strive hard to pass the exams) are manifestations of mechanisms that are getting more and more “rusty.” I could be mistaken, but on the outside, to a non­ expert like me, that’s how things look. And yet the survival of the middle­ class is tied to these mechanisms. I am not making a political statement, nor am I speaking as an economist of the left would. I am speaking as a fIlmmaker, as someone who is used to looking at reality, to drawing certain conclusions from events, from facts, from feelings. I would say that The Eclipse is still a modern film in that its protagonists are people who do not believe in feelings – that is, they limit them to certain things. Continue reading