‘It was the hand of God’: Paolo Sorrentino changes his cinema to film the tragedy of his childhood | Culture

At the hospital, Fabietto still wore the scarf. He had to pick it up in the stadium, show it to his idol. But it never did. He didn’t even see Maradona. He dreamed of an unforgettable day and he had it, although not for that Naples-Empoli. When his brother appeared with the car to pick him up, he did not take him to the stands. Nor did he talk about football. “Mom and Dad have been admitted,” he said. The doctor was more specific: “There was a carbon monoxide leak.” In that instant, Fabietto lost his adolescence. Suddenly, life made him an adult.

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“Perhaps now I was old enough to tell this story,” said director Paolo Sorrentino on Thursday at the Venice festival. He adds up to 50, but he wasn’t even 18 when he last saw his parents. And finally he has gathered the security to narrate in a film his truncated youth. “Beyond my needs, it could be declined in a cinematic story. And a friend told me that I never do personal things. I took it as a provocation, “he added. He has changed the names, and added elements of fiction. But the substance of a film remains that fearlessly dives into a painful intimate past. And share it with the public. It was the hand of God has moved La Mostra. And it has offered a remarkable new example of restrained drama, coming to Netflix soon. The other projection in competition of the day, The Card Counter, by Paul Schrader ―in Spanish theaters in December―, has also fascinated, with its controlled tension and at times unleashed. The festival, so far, forces you to hold your breath.

“I am fearful in life, but I would say that I am quite brave with my films. Although above all it was necessary in the writing phase. When you roll, you enter a dynamic full of practical problems and if you tend to be moved, someone comes to you and says: ‘Okay, but you have to decide.’ It is a salvation ”, added Sorrentino before the press. In reality, the filmmaker’s courage has been twofold. And for that reason even more meritorious. Because not only has his trauma rolled. He has also renounced the protection network of his usual cinema.

From left to right, actor Oscar Isaac, director Paul Schrader and actors Tiffany Haddish and Tye Sheridan, at the presentation of ‘The Card Counter’, this Thursday at the Venice Film Festival.FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

The inveterate followers of The great beauty O Youth they will be surprised. There are hardly any dream evocations, and the camera is not obsessed with hunting down beauty. The soundtrack does not stand out, the surrealism takes a step back and the protagonist does not face the sunset, but the dawn of his life. It remains, yes, its characteristic mixture of the sublime and the earthly: the same old woman who devours mozzarella and curses his relatives can declaim verses of Dante Alighieri at a funeral. After all, Sorrentino himself has fun playing with both elements in his statements as well. “I believe in a semi-divine power of Maradona,” he blurted out.

Moreover, with the new director of photography ―Daria D’Antonio replaces the historic Luca Bigazzi―, he realized that this work forced them to look for another style. “We shot a sequence and we were both disappointed. It had to be a simple, essential cinema, so that feelings spoke above all and were those that I had experienced as a child. I concentrated on that, ”explained the creator. So much so that many critics have spoken of a radical turn in his work. Perhaps the director needed it: after years of boom, Silvio and the others and the series The new dad They showed signs of stagnation. At La Mostra, he and his fetish actor, Toni Servillo, preferred to predict “a new beginning.”

“Nothing ever happens to me,” said the protagonist of The man of more, debut feature that right in Venice, 20 years ago, discovered the talent of Sorrentino and Servillo. Rather, everything has happened to them, including an Oscar for The great beauty. Always together, so much so that now the director has asked the actor to play his father. And Servillo shared the advice that the filmmaker gave him and his mother in fiction, Teresa Saponangelo: “That we look in love.” Instead, he chose the young Filippo Scotti to play himself. He saw in him a lot of talent, and also “the feeling inadequate” that he experienced in those years.

Although just then, orphan and without compasses, Sorrentino found his way. He went to Rome, and became a filmmaker. Thanks, among other things, to a discussion with the director Antonio Capuano, reflected in the film: “He told me something very important: ‘Sometimes experiencing pain seems like the license to do creative work, but it is not enough’. Most of the positive things that have to do with filmmaking come from conflict ”.

Paul Schrader’s filmography is full of battles. Although The Card Counter account, directly, the war. There is also revenge, violence and redemption, the scriptwriter’s favorite cocktail of Taxi Driver, and author of films like The priest. The film follows a former military man, Oscar Isaac, turned professional card player. The restlessness is breathed in every moment, like an ordeal at a poker table. Claustrophobic spaces and dissonant music strain the viewer’s nerves. Until, from time to time, Schrader gives way to the nightmare that inhabits the protagonist’s mind: in a series of flashbacks, the camera returns him to his infamy, as a torturer in Abu Ghraib jail. “I’m sure the US soldiers who were at the airport [de Kabul] these last 10 days will have memories and we will listen to them in the next 10 or 20 years ”, said the creator. Maybe one day a movie will even be made. But, for now, at the Mostra the memories that have already been seen are enough. Those of a military man, and those of a boy who is left alone. Good cinema. Even more: memorable.

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‘It was the hand of God’: Paolo Sorrentino changes his cinema to film the tragedy of his childhood | Culture