Francesca Archibugi on the strenght and weakness of the family bond

CinemaItaliaUK IlNomeDelFiglio Francesca Archibugi

Based on the French movie ‘Le Prénom’ (What’s in a name),  ‘Il nome del figlio’ (The name of the son) is the last movie by the Italian director Francesca Archibugi, screened in London thanks to CinemaItaliaUK.

Paolo (Alessandro Gassman), a member of a wealthy bourgeois family, is about to become a father. During a dinner at his beautiful family home, he announces the name for his future son. The scandalous name (Benito) originates a discussion which leads to unwelcome matters from the past of the family.

Family is a strong force in Italy, and your movie seems to suggest that is a weakness, too. Family seems to limit your characters to be able to be fully independent individual.
Yes, I think that Italy is dominated by this famous amoral familism, suffocating young and new energies that might emerge. I think this is heavy, heavier than we might think’.

In the film, all characters are self-absorbed and neurotic. The only strong person is Simona (Micaela Ramazzotti), the outsider. She is a successful and  beautiful woman, but from a working class neighbourhood.
‘There is no a sociological thesis behind. I do not use my characters to say something wider. I consider myself just a storyteller.  I love Simona and her being a person in progress.  She is a real person, she’s trying to improve, but behind her I did not want to put any meaning. However, it is undeniable we all have a role.  Even a simple portrait of a person, can have a political value. As soon as a person enters a room, just from how she looks like, we can have an idea of her’.

But maybe  we are wrong…
‘Of course, but also in this mistake, there is a story,  a communication between me, the viewer, and that person’.

Sandro (Luigi Lo Cascio) is well-lettered professor who spends time criticizing, patronizing everyone, but the only thing he seems to be able to do is writing on twitter, speaking with strangers. Do you also feel yourself part of this left-wing intellectual class, often called radical-chic, no longer able to relate to the reality?
‘I might say yes.  But it is also true that when a person decides to be a storyteller, it is normal to be a bit detached, trying to see things from outside. Jean Renoir used to say “The real hell of life is everyone has his reasons”.  I  am not here to change the reality.  Sandro is a clever guy but he has never been able to leave his family nest,  in some way he is a coward’.

Are there many Sandro in Italy? Intellectuals attached more to their clan than to their intellectual freedom?
‘Yes, I know many Sandro. But I do not think it is just an Italian problem. I think it is more an European trend. The Conservatives seem to have a stronger - iconoclastic, intellectual and transgressive impact than the leftiests now. Progressive intellectuals are becoming more bigoted and conservative’.

Are you a feminist?
‘I am’.

Speaking of bigots… Do not you think that in Italy  a really moralist feminism is prevailing?
‘Unfortunately yes, and that is the death of feminism. But that doesn’t stop me from being a feminist. In cinema it has always been hard for a woman. It’s tough if you are not anyone’s wife or daughter’.

Bad jokes? Sexual appreciations?
‘Sexual appreciations are common and often just show the impotence of the offender. There is something more dramatic. If you are woman, easily most of the people will try to put you down, given you less merits, trying always to find a man behind you. A form a patronage that is frustrating’.

Things are changing? Maybe improving?
‘Absolutely, no. Nothing different from when I started thirty years ago.


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