FOCUS ON: Alessandro Capitani
Our interview with the director of "Bellissima", the David di Donatello 2016 winning short film.
Bellissima is this year’s winner of the David di Donatello Award for the best short film, written and directed from the 36-years-old filmmaker Alessandro Capitani. It tells the story of Veronica, twenty years, imprisoned in an enormous body. During a party night, she suffers derision by a boy because of her physical appearance.
Following the work of the young director, the impression is that the attention on themes relating to the clash among the correspondence with an ideal (aesthetic or sentimental) and the impossibility to reach it, was born before that this short. Capitani never judges but shows, of those so showy personalities, limits and imperfections of the common man.
Let’s talk about it.
Good Short Films: From your work seems that the perception and self-image is a theme. So it is?
AC: Yes, exactly. In 2010, I started an investigation concerning the body image, which led to the documentary Come prima, più di prima, mi amerò, focused on a particular beauty contest, Miss Plastic Surgery.
During the shooting, a woman, ex winning of the competition, struck me more than others, because her aesthetic choices ended up influencing the life of her daughter, ridiculed by the schoolmates because of her image, mother “all plastic”. This small anecdote actually increased my curiosity on the matter to inspire the realization of the short La legge di Jennifer.
GSF: Also Bellissima is included in this narrative substrate
AC: Exactly, although it was born from another kind of experience that I lived. I was in a public bath and I warned a very strong noise, I asked if someone was hurt and from there I began to imagine an hypothetical dialogue among two people who are unable to see each other, however incited by the opportunity to be described as they wished. Then, the idea of use a girl that had some problems to be reflected in her own body was consequential to this input. After all, it was the mise-en-scene of a metaphor on the relationships among individuals at the times of internet and the socials network.
GSF: Until now we can say that you staged a dualism between the appearance and the truth. Where does this suggestion come from?
AC: All of my work derives from the observation of the reality and of myself. Each of us, since the moment in which we stand in front of the mirror, an instant before going out, and, therefore, to appear to the other, we try to disguise his own defects or to make them less evident. Everyday we create a representation of us to reproduce to the others, a mask in favor of the appearance. And it is something that concerns not only the protagonist of Bellissima (Giusy Lodi) or who has her physicality, but all, and for this, objective of my work was to seek the point of contact between Giusy and us.
GSF: Regarding the choice of Giusy Lodi, what did you look for in the potential protagonist of Bellissima?
AC: The short did not received funding, so nobody pressed on the production times and we decided to work slowly on the choice of the actors. To find someone as Giusy was not easy, even if some looked very much like her, no one showed that inner conflict that interested us. With Giusy a second was enough for understanding that she was the right person and with her we started with subtraction because, unlike the protagonist of the short, she already passed with success the self-acceptance phase. For that we had to cover her numerous tattoos and to bring her to the mental condition in which she was before discovering the desire to appear.
GSF: Also about the visual choices, in Bellissima, the body and its own details excel. Is it the main actor of your film-making imagination?
AC: Yes, in the short was important to highlight the body, also because the same protagonist daydreams with her image, telling herself as she is not. She wishes a different body, she is described different and the shots have a narrative role, showing the gap with the reality. In this work it was important to accent, also visually, the body, because it is the element that moves the intents of the protagonist.
GSF: Why for your protagonists (I also think about the documentary) is so important the tension toward an ideal of perfection or however are they conditioned from that?
AC: The beauty contest winner had the possibility to be on TV, therefore the body became a functional mean of success. The tv and the aesthetic ideal appeared them as a compensation against their unlucky life.
What happens to Giusy is instead to undertake the walk of a life, that of self-acceptance, in the time of the short, through the mise en scene of a sadistic mechanism. The protagonist of the short is obviously forced to go out of the bath and therefore to show her true body image. To go out of the bath becomes the challenge most important to win; to recognize and to promote own imperfections.
GSF: When we speak of body, beauty ideals, or some other sensitive topics, as often occurs, we take a position on the wrong message. You choose, instead, to shine the humanity of the characters. Why?
AC: Since the beginning of the work started with the documentary I had the conviction that my story had to be free from the judgment and the emphasis of the defects. I looked for, on the contrary, their peculiarity and human wealth, their way to filter the world. And above all, to that elements that I recognized in common with me. The choice to look at me and them as equals, rather than in the distance of incompatible reality, enabled me to enter in their lives and to tell a story from a privileged point of view.