Cannes: Three questions with Isabella Rossellini

Cannes: Three questions with Isabella Rossellini

Italian cinema legend Isabella Rossellini has taken a break from touring her one-woman stage show Darwin’s smileto participate in this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where he is among the stars of The Chimerathe highly anticipated new film by Alice Rohrwacher.

The young Italian director, fresh from an Oscar nomination in the best live-action short film category for The pupilsshe has been a Cannes favorite since her 2014 feature film The wonders it won the Grand Prix of the festival. Its 2018 sequel Happy as Lazarus won the award for best screenplay.

In the new film, Rossellini plays the mother of The crown stars Josh O’Connor and performs entirely in English.

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THR Rome met with Rossellini before the film’s Cannes premiere to discuss the film, its bond, and how she and Rohrwacher (a beekeeper’s daughter) bonded over their love of the natural world. “There was an instinctive affinity, based on a sense of nostalgia for the rural way of life, which turned into great admiration the moment I started working with her.”

How did your collaboration start and what struck you most about Alice Rohrwacher?

I met her through her sister Alba (one of my co-stars in The Chimera). His partner, Saverio Costanzo, was one of the few Italian directors who had chosen me (in 2010 The solitude of prime numbers). I knew Alba’s sister was a director and I wanted to see her films. My jaw dropped when I really saw her talent. I was struck by the way in which you adopt a personal approach without departing from the tradition of the great Italian masters. Her films draw on the lesson of neorealism, on certain elements of (Federico) Fellini, but there is also an aspect that is absolutely and uniquely hers. You have rightly gone one step further.

One of the hallmarks of his films is the presence of a spiritual dimension, also evident in The Chimera. At first, the film appears to be a story about grave robbers, but you soon discover something much deeper running beneath the surface. When I read the script, which was really beautiful, I told her that I was struck by the presence – indeed the persistence – of robbed souls, and it seemed to me like a film about death. She corrected me, “No, Isabella, it’s an afterlife film,” which, after we started shooting, I realized was true. Alice was interested in how much those who came before us matter in our lives.

What struck you about his way of working?

Firstly, his remarkable craftsmanship arises from clear ideas, without detracting from the poetic element. I play a very eccentric lady named Flora, and in many scenes she is surrounded by other women, almost like the chorus of an orchestra. Reading a page where I speak alongside five people, I was prepared for at least two days of work, but Alice managed to do it in half a day with absolute control and the ability to make everyone act as if they were instruments of an orchestra . She had the voices layered, then had them alternate, the way a conductor orders the violin or bass to cut in or play louder. She explained to me that she developed this ability, which is rooted in her talent, while she was studying at drama school.

Is there any other Italian director you would like to work with?

It’s a prosperous period in our cinema, and there are many excellent directors, but if I had to choose one, it would be Paolo Sorrentino.