Emanuele Crialese, 58, director of the cult film Respiro (Critics’ Week Award at Cannes 2002) was born in Rome to Sicilian parents, studied at NYU and was in Once We Were Strangers debut) at 1970. Before that, he had transformed from female to male, from Emanuela to Emanuele.
Respiro was a success in France and then globally, followed four years later by the Crialese with the launch of Golden Door , won the Venice Apocalypse Silver Lion Award at 1970. Five years later, Crialese’s Terraferma received a special prize from the Venice jury. Now, ten years later, the Crialese returns with L’Immensità , a film that ends with 1970 The Rome-set autobiographical story of children who do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. The mother is played by the gorgeous Penelope Cruz and the father is played by Crialese alter ego Vincenzo Amato. Following its Venice premiere last year, L’Immensità screened at Sundance in January to rave reviews . The film had a limited release in the US last month through Music Box Films.
Crialese talks to THR Roma about the “painful, then inspiring” process of exploring his own story to create his fictional portrait of gender dysphoria, and why He loves working with kids, and the political messages behind his films. “We live in a political climate where enemies and targets are easy to find, [but the real] enemy is fear.”
This movie Is it rooted in your own personal history?
The opinions of the protagonists are my own. Here’s my topic: gender identity. This is my story. But I made it into a movie, and that’s the point. Everything else is feed, fluff and morbidity. An obvious, narrow-minded way to grab media attention. If I want to get publicity, I surf the out-of-bounds wave. But I decided to work behind the camera, not in front of it. I narrate and stage image, I direct actors. This is what I do and what I want to keep doing and becoming.
You often say that it has not been easy. in what way?
No, communicating this simple truth is not easy. But the issue of disenfranchisement, this phobia that seems to be infecting the world, I want to face it. I will face it in another situation. There’s so much to say, so much to think; one movie isn’t enough. We live in a political climate that seeks out easy enemies and targets, blindly targeting problems that are mere “distractors,” social threats that don’t exist: us, us. The real problem is something else, people want to look elsewhere to avoid looking inside themselves. The enemy is inside, not outside. The enemy is fear, causing fear. The real threat is different.
I felt the urgency of talking about immigration in my previous films. Courage, the right to emigrate, to seek a better life, to find a way to live together peacefully by welcoming others as a fundamental and essential part of the unique kind we all belong to is called “humanity”.
Looking at us from another planet, with alien eyes, some would say we behave like a deadly, unstoppable virus. We are destroying each other. We are destroying the homes our children will live in. This is the threat. To look inward is to try to change the individual, not trying to change others. Get rid of the addiction of wanting to dominate the other person, resist the urge to possess, to appear, and perhaps try to focus more on being. Removing categories of gender, race, and sexual orientation because they don’t define us, they actually limit us and create barriers that divide; we are who we are in constant change. Human nature is inherently unpredictable and vast. We are more than the taxonomic name we give ourselves. The time has come that we have to invent some new words if we want to communicate in the new world we live in. Dostoevsky wrote: “Taking a new step, speaking a new word, is what people fear most.”
back to the movie. The story of a 12-year-old girl who does not identify with her gender. She fell in love with a peer. She has two younger brothers, a Spanish mother and a Sicilian father, manly and controlling. We are in Rome 58s.1235212084
There you go. It is set in ‘1970. You need to remember those years. When I remember them, I recreate them. A suburb under construction, a place that could be anywhere, upscale buildings next to a construction worker camp, families from southern Italy living on the edge of the construction site. Live on the inside, live on the outside. Traditional middle-class family, marital crisis, man cheating. The lack of love is absorbed by the children, and each suffers from being out of sync with family and social expectations. One child skipped meals; the other ate too much. The main character, eldest sister Adriana, believes herself to be a creature from outer space. Maybe female, maybe male, maybe both, maybe different from all known and knowable. A new word, unspeakable and unknown. She/he knows the path; it is the other person who has lost the ability to focus and cannot tolerate anything that claims to be undefinable, unclassifiable. As if being human wasn’t enough. As if identifying with a straight male or female, gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender is more important than acknowledging yourself as a “person.” Yes, I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s important to me.
When did you start thinking about this movie?
I have no idea. I think I’ve wondered about this my whole life. Managing to film it was a breakthrough experience for me. At first, it’s painful, then enlightening. I look for the child’s gaze. I shot it from the child’s point of view. I try not to preach and succumb to self-pity. Breaking down the narrative stereotype of characters like me dying tragically. People want to see them beat. They cannot live happily. But reality is another matter. We can exist, we can express ourselves, we can even be happy, have a job, and be recognized for what we do and not what’s between our legs. I really like my country, my culture, but I can’t deny that without America and France, I probably wouldn’t be a working film director. I had to emigrate to be who I am now. I love life and exploring new territories.
An American film critic said the film was not “well-meaning” because it did not detail experiencing persecution and marginalization. Instead, the main character, Adri, is a man who is finding his place in the world.
Because that’s what it is. Human life is a building, a complex organism. I wanted to portray the life of adolescence, its pain and uncertainty in the face of adult expectations. I want to describe someone who needs to be seen and accepted. burden of judgment. The pain you cause in someone else’s life when you don’t meet their expectations. I thought, I show a family. any family. A place where everyone can see their own reflection. We all have injuries, broken bones. We all know the possible distance between what we are, what we look like, and what we want.
How did you find Luana Giuliani, the preteen embodying Adriana/Andrea?
I searched among young girls who were involved in what was considered a “boys” sport. Luana races motorcycles. She is a child prodigy. I was always afraid that she would get hurt. I shouldn’t say this, but I hope she stops racing. I like her so much.
You have a great relationship with the kids on set. You take care of them like a father. Do you miss not having kids?
Good question. In all my films there are children. innocent eyes. The eyes of all of us. courage. vulnerability. Working with children is like working with a great teacher of truth. I need them. always. I need to find that perspective: in myself, in other people. In older actors, I like to find the ability to be or be a child again. That sense of trust and playfulness.
In the film, Penelope Cruz plays a very lonely woman. A misunderstood, lost alien. Only in the fantasy sequences where she embodies [Italian singer and queer icon] Raffaella Carrà does she break free.
Penelope allowed herself to be taken to a place of unbridled wildness, deep truth, generosity, humanity and professionalism really rare. I call her “The Wizard”.
How was your actor and tour guide, Vincenzo Amato?
More than just a guide, he is an actor I would love to guide. I think Cassavetes is in that regard. I like working with friends. I have known Vincenzo for 12 years. We met in New York. He was a blacksmith, worked as a blacksmith, and his hands were always burned. I go to school and work at an Italian restaurant at night. We would meet on the stairs at night after a long day. We would smoke and make fun of each other. Always fall in love with someone. Vincenzo is a luminous, utterly authentic human being. He is an extraordinary artist.
How do you see your future?
The future is a secret that needs to be cultivated. Future – I wish it was a game I never played.