European wide known, Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti is definetely a unique, quirck character. His career begins with a Super-8 camera, bought after having sold his stamps collection at the age of twenty, and no previous experience whatsoever. Starting off with two parodic short films about bourgeois contradictions (Paté de Bourgeois) and 68’ militants’ ideological crisis (La sconfitta), he quickly gained fame and a fair success. Fifteen years later he founded his own film production company, Sacher Film, named after his favourite cake.
Because of his tendency to satirize and vigorously state his political faith, typical element of the majority of his films, Moretti has often been at the center of attention and object of numerous debates in Italy, where an unquestionable custom to judge public figures on their behaviors and views, rather than on their work, dominates the film scene. The intricacies of references to Italian politics his films are wrapped in and his habit of strongly stating his opinions, played a crucial role in his career. He not only never had a smooth path in Italy as a filmmaker, but many of his movies never reached a considerable international attention either, largely because of the difficult understanding for foreigners who don’t have a knowledge of Italian politics and recent history.
Although Moretti’s language is undoubtedly peculiar and hermetic, the core of many of his films is a deep reflection on human nature and feelings. His last movie, thanks to which he has been on the film news lately, is a great example. My Mother was the first title on the list of best movies of the year annually published by Les Cahiers du Cinéma. Presented at Cannes Film Festival in May, his last work didn’t get any kind of recognition there. Some months later, here it comes, prestigious cinephile magazine delivers its verdict and Moretti’s film gets voted as the best of 2015. Moretti’s name appeared in Les Cahiers du Cinéma film list many other times. French film critics’ sympathy for him is, indeed, not news at all. Red Wood Pigeon, a semi-autobiographical story, which struggled to be released anywhere outside Italy, and his religious satire film, Habemus Papam, were already the first choice for the French famous ranking. For the first time in his film career, Moretti speaks through a female voice and hands his alter ego to Margherita, a filmmaker in his fifties whose mother is approaching death. The film came quite unexpected after a long series of movies rich in political content and reflections on society. Moretti goes back to exploring a private dimension, for the first time female, where the director’s role is confined to the brother figure.
Born in Rome, where he shot and produced almost all of his films and where he still lives today, Moretti has a bizarre biography that resembles his characters’ stories. Indeed, in each one of his movies, the filmmaker gives his role to one of the protagonists, often played by Moretti himself. Left wing oriented but strongly critical of Italian communist environments, cinema passionate and professional water polo player (at least when he was young): these the three main features of filmmaker’s life, the same we encounter here and there in his films. In Red Wood Pigeon, Michele Apicella is a member of the Italian Communist Party and water polo player who loses his memory in a car accident. In The Caiman, Bruno Bonomo is a cockeyed film producer who is struggling to realize a satire movie about Italian right wing magnate and politician Silvio Berlusconi. In My mother, female protagonist is a filmmaker whose life and career are facing a crisis.
The son’s room, older film and winner of the Palme d’Or 2001 at Cannes Film Festival, is another exploration of familiar tragedies. Adolescent son of psychanalyst Giovanni, played by Moretti, accidentally loses his life while scuba diving. The filmmaker depicted another dramatic lost, this time as an actor, in Antonello Grimaldi’s Quiet Chaos, in which Moretti interprets a man who learns about his wife’s decease right after having saved the life of an unknown woman. The “chaos” that follows this tragic event will develop in an unexpected quiet way, as he will start a whole new life and radically change his perspective by sitting on a bench everyday, in front of his daughter’s school.
All in all, Moretti can appear quite distant and elusive, almost driving the audience away. But truth is, his stories and considerations concern us all, our way of being human, our consciousness and actions in a society. Behind the cloth of Delphic words and means, there’s always a brilliant, cathartic message for us. We just have to learn how to read it!
Written by Vittoria Paglino