Paolo Sorrentino – he has repeated it a thousand times – he is not a believer, but his theory is that all atheists believe. His cinema is full of profane epiphanies and, if his life were a gospel, the miracle of his existence is also his greatest drama: at the age of 16, to see Maradona play, he gave up going for the weekend with his parents, who died from inhaling carbon monoxide in their country house.
From that abrupt step to maturity, and from his memories as a young Neapolitan, they deal with It was the hand of Dios, a Maradonian title that serves to sign his most narrative and less baroque film. But let’s not exaggerate either: it is still a Sorrentino film in which magic seeps into any sequence. The film, one of Netflix’s bets of the year and winner of the Grand Jury Prize in Venice, will have a preview in theaters on December 3.
Sorrentino explains his film to RTVE.es sitting on a terrace in San Sebastián. Avoid indoors: not because of COVID, but because you can smoke one cigar after another without stopping while chatting with journalists. He is accompanied by his on-screen transcript, the young actor Filippo Scotti. In order to get closer to his tragedy, Sorrentino has had to find the exact point of distance. “Filipo plays a character: es the defense mechanism for not paying attention to one’s life, which is something that may be interesting to yourself, and not necessarily to others. There comes a time when you have to separate. “
To play his parents, the filmmaker turned to his close friend Toni Servillo already Teresa Saponangelo. Has the movie been healing in any way? “If you live with a lot of love, but suddenly there is a lot of pain, the approach to life is very painful,” he summarizes about the impact. “If it is very frequent, the pain is tiring. It is as if the human being has a limit when it comes to absorbing pain and from then on there comes a moment that rejects it ”.
The premiere in Spain coincides with the first anniversary of the death of Diego Armando Maradona. An Italian journalist defined the arrival of the Argentine star as follows: the best soccer player has signed for the poorest city in Europe. “For me, and many Neapolitans of my generation, Maradona is a figure of semi-divine characteristics, now it is not so much. There are no photos of Maradona arriving in Naples: he appeared one day in the stadium, like a newborn, emerging from a grotto as if it were the Grotto of Bethlehem. He appeared around the city in the most unexpected places, in small utility vehicles, never in luxurious cars. I saw him once in a Fiat Panda. He has always been surrounded by strange circumstances: he disappears and rises again. His life is that of a martyr, it resembles that of the saints ”.
In the film, the young protagonist must face the debate of every young man of his generation: Go or stay in Naples. The filmmaker says his approach to Rome in The great beauty It was the amazement of the tourist, but the portrait of his hometown, filled with Fellinian apparitions and even characters from the Camorra, is no less poetic and could almost be defined as magical realism. “Actually, I don’t care much about giving an image of the city. I have counted the one that I know, the most normal part of the city, because Naples is many things at once and I am part of the huge petty bourgeoisie. “
Fascination or mystery is usually the template in which Sorrentino fits his female characters, too often reduced to objects of desire. To complicate things, and add more ingredients to the Latin topic, perhaps the great female character of his filmography is the mother.
“The mother for a son is everything. My mother was like that and that is how I have told it ”, sums up the filmmaker who, however, leaves in off his own sister and uses her as a running gag. “My sister was and is a mysterious woman that I have never understood and that is why I have hidden her behind a door in the film. As much as we try to understand them, women are mysterious to men and perhaps to women men are mysterious.
Maradona aside, the film also pays tribute to his cinematographic Olympus: his admired Fellini organizes a casting in Naples to which his brother, who aspires to be an actor, performs. And the protagonist always has to watch a VHS of Once upon a Time in Americaby Sergio Leone. “It is a debt to Leone, who is a filmmaker who has conditioned me a lot,” he acknowledges.
Like his other great idol, Martin Scorsese, Sorrentino has found a place on the new platforms. Do you think like the New Yorker that cinema is becoming less poetic? “Yes, there is less and less space to experiment, but that is the history of cinema. So much money involved prevents experimentation. We will have to continue doing them secretly from the producers”.