Joe Wright On Making Benito Mussolini TV Series With A ‘Rave Culture Aesthetic And A Techno Score
British director Joe Wright, who directed Winston Churchill's drama "Darkest Hour," which won Gary Oldman an Academy Award for his portrayal of the British Prime Minister, has made history.
Directly in Rome's Cinecittà studio to film the high-profile novel Son of the Tenth Century, the story of Benito Mussolini's rise to power, a contemporary story, as he himself says: "Populist leaders are emerging all over the world."
Aesthetically, the show will be "extremely extravagant" with highly saturated colors, "punctuated by a sort of art soundtrack," the director said during a recent set visit. Wright noted that although he was "not told in a matter-of-fact way, all the facts of what happened are there."
Luca Marinelli ("The Eight Mountains", "Martin Eden") plays Mussolini in 1919, when he founds the Fascist Party in Italy, and in 1925, when he takes power in the March of 1922 in Rome, Mussolini delivers his infamous speech. . He declared himself dictator of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
"M" is based on Antonio Skorati's Strega award-winning and bestselling novel, which tells the rise of fascism in Italy and the rise of Mussolini from a new perspective. Stefano Pecis ("Gomorra", "The New Pope") co-wrote the screenplay with Davide Sirino (1992").
Fremantle-owned Sky Studios and Lorenzo Mieli's The Apartment Pictures produce in association with Pathé and Small Forward. The show will be broadcast on Sky in its European territories (UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland), with Fremantle handling the international sales.
Most of the sequences were filmed at Cinecitta where, thanks to an agreement between Cinecitta and Fremantle, the production used five sound stages, including a large LED wall and exterior backdrops including several buildings and interiors from the Mussolini era. It has been carefully rebuilt under the direction of designer Mauro Vanzatti.
In his first interview since the six-month survey began, and now in its final quarter, Wright has answered questions from the international press.
Does it feel too heavy on your shoulders to be responsible for portraying this particular part of the story, especially given that it is from Italian history?
Yes, I realize this is a huge responsibility, especially in the sense that this is a character who is rarely seen. When you do Winston Churchill, there are plenty of movies with Winston Churchill. When you do Jane Austen, there are a lot of Jane Austen movies, and it's a different kind of responsibility, but it's a responsibility. On the other hand, for many reasons best explained by Stefano and David, Mussolini is not studied as much as other world leaders of the time.
What would you add to this non-Italian story that the Italian director could not or would not want?
If this show has taught me one thing, it's that nationalism is bullshit. Thus, as my good friend Seamus McGarvey, DP, says, "There is no race but imagination." There are things that I feel are very close culturally, to be honest with you. Culturally, I feel closer to Italy than to America. Yet we do not share a language. So I don't necessarily see myself as "other". I think maybe Italians see me as "the other", but I don't. Well, I'm European. The language barrier is difficult and annoying. And there's a problem with Italians, they always seem to argue when they're nice to each other. But I don't really see myself as "another".
Since the last elections in Italy, the media has been talking about Mussolini. How did that resonate with you in the movie? Did you try to ignore it or just follow what was going on here?
Yes, but it's not just Italy. That's the scary thing. Famous leaders appear all over the world. And this is the case everywhere. Yes, it is here. But the problem is, it's not just Italy.
What kind of effect could "M" have on younger viewers?
As a teenager I would say around, "The Queen is a fascist, the police are fascists, my teachers are fascists, and my parents are fascists because they won't let me out on Friday nights." And so I don't think I deeply understood what fascism was or what it really was. So looking at the roots of modern fascism, I hope you really understand where it comes from and what it is rooted in or not.
Talk about tone, the "M" aesthetics.
You can play with the aesthetics and shape of the pieces. The result will be this kind of techno score. And the aesthetic is a mixture of '90s rave culture and a groovy Ukrainian film, "Man with a Movie Camera" [Dziga Vertov's avant-garde 1929 doc.]. It's "The Man with the Movie Camera" and every gangster movie you've ever seen so it's pretty flattering on that front. And it's quite diverse.
Speaking of the soundtrack, is the Chemical Brothers on board?
I don't know yet, but I don't think I need to talk about it.
Do you want to play techno music while filming?
Yes a lot. I play all kinds of music on set, not just techno. If we do a sad scene, we can play sad music. On Friday mornings we sing, and we often sing Elton John. If I have a big crowd of guys, who have to be full of testosterone and energy, I might play techno, or I might play Black Sabbath. But yeah, music is an integral part of the process for me. And it's about rhythm and getting people to the right beat and music can help with that. It's a good way of expressing the kind of suburban scene, I mean craft services or whatever, that's the atmosphere of the scene today. So that they feel the right energy. And sometimes it's 4 o'clock in the morning and everyone hits it off.
So whether you're wearing the Chemical Brothers or someone else, they keep the energy going. I want people to enjoy my collection. I don't want people to be unhappy. We spend our lives doing it and must have spent six months filming it. I want people to see this experience as exciting, fulfilling, and happy. The process is as important as the product. Thus this process should be fruitful. Other than that, I don't want it to end up on the shelf as a DVD and saying, "Oh, that was good. It should be a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.