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To be their equal. This is the secret of Laura Luchetti, director and face to face with the new generation of Italian cinema. The one which filmed La bella estate with her, which took Pavese and the last century and brought them into 2023. By translating a text that never gets old. "Its greatness is all here, in recounting the universal problem of choice. Pavese is marvelous in the tale of an age that never gets old. Youth is the age that lives with us the longest, and the period of adolescence and post-adolescence is a frightening one'.
Between Pavese and these assumptions, the task of making this film may seem enormous.
I tried to approach his book with an outburst of love. And of terror. Its greatness is to recount the universal problem of choice. Upon the fourteenth rereading of his short novel, I began to see the youngsters dressed in overalls and t-shirts. If you look at how they are dressed, thanks to the wonderful period costume research, they could easily be living in 2023. Ginia is a modern girl at the crossroads of desire, sexual orientation, what society expects of you and what you want. Amelia is a strong woman, but with the weaknesses of a past that we don’t know but can guess. Pavese describes 'the story of a virginity that defends itself', and this is where I set off to navigate towards a virginity that orients itself.
And then there are the men.
In the book they were cut with a 'macho hatchet', treated with 1930s severity. In the film, Severino's surname is Severino Luchetti: he is my brother, I freely admit it. I softened him, making him a very modern character. I took Pavese's marvelous and rare intuition of narrating a brother and sister and raised it: Severino is the first to understand Ginia's turmoil.
At the center of the film, in the Atelier, in front of the mirror, in the house, there are the bodies.
At that age you are not what you say, you are where your body takes you. Ginia's cannot be contained, it doesn’t fit, neither in the mirror nor in the bathtub – they're too small. La bella estate thus becomes a tale about representation and above all about being seen and the desire to be seen by others, to exist. It’s Instagram, it’s TikTok. I often say to my daughter, and underneath it all to Ginia: your body is your ultimate political weapon.
How is it working with such young people?
A challenge within a challenge: Yle was at her first big character, Deva at her first ever experience. And yet, who better than a model to understand a discussion, an emotion and an upset about appearing and disappearing? I had already worked with Nicolas, but it was his film debut, Cosima had just come out of the Academy. Then Alessandro, Massimo, Anna and Andrea Bosca, who is my favorite actor. How did we manage it? We did a workshop in July, then rehearsals, trying to work as much as possible because the weeks on set would have been short. So many rehearsals to then be able to run. Their fellowship was incredible and triggered a little magic: they became a group of friends, in the setting of a small film we loved, together. They trusted me and I tried to film at their level. No monster from above, no 'grown-up look'. Eye to eye.
Alessandro De Bon