Dario Argento’s advice: Read Freud!
Among well known facts and funny anecdotes – such as his predilection for the female body that was inspired to him at an early age by the models in his mother’s studio – I found some of Dario Argento's stories to be particularly interesting for young filmmakers today. Festival del film Locarno is always looking for new talent, so here is some indirect advice from a great filmmaker.
I was working for Titanus, following all the productions as a scriptwriter. My father was working as a producer there and I just asked Goffredo Lombardo if I could do it. And he said yes, 'I believe in the project, and I believe you’ll do it well'. It was a bit of a crazy move for me, I had never really been on a set. I knew cinema, I had been a critic for many years, but I didn’t know anything about camerawork. But the film (L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo) didn’t turn out a true giallo, rather something at the intersection of nightmare and reality. When Lombardo saw it, he hated the movie. The film took off slowly but then it blew up, it was a chain reaction in Italy and all over the World. And then they all forgot they didn’t like it, Lombardo said 'well done, we’ve always believed in this film, we have to make a new one quickly'.
Relationship with critics
At first my work was overlooked intentionally because of my political background, because I was coming from film criticism and I started my career as a filmmaker with a genre film instead of a more politically charged one. But when I started to have success all over the world, the critics themselves became a little self-conscious, 'it’s not possible, are we Italians the only ones that haven’t understood Dario Argento?!'.
Today there are many good film schools, but cinema is its own school. Watching a lot of films, watching the same film ten times to understand its deep meaning, this is the school of cinema, the classroom desks are the movie theater seats. This is the only way to learn to make cinema, to be a director.
It’s who you choose not who you know... although that helps too
I chose Vittorio Storaro (cinematographer) because he was a beginner, this was his first color film. I didn’t want an experienced cinematographer that would undermine me. I already had the assistant director who persecuted me during pre-production with his great experience, saying he had worked with all the famous directors. And I also looked for someone who had a great inclination for doing this job. And he (Storaro) certainly had it, you don’t win three Oscars by chance. Ennio Morricone, he was a friend of my father’s. When the film was almost done, my father went to him and asked him 'please work on my son’s film'. And he said 'certainly'.
Where good movies come from
I don’t have a recipe, it’s a certain predisposition of the soul that someone has in order to show certain things, powerful movements of one’s own conscience. I don’t know how to talk about something else, I make films about the depths of my dark side. I have the privilege of having a good dialogue with my dark side and this allows me to tell these terrible stories, but without troubling my own conscience. One of my fears was that, by telling all this scary stories, I was fumbling around my own Pandora’s box, full of the horrible things I have ever imagined. And that one day, this box would open, and all these monstrosities would invade me.
The most important piece of advice for young artists trying to break through today
Read Freud. He taught me to interact with my dreams, my nightmares, and without that, I wouldn’t be able to make cinema.