Paolo Sorrentino: "I Like Literature More Than Cinema"

Paolo Sorrentino: "I Like Literature More Than Cinema"
Paolo Sorrentino: "I Like Literature More Than Cinema"

At any time of the day, he looks like he woke up ten minutes ago. He speaks softly, slightly whispering, - despite the fact that Paolo Sorrentino has lived in Rome for a long time, the reprimand instantly betrays him as a Neapolitan. At first it may seem that he resembles some character from his own films, but everything is exactly the opposite - each of his characters, no matter whether a man or a woman, is primarily similar to himself, reflects one or another trait of his character, embodies some any idea or fantasy. At first, in the small room where we meet, the presence of Lenny Belardo, the central figure of Sorrentino's previous project, the Young Pope series, is most noticeable: suspicious, laconic. Then Jep Gambardella from The Great Beauty comes to the fore: it seems that it turned out to capture his attention - let's see how long. And then,like Silvio from the new film "Loro", he suddenly and briefly opens up, without outwardly indicating this: you guess, you take the serve - consider yourself lucky, he will not repeat it. Actually, for the sake of this, everything was worth starting. Let the other remarks remain behind the scenes.

- Initially, your new film was released in two parts with a total length of 204 minutes. Russian viewers will see the picture in a combined and significantly reduced version. Is there any fundamental difference between them?

- Not. The first version was just too long. The second is shorter and better. Time passes, and you understand: something can be reduced, the film will only benefit from this. If I were editing Loro now, it would probably be a five-minute short. (Laughs.)

- The protagonist of Young Pope was the fictional pontiff Lenny Belardo. The central character of Loro is Silvio Berlusconi, who for a long time remained the most influential politician and businessman in Italy. Both projects are united, first of all, by the theme of power. It's not a coincidence, is it?

- Certainly not a coincidence. There are worlds that I, as a storyteller, are interested in penetrating - in particular, because I myself am far from them. So I tried to make a TV series about the Vatican. It seems to have worked out. In the second case, I was interested not only in Berlusconi, but also in his entourage - all these people who revolve around him, like around the planet. An unexplored environment that constantly draws attention to itself - how can you not catch on, how not to try to tell about all this?

- It seems to me that Berlusconi in your new film has a certain similarity with Emperor Tiberius in his later years: life on the island, hidden from prying eyes, pathological lust for power and endless attempts to retain influence in all available spheres, love for arrogant luxury, a tendency to perversion.

- May be. But if the similarity you are talking about really exists, it just happened by chance. I haven't really read anything about Tiberius.

Photo: Jeff Vespa /
Photo: Jeff Vespa /

© Jeff Vespa /

- After the release of The Great Beauty, only the lazy did not write that you, in fact, filmed the modern version of Fellini's La Dolce Vita. In this regard, "Loro" looks like a distorting mirror for both films: a sweetened life, great unattractiveness.

- Yes. Probably. From time to time, Italy is greeted with tides of incredible vitality and, at the same time, madness. I have no adequate explanation as to why this is happening, but it is. So it was during the "Sweet Life". This was the case in the eighties. This was the case at the beginning of the 2000s - under Berlusconi. That is, say, every twenty years Italians experience bouts of mass insanity, succumb to the charm of some force, often dangerous, often destructive. It can be a charm of both beauty and vulgarity, sometimes both. There is something exciting about this contradiction.

- The effect that "Loro" has on the viewer can be described as "the second day effect": say, today you are watching a movie …

- and only the next day you start it …

-… absorb?

- Yes, I think it is. More precisely, I hope. I want my films not only to talk about certain feelings, but also to provoke them; to loom, pop up in memory - both the next day and the next. For films to work on the same principle as feelings. Like, say, being in love: I saw it, it burned, and only with time do you begin to understand something.

- In your scripts - especially for "Great Beauty" - there are a lot of purely literary remarks scattered throughout the text, which are difficult to show in films, if not completely impossible. Are you adding them there on purpose?

- Sometimes what seemed impossible to reproduce on the screen, you still manage to somehow convey to the viewer. And yes, my scripts are more of literature. To be honest, I like literature more than cinema. Therefore, I usually move away from the generally accepted technique and write, in general, a novel. It's more interesting for me to work, and in the end it turns out better.

Photo: Ernesto Ruscio /
Photo: Ernesto Ruscio /

© Ernesto Ruscio /

- Loro is your fourth major project, co-authored with Humberto Contarello. Given your approach to scripting, how do you organize your collaboration?

- In fact, everything is easier than it seems. We don't write together. I mean, we don't sit in the same room, we may not see each other for a long time. I send him the first draft, he adds something there, returns it to me; I read, rewrite, send back to him. Such, you know, ping-pong. In general, I was very lucky with my friends. Umberto Contarello, Tony Servillo, who starred in five of my films, the composer Lele Markitelli, with whom we did Great Beauty, Young Pope and now Loro - we have all known each other for many years. And therefore, working with them for me, in a sense, is not only co-authorship, but also one of the forms of friendship.

- The key characters in almost all your films are, to put it mildly, middle-aged people.

- Well, in general, yes.

- Why?

- Honestly I do not know. For some difficult reason, I am interested in people older than myself. Perhaps in this way I am trying to find out what it is like to look into my own future. However, now I myself am getting old and I think I will shoot about the young. In order not to lose touch with their youth.

- By the way, about youth. More precisely - about "Youth". There is a kind of recurring theme in this film and TV series Young Pope: Venice. It appears as an image of purity, as a dream, a mirage, something almost unattainable. Why Venice?

- Because she is a dream, a mirage, something almost unattainable. (Smiles) Even being in Venice, it is impossible to fully believe that it really exists.

- You were born and raised in Naples, you do not hide your love for this city, but in your films it exists only at the level of rare references. Have you ever wanted to make a film directly in Naples? Or even about Naples. In the same sense that Great Beauty was a film about Rome?

- Someday I will shoot such a film. By all means.>