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VENICE 2019 Sconfini

Federico Ferrone, Michele Manzolini • Directors of Once More Unto the Breach

“We want to continue this journey of reworking and mixing together documentary, archive and fiction”

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- VENICE 2019: We asked a few questions to Federico Ferrone and Michele Manzolini, the two directors of Once More Unto the Breach, an Italian documentary presented in the Sconfini section

Federico Ferrone, Michele Manzolini  • Directors of Once More Unto the Breach
(© Thomas Foresti)

Cineuropa met with Federico Ferrone e Michele Manzolini, the two directors of Once More Unto the Breach [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Federico Ferrone, Michele M…
film profile
]
, presented in the Sconfini section of the 76th Venice International Film Festival. Through creative use of archive footage and an immersive narration, the documentary tells the story often an Italian soldier’s journey to the Soviet front.

Cineuropa: How was this project born?
Federico Ferrone and Michele Manzolini: It was born from the desire, after our film Il Treno va a Mosca [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, to continue this journey of cinematically reworking archive film and memory, but this time with greater creative freedom. We wanted to explore the Fascist period and the Second World War. Through a long research process at the Home Movies archives in Bologna and at the Istituto Luce in Rome, we came across two films shot by Italian soldiers during the Russian campaign, Adolfo Franzini and Enrico Chierici. These oriented our choice of context, which we then freely reworked, with a narration that gives life to this extraordinary footage through editing and music, and creates a completely new work.

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Emidio Clementi narrates the film. What qualities were you looking for in the narrator during the pre-production phase? What brought you to choose Clementi?
The film is entirely constructed from a unique point of view and a unique voice, which is like a flow of consciousness. We feared that a classical actor’s voice wouldn’t work, that it would create distance and a sense of artifice. Knowing Emidio’s work, both as a writer and as a musician, and by listening to the recordings of his read musical Notturno americano, we were convinced. Already, in the preliminary writing of the text, we had imagined a duration and a tone of phrase that fit his style. He made himself available with extraordinary humility. We prepared the text together for a long time, modifying it according to his musical and literary sensibilities.

The score by Simonluca Laitempergher enriches the narration and makes the atmosphere it describes even more vivid. How was the collaboration with the artist from Bolzano born?
Simonluca had done the music and the sound design of Luca Magi’s film Stories of the Half-Light [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, produced by Kiné and co-written with Michele. Our collaboration with him b egan immediately, before the film even had a real narrative structure. On the contrary, the themes he composed at the beginning helped us orient the structure of the editing. His work was total and he also accompanied us in the recording of the narration and in the creation of an audio universe from scratch, since the archive films that we chose were completely silent.

What did the writing collaboration with Wu Ming 2 bring?
Our decision to work together was born of our admiration for the work of the whole collective. Wu Ming 2 Also had behind him two experiences in the cinematic rewriting of archive film, with the documentary The Man with the Lantern [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and an episode in the portmanteau film Formato ridotto. It isn't easy to tell who contributed what in a film written by several people, if you see what I mean. He was exceptional in making himself available for the project, offering narrative possibilities from the beginning and helping us enrich the text once we had agreed on a structure.

Are you planning on working on other projects in the same style? What topics would you like to explore in the future?
We want to continue this journey of reworking and mixing together documentary, archive and fiction for a little while longer. Perhaps with another step forward in the field of fiction, for example by involving more authors. The choice of topics, on the other hand, rises from personal ideas and from our core interests, but also from the archive elements that we encounter on our journey. Without the films of Sauro Ravaglia and of his friends, we wouldn't have made Il Treno va a Mosca. Without those of Franzini and Chierici, Once More Unto the Breach wouldn't have seen the light of day. It is not a matter of chance: in the genre we explore, it makes no sense to set too close the themes and narratives. For us it is more important to throw ourselves into a research and to be able to freely rework the various elements, found or imaginary, even to change course during the making of the film.

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(Translated from Italian)

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