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VENICE 2021 Out of Competition

Stefano Mordini • Director of The Catholic School

“I wanted to bring this story forwards to the present day and make it everyone’s responsibility”


- VENICE 2021: Based on a true crime which unfolded in 1975, the Italian director talks to us about his film which is screening Out of Competition

Stefano Mordini  • Director of The Catholic School
(© La Biennale di Venezia - Foto ASAC/J Salvi)

The Catholic School [+see also:
film review
interview: Stefano Mordini
film profile
by Stefano Mordini was presented out of competition at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, one year on from Lasciami andare [+see also:
film profile
, the closing film of the festival’s previous edition, which also came courtesy of the present director. An adaptation of Edoardo Albinati’s novel of the same name, the film looks back at one of the most tragic crimes to have taken place in Italian history: the 1975 Circeo Massacre, which saw two friends, Rosaria Lopez and Donatella Colasanti, abducted and tortured by three boys hailing from neo-fascist Roman circles.

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Cineuropa: In the director’s notes, you write “I listened to more than watched what I was shooting, standing alongside the camera rather than behind it”.
Stefano Mordini: I was talking about how I shot the violent acts which took place in the villa in Circeo. As I worked, I allowed myself to slip into a trance-like state in order to portray what might have happened, the nudity, the delayed violence. I was closer to the boys than I was to the camera; we experimented with a growing form of tension. It didn’t feel good, it wasn’t easy or informative either; I let those moments flow by.

Albinati’s book speaks of those boys’ twisted political ideas; in reality, they were three neo-fascists, but the fascist context is missing from the film.
The book was a starting point. We removed any references to fascism and drugs because we thought it was important to associate the story with that of a male who uses and sees women as objects. At the time, the Circeo Massacre stirred up much debate. Pasolini himself, while arguing with Italo Calvino, stressed that such violence wasn’t just the preserve of the middle classes but of working-class kids, too. We wanted to draw attention to the idea of impunity; to bring this story forwards to the present day and make it everyone’s responsibility.

In his novel, Albinati writes that to be born male is an incurable illness.
I agree with him. And our responsibility as men is crucial. Albinati writes that this isn’t a finished story. It’s like Pennywise in Stephen King’s novel It: Evil returns. Our aim was to keep on talking about what happened by way of a story which my generation are very familiar with, but in a key which might add a little extra to it; to reflect upon the concept of impunity. There’s a boundary which the film makes clear: another group of boys go to Circeo and when two girls say no to them, they respect this boundary. Others don’t. This is something else that the film examines: the need to show where the boundary lies.

Could you explain the formal use that’s made of time in the film, in terms of the continual jumping forwards and backwards?
The film is made up of narrative “cells” which have no real need to be opened or closed. It was necessary for us to look at the past and the time-period in which the tragedy took place in parallel, for the sake of the victims, Donatella and Rosaria, in order to give them justice and to show that it all happened in a single moment, but that the seed for that evil had already been sowed.

What reaction are you expecting upon the film’s release?
I hope the film has an impact on younger viewers. The sixteen-year-old daughter of a friend of mine was really struck by it. “I’ll never get into a car with anyone I don’t know”, is what she said to her father. It says a lot about how easily faith can be placed in the wrong person. I told myself that, even if only in this respect, we’ll have made a certain impact.

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(Translated from Italian)

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