Filmmaker Roberto Ando is one of Italy’s most distinguished artists. A Sicilian by birth, his work, in both cinema and literature, is influenced by his associations with the great novelist Leonardo Sciascia and the movie director Francesco Rosi, among others.
His latest movie, the comedy “Viva La Liberta” (“Long Live Liberty”), which is based on his novel “Il Trono Vuoto” (“The Empty Throne”), recounts the story of a politician who, slipping from power, flees the country and is replaced by his twin. The film will be screened at 7 p.m. Friday at the Sottile Theatre, part of the Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival. Ando will be in attendance.
In anticipation of his visit, The Post and Courier asked him about his work.
Q: You have three main artistic interests — cinema, theater and literature — all of which you pursue actively. Directing film and directing an opera or play for the stage are very different experiences. Describe the adjustments you make in your artistic approach when working in one genre or the other.
A: Cinema, theater and opera are expressions of art that each follow different rules. It’s the work of the same artistic voice that renders each understandable and familiar.
I consider it a great privilege to be able to go from the chaos of a film set to the intense concentration the theater requires, or the elegant schizophrenia of opera.
I believe that there is a clear continuity in the choices that have guided my artistic experiences till now, a sort of dramatic coherence, a continuity in which intimacy and history are paired. ... The other unifying thing is in the choice of language that expresses tension between word and action, whether in theater, cinema or opera.
Q: You’ve worked with some major cinematic mentors: Francis Ford Coppola, Federico Fellini and, perhaps most important for you, Francesco Rosi. What did you learn from these men?
A: You always steal, even from the masters of the past, even from those with whom you could never work with, while thinking about the many debts you incur working with those who you had the good fortune to meet at a decisive moment in one’s artistic formation.
I owe to Francesco Rosi a certain obsession with the truth, the ability to convey a high degree of truth, even with an invented story; and he taught me that a dose of reality was indispensable, even when the imagination runs wild.
On the other hand, I owe to Federico Fellini a love for the romance, an appreciation of what could be rather than what is, and the political sensibility that stems from this.
Q: Your movies tend to be informed by literature, and you have written books yourself. Who are your most important literary influences and why?
A: I prefer the concept of the novel to literature. ... It’s easy to equate these, but they are totally different. Italian cinema has in its history a strong hegemony of realism, but it also has a lesser strain influenced by fiction.
Fellini, Bertolucci and Bellocchio are some of the artists who were more concerned with the latter.
In this sense, I owe a lot to Leonardo Sciascia, a realist visionary, a heretic who made gentleness a force, one of the great voices of civic literature, never preachy and never abdicating its formal and moral intransigence.
Q: Describe your general approach to filmmaking. How do you prepare for the first day of shooting?
A: With both a control obsession and a vigilant openmindedness to the unforeseen.
Q: And how did you approach the making of your new film, “Viva La Liberta”?
A: The film recounts the parallel movements of twins, it tells us about that simple, dizzying gesture that consists of putting oneself in the place of another, to play his part. ... It is a story told by using the dramatic strategy of the double, which is central to our western canon.
Where the novel can afford to be encyclopedic, cinema must instead remain simpler, more essential.
All the cultural refractions in the novel, fun to expose in their variety, must in film remain hidden. A film must project its significance only through the actions of the protagonists.