Premiering at this year’s Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, The Intruder by Leonardo Di Costanzo is a story of redemption taking place in Naples, a city plagued by the Camorra. Giovanna (Raffaella Giordano, choreographer and dancer) is a stand-up woman, especially on the ethical side. She is not only a sort of ‘missionary’ at the Masseria, a reception and volunteering centre in the outskirts of Naples, where the kids play and escape the temptation of the mob; she is also someone who pursues her beliefs in spite of everything. The problem is Maria (the newcomer Valentina Nannino). She is the intruder: a woman who takes shelter in a rundown guest house with his camorrist husband and their daughter. When the man is arrested, Maria insists on staying in the house. Despite her arrogant attitude, Giovanna is the only one who protects her: she sees in the woman another victim of the Camorra, one to be protected the equal of the kids. The director states: “What pleased me most, either they think my film is good or bad, is that the foreign press didn’t ask a single question about the Camorra or Naples. This makes me think that this story is universal.”
For the French, this might be the story of a banlieue…
This is something that belongs to their world as well as ours. To everybody’s. Everyone can adapt it to his own context. That’s a story where the barriers dividing the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ fall down. Who is the bad one here? Maria maybe? Or the principal and the mothers who want her out? Naples is a very generous city and always shines even when bad things happen. I use the city, I exploit it because it allows me to tell human dramas; I try to make the most of its representational ability.
I guess that making a film with the Camorra is more difficult than making one on the Camorra. Nowadays, thanks to Gomorra, this a fashionable topic…
In order to understand certain phenomena, I’ve always thought that it’s better to stay by their side. That’s the approach I’ve always got also as a documentary filmmaker. I always try to look at Naples this way, as a human place where human dramas happen. I look for a modernity that could serve my narration.
Your characters live in difficult conditions and you put them in front of a drastic ethical choice. You might even be accused of sadism…
I cannot but working on the limits. How far can we go with our hospitality? Who can we welcome? According to the people working in this field, this kind of choices belong to their everyday reality. They are constantly in contact with the world of the ‘bad guys’, who they try to recover or integrate. They can’t afford to have rigid viewpoints, they are not the police, the judiciary or the institutions. Here we have a problem which is typical of our time: the issue of inclusion.
It looks like a pessimist film. Is it like that for you?
I don’t know, I am still in the process of understanding what kind of film I made. To me what’s important is what happens during the journey, when someone who we perceive as dangerous enters in a group of people who is there ‘to do good’. Giovanna’s character is illuminating, she thinks that we have to go beyond the surface of our judgements. Maria doesn’t ask for help, she insists on getting it. That’s her language and she knows nothing about Giovanna. Nevertheless, Giovanna reserves her judgments. This is what often happens to this ‘modern heroes’ that choose to help the vulnerable and marginalized sectors of society, whereas social politics and institutions cannot arrive. They constantly experiment with the issue of coexistence, in Naples as well as in other places – cultural and geographical frontiers where limits are always shifting.
How much is fiction and how much is documentary in this film?
The reception centre doesn’t exist, it’s a just film set. The people I’ve worked with are not professional actors: they know that kind of experience very well but they are not playing themselves. In that case, I should’ve ask them to tell about themselves and I don’t feel I have the moral adequacy to do it. They play characters that are very close to their lives. However, everything is written, also the lines played by the kids. Here and there they’ve added something of their own, but improvisation was confined within clear limits that we discussed during the rehearsals. I belong to the old school that believes that the ethical point of view is that of the camera, so I tried to have just one. Much was entrusted to the bodies and the expressiveness of the actors.
It seems you are interested in the world of kids. Are you planning to deal with the topic again?
In The Interval kids were central in the story, here they are in the background. But as I said earlier, I still don’t know what kind of film I made. Likewise, at present, I still don’t know what I’ll do next.