Paolo Taviani is without his brother Vittorio, who is ill and couldn't attend the Rome Film Festival. "Vittorio is angry, and I am too. I've never thought that, as we are becoming very old, I would have shot a film alone. It was unexpected. But such is life, you get old, you get sick. What's important is not to get overwhelmed. We wrote the script together and the production team sent him the dailies, so that we could fight over the phone. Everything went on like before, it was just more painful." Rainbow - A Private Affair, for the first time in a career spanning over half a century, is directed by Paolo only, but it is still a Paolo and Vittorio Taviani film. It's like coming back home for them, back to old dear topics like resistance and antifascism, played in a private and emotional key. The short novel by Beppe Fenoglio, from which the film is adapted, focuses on the love obsession of Milton, a young intellectual who falls for 16-year-old Fulvia, a beautiful girl evacuated from Turin to the town of Alba. She is courted by Giorgio, the richest and most handsome boy in town, but she also reaches out to Milton to translate British poets and write love letters. Both Giorgio and Milton are partisans and an incidental sentence sparks the obsession in Milton: did Fulvia surrender to Giorgio's proposal? He needs to find him and understand. And if he is in the hands of the fascists, they need to make an exchange to set him free. Luca Marinelli, Lorenzo Richelmy, and Valentina Bellè star in the film, that was shot on the mountains of Val Maira in the Piemente region. Produced by Donatella Palermo, Ermanno and Elisabetta Olmi, and Rai Cinema, the film is an Italian-French coproduction, supported by MiBACT. 

Why did you choose A Private Affair for your new film after Wondrous Boccaccio?
We've always loved Fenoglio, whom we consider the greatest Italian postwar writer, but we've never been able to adapt one of his books for the big screen so far. We were always late on the rights, for instance as in the case of Guido Chiesa's Johnny the Partisan. We were a bit resigned. Then one day when I was on holiday on the Salina island, I hear Omero Antonutti reading A Private Affair at the radio. I got emotionally enraptured by the reading. I called Omero who told me: "Guess what, Vittorio called me three years ago to tell me the same things." So I got back to Rome and we started working on this extraordinary book, to betray it and make a film out of it.

You've always fed on literature.
We choose a book - either Tolstoy, Pirandello or Fenoglio - because we find a sentiment that we are interested in representing. We choose it, and betray it. Cinema is not literature. As Kubrik used to say: I've never invented a story, that's too much trouble. Pirandello instead once stated: stories are like empty bags on the ground, they can stand upright only if you fill them with sentiments.

What did you find particularly intesting in this book? Why a retelling of Resistance in a private key?
The book starts from a cliché, the love triangle. It's a story we've seen and heard a thousand times, in horrible or extraordinary films, in the Greek tragedy and in many novels. What's new is that the author deals with it with contemporary feelings. It's a story that the audience can love and everyone is mad jealous to the extent that they can forget everything. Even on the mountains, while fighting against the nazifascist, this can happen. Milton doesn't know if the woman he loves has betrayed him with his best friend. Fenoglio was a protagonist of the Resistance and wrote the greatest epic on this period. In his last years of life though, he felt he couldn't remain stuck within this epic mode and wanted to write a private story - that's how he puts it in a letter. As we live in a non-epic era, we've been liars to pretend to live as such.

Is Fascism still a current issue?
After The Night of San Lorenzo, we thought we would have never talked about it again. But fascists are trying to come back. Did you see they attached the manifesto of the Salò Republic, the one with the black guy trying to reach out and touch a white woman? Did you see what happened with Anne Frank at the stadium? These things are outrageous, unbearable. I am so pissed off...

How do you explain these episodes of racism and intolerance?
The blame is on the way younger generations have been raised, and on the school that is not teaching. If they had understood better the past, they would understand better today's reality and their future as well. Young people cannot be deemed guilty because they don't know. A lot of Italians don't know. In Italy, like in Hungary and Poland, the past is denied. What should we do? We should start again from the kids, teach them what happened in Dachau in the same way we teach them English.

Your antifascism is rooted in your family history: your father was a partisan.
He joined the National Liberation Committee, but we didn't know it. He kept his antifascism hidden and only in 1944 he became operative. We were "balillas" and used to wear an "M" for Mussolini. We were born in the fascist era and thought that Mussolini was a god. They taught us he cared for us. When I was hearing the dux's speeches, I used to tremble; but not my father. When things fell apart, he disappeared. Once we went to feed him in a church where he was hidden. On our way back, he explained to us what is fascism, and told us he had been persecuted. We've been lucky enought to live in an era in which the evil was overturn into good. This gave us a big strength, we know things can change.

Although the protagonist is portrayed in his private dimension, fascism is showed in its utmost horror in the film.

I hope so. The scene in which we see a little girl sleeping next to the corpses of her family killed by the fascist, is based on a true story they told us as we were working on The Night of San Lorenzo. They found this kid next to her dead mother. We added this scene, it was not in the book.

A Private Affair was published posthumously in 1963. It's been a controversial work, the Italian Communist Party did not like it. Back then, would you have choose to make a film from that novel?
At that time Italian directors used to present their projects to the Communist Party. When we made our first film in 1962, A Man for Burning, we showed it to Alicata. It was the story of a socialist unionist, Salvatore Carnevale, and Alicata told us that we were covering his memory in mud. The film went to Venice anyway, and it was a success. Ugo Casiraghi, film critic of "L'unità", liked it too. He even showed us what he wrote, but then the review wasn't published the day after. Alicata forbade it. So we met Amendola, who was at the Lido and saw the film. He told us: "Do you really think that 'L'unità' is an independent newspaper? It is not. It's you who didn't get anything about the Communist Party. Alicata was just right."

How did Ermanno Olmi participate in the production?
Ermano told us that he feels like a third Taviani brother. Accordingly, he participated in the production with a small but significant quota. Along with Bellocchio and Bertolucci, I consider Olmi among the best directors of the post-Fellini and post-De Sica generation.


ROMA 2017