"Only death I've known, only death I've scattered": that's what an unrecognizable Massimo Ranieri says in Bloody Richard, a musical-pop-psychedelic adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III and directed by Roberta Torre. The film has been presented out of competition at this year's Turin Film Festival. A limping hunchback due to an incident caused by his perverted brothers at a young age, a bald and gothic Richard fresh from the asylum and tormented by the dark shadows of his past. He performs tap dance with an army of freaks living underground, while he plots to gain power by conspiring and killing anyone who interposes between him and the crown, including his family members living in a rundown castle in the outskirts of Rome, where they manage the traffic of cocaine in the neighbourhood. "Despair, and die!" say the ghosts of those he killed; but when he becomes King his fate takes a tragic turn.

In the words of Roberta Torre: "The beauty of Richard resides in its being a liar, in its saying something while believing the opposite, in its ability of killing while showing a smile." To a certain extent, what the character shows here is the very nature of the actor itself, one that must play and therefore become fake: "I imagined this Richard III as a simultaneously tragic and comic character, accordingly Massimo Ranieri resorts to both the commedia dell'arte and the Marvel superheroes. Richard is fascinating character, a negative hero who is juxtaposed to an equally dark Queen. I wanted to elaborate on this duplicity of evil, trying to underline its human sides. Richard has a complicated relationship with a mother who has never loved him. His wounds are also physical: mother and son mutilate each other. I loved to work on these missing body pieces." As the director defines him as "halfway between Pulcinella and Harlequin", actor Massimo Ranieri states that "this Richard is an over-the-top outsider, structurally very different from all the adaptations made so far. The thing that has always fascinated me about Richard is not his evil side, but his terrible need of love. There's a scene in the film when Richard leaves the asylum, shot from behind, limping in his old cape that makes him look like a hunchback. That cape represents the heaviness of his life, or of his non-life, and made me think of him like a modern Nosferatu, who does not drink blood to keep alive, but love. That primordial maternal love that was missing since the beginning for him. Richard loves, has a visceral need to love and to be loved."

Contrarily to Shakespeare's where the female figures show a passive nature and can only lift extraordinary curses, in this Bloody Richard women can act in fact. The powerful Queen Mother is the boss of the family. The character is played by Sonia Bergamasco who looks thirty years her senior thanks to long make-up sessions, and a remarkable work on his voice, posture, and neurosis that enrich the character. As the actress states: "The physical work has been very important. It took several reharsals to create a character who could be both monstrous and fascinating. Eventually we went for this extreme aging, but one that didn't exclude a ferocious research for some kind of sensuality."

As apparent from the dialogues, a persistent blend of different tones and styles interestingly corrupt the classic aesthetics with the contemporary. Costumes mix the 1960s pop with geometries typical of the dandy and victorian worlds. Same goes for the soundtrack composed by Mauro Pagani that insists on rhythms that makes it a contemporary street opera: "The most exciting part of the work has been writing the lyrics. I started from that, while already thinking about the melodies, that came up quite spontaneously." Musical as a genre indeed offers the possibility of workig with different styles. As Torre puts it: "In the musicals, the singing part doesn't have to be necessarily in tune with the played one. It's a world apart, a dream coming to life."


TFF 2017