Armando Maradona, Federico Fellini, Antonio Capuano are the Paolo Sorrentino’s
divinities. The director
presents his very personal and brave “amarcord” in competition at the Venice
Film Festival. The Hand of God is “an intimate and personal film, a
fun and bold coming of age.”
Fabietto (Filippo Scotti) is
the 17-year-old alter ego of the director, who lives in Naples in the 1980s and
is looking for his place in the world. Suddenly, he has to face the tragic
death of both of his parents, intoxicated by carbon monoxide in the family’s
holidays house, where he didn’t go just by chance, because he decided to go
watch a match at the stadium. Chance or miracle, it has to do with “the hand of
God”, as someone tells him at the funeral.
The film is split in two clearly
distinct parts. The first one is fun and colorful, and goes Fellini-like in its
description of a large family, including the neighbors, adopting a tone of
comedy. The vitality of the mother (Teresa Saponangelo) who cracks phone
jokes and juggles with oranges; the smart humor of the father (Toni Servillo)
who had a son with another woman but always manages to be forgiven. Within this
light dimension, Fabietto also discovers sex, dreaming about aunt Patrizia (Luisa
Ranieri), a peculiar woman who ‘encounters’ San Gennaro and will end up in
a psychiatric hospital. In the second part, the protagonist feels alone but
never desperate, and has to deal with many bizarre circumstances (a smuggler
friend, the neighbor baroness with whom he loses his virginity, director
Antonio Capuano). All this helps him discover his vocation for cinema and will
take him to Rome. And watching, observing is the essence of his identity. In
fact, when his parents die, his desperation explodes because the doctors
prevent him from “seeing” them.
“I came to the Lido 20 years ago at
the beginning of my career with One Man Up,” says the Oscar-winning
director, “and I like to think that this is a new beginning. This is a film
that I couldn’t tell like all of the others: sentiments and emotions had to
speak.” “I’ve been promoted by Paolo from big brother, as he normally defines
me, to father,” adds Servillo. “Twenty years ago I was with Paolo and he told me
that at some point it would find the right distance to tell this tragic episode
of his life, and he added ‘I will ask you to play the father.’ It is clearly
very touching to receive such a proposal, and he never asked us to play exactly
how his memories go. He just gave us some hints. The most beautiful one was to
look like me and Teresa were very much in love, because this love is the memory
that Fabietto will treasure when he has to start walking on his own feet.”
Why did you decide to tell this
story at this exact moment in your life and career?
At some point you take stock.
Bukowski once said “gods have been good, love has been beautiful, and sorrow
came by the truckload.” For me is the same, in my life as a young boy I had
much love and a lot of sorrow. I turned 50 and I thought I’m mature enough to
face such personal matters.
The title comes from a famous quote
by Maradona from the World Cup in 1986 to justify a goal he scored with his hand.
It’s a beautiful quote, even
paradoxical if said by a soccer player who refers to the only part of the body that
he can’t use during a match. The ‘hand of God’ is the chance or a divine power
for those who believe. And I believe in the semi-divine power of Maradona.
Did you ever speak of the project
No, it was easy to get access to
him. I wanted to show him the film, but he is no more.
Is it true that there has been a legal
issue with the title?
Not exactly. Maradona didn’t even
know anything specific about the film, we just receive some general complaints
from his team, but nothing concrete.
What did you feel when your idol
What does one feel when someone
dies? It’s called sorrow and I’m not able to express it by words.
How did you discover the talented
I was looking for a good actor who
could almost direct himself alone. Filippo is also as shy as I was at 17, and conveys
the same feeling of uneasiness.
You’ve been very brave by working on
such a personal and painful story.
I’m very timid in my life, but here
I had to prove a different kind of courage, especially in the writing. On the
film set, my fears almost vanished, because I had to deal with many concrete
The film marks a stylistic turn as
It just couldn’t be like my other
films. It had to be simple, essential, let sentiments and emotions speak for
themselves. I have a clear memory of my adolescence, that’s why the camera
doesn’t move that much. In the end I almost regretted to have move it so much
in the past, I realize that things happen anyway. The first part is still indebted
to what I did before, we’re still within an oneiric dimension, then I freeze
and the film lands on a more realistic form.
Antonio Capuano was really key in
Yes. In the tons of contradictory
things that he told me, there’s one quote that struck me: being sorrowful is
not a license to become a creative. It’s been very useful. He loves the
conflict and mostly the good things come from conflicts and not from peace.
From him I learnt an endless vitality that I’ve never reached, although I tried
What do the 1980s mean for Naples?
A wonderful period with the advent
of Maradona, and I’m using the world advent not by chance, because there was
something mystical. Maradona brought freedom with his charisma and way of being.
Do you thing this film will be
liberatory for you?
hope so. Cinema, as I say in
the film, is good for nothing, but helps to get distracted. Almost nothing is
good for something, except the vaccines.
The Hand of God, produced by Lorenzo Mieli and Paolo
Sorrentino for The Apartment, will be released in selected cinemas on November
24th in Italy, and will be available on Netflix on December 15th.