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To laught so not to cry. It’s a figure of speech and it’s what is happening to Carolina, young widow of a factory worker who died recently in a work-related accident. Public funerals will take place in 24 hours, and on the seaside town everybody feels desperate. Except her, mother of a 10-year-old boy and unable to shed a tear. A complex character, almost moony, possibly reflecting the unique soul of Valerio Mastandrea, a great actor turn director with Ride produced by Kimera with Rai Cinema, premiering in competition at the Torino Film Festival.

Mastandrea states: “Getting in touch with our own emotion is difficult also due to a system that pulls you down without you hardly noticing. I think this is a film about the will of not allowing the context we live in and its long-established dynamics, to affect our connection with joy and sorrow. Because emotions are the last thing left for us.”

In the film, Carolina (Chiara Martegiani, also Mastandrea’s partner) is at home, waiting for tears that don’t come. She welcomes a number of visitors: the husband’s ex-girlfriend who is way more desperate than her, a couple of friends about to divorce… “They are all spokesmodels of how you are supposed to suffer, but nobody pays attention to her sorrow. They’re like mines, but when she jumps on them, they don’t explode.” In the meantime, the father of her late husband (Renato Carpentieri) is fishing with friends: they are workers of the old guard, who fought a lot in the past and gained nothing. That’s why they are so touched by this umpteenth death in the factory.

“Work-related deaths are almost a habit nowadays, a symbol of the hypocrisy of this society, because even if they are publicly condemned, then nothing is done to find a solution. As one of the characters says: one should die at war, not in the factory. These tragedies are more absurd than all the others, they are unacceptable.”

The film blends various tones, from comedy to social drama through the many surreal moments. “During the long writing phase with Enrico Audenino, we didn’t raise the issue. For instance, the scene when it rains inside the house, we had this idea but wanted to think about it overnight: let’s see whether tomorrow we still like it or it looks absurd. The only thing we discussed was the style of shooting. In the approach, I decided to be academic, like when I was in school, but the thing that I missed the most was the impossibility of entertaining a dialogue with Claudio Caligari. The section of the film starring Renato Carpentieri reminds me of my experience with Claudio on the set of Don’t Be Bad.”

Chiara Martegiani underlines how her character has many things in common with Mastandrea, amost mirroring his sarcastic silences and questions. “It wasn’t easy to find the right balance. I stole from him because Carolina was very far from me. We looked for a lightness that could make her special.” For a talented actor like Mastandrea, turning into a director wasn’t a step taken for granted. “Everybody was asking me when I would have made my first film as a director, but I didn’t feel the urgency. At some point I was about to make The Armadillo’s Profecy, but then the project was delayed and I started working with Caligari on Don’t Be Bad. I had Ride in mind for a long time instead: the story of a woman who becomes a widow and is unable to cry. I thought of it first by reading some interviews to the widows of some late factory workers. In the end, we decided to focus on Carolina only.” And another film as director could be made in the future: “To me, it’s a second job.”

There’s a clash between different generations and also a physical fight between an old father and his son, played by Stefano Dionisi, a man who refused to work in the factory and is now living on the border of legality. “The old man makes the strongest act. We often forget the old generations, but they are the pillars of certain values that are on the brink of disappearance. These old men are memory and action. In the fight with his other son, this man who has fought a lot in the past, questions the system and makes an act which is intimate and social at the same time.” In the words of Carpentieri: “My character shows no resignation and no catharsis. The resignation of who thinks that work-related deaths are inescapable, and the catharsis of who finds solace by crying. His sorrow is mute. The old worker is ashamed that his son died like this.”

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