Alice Rohrwacher from the Academy Awards to her bond with Florence
Our interview with the well-known Fiesole-born director
“I was so pleased to go to Los Angeles to represent all the women who worked on The Pupils (produced by Alfonso Cuaròn for Disney original, editor’s note.). My fatherReinhard came with me, none of us would have ever expected to go on this trip!” We met with Alice Rohrwacher, who was just back from the Academy Award night, to talk about her career and her passion for filmmaking which she shares, although on a different level, with her sister Alba, the actress. Alba and Alice were born in Fiesole near Florence, from a German father and an Italian mother. They spent their childhood and teenage years between Florence and Umbria, their mother’s place of origin and where their father, a beekeeper, worked. They grew up amidst Florence’s craftsmen and museums and the Umbrian countryside.
A movie born out of a letter. When and because of what was the perfect machine set in motion?
When Cuarón asked me to make a film about Christmas, I immediately thought about Elsa Morante’s letter to Goffredo Fofi, two great role models for me. What is the difference between a Christmas story and any other story? Probably the fact of having a moral. And the moral of Elsa’s letter is imaginative and impudent, and is still true today: destiny works in mysterious ways. And if the cake is meant for the needy, for those who really want it, destiny will bring it to them.
Alba plays a harsh and severe role, different from any other she has played so far. Why?
I liked the idea of working with her on a character different from any other played in the past, the Mother Superior. And she was truly amazing!
The most intense, or liberating and hilarious moment during film shooting?
When, at the end of shooting, we ate the cake at last!
What bond do you still have with your hometown?
Florence is a very important city in my imagination and in my life. My parents, Annalisa and Reinhard, lived there, my sister Alba was born there and my Aunt Mara still lives there. It has always been my family’s city, the first city I travelled to by train all alone to visit the museums, the first city where I went to the movies.
Whenever I’m in Florence, I go to the house where my family lived and I peep inside the windows….it is always impressive to see how life goes on and changes in the places dear to us. They lived on Via Santa Reparata at the corner with Via delle Ruote, and then they decided to leave the city and move to the countryside in search of a personal and political change, because these two spheres have always been one and the same for them. I believe that Florence as my parents experienced it- the students’ movements, political struggles and lifestyle choices- does not exist anymore. And yet, every time I go there, I can still hear and feel the echo of what it used to be. And I’m sure that the real Florence is hiding behind the shop windows while changing and evolving, and rightly so.
If you were asked to shoot a documentary film on Florence, what masterwork would you include?
Michelangelo’s Prigioni. These sculptures have always made a strong impression on me and have also influenced my professional life. Even when I’m making a film, I often think about this image, a sculpture coming out of the marble, something that the artist helps to come to light, not something created from scratch, but something that is already there.
What place in Florence makes you feel in a state of grace every time you go there?
Along the Arno river. Walking along rivers, especially in towns, is one of my passions. And the Horticulture Garden’s conservatory, where I used to go with my Aunt Mara. I also wrote one of my first stories there, it was about her and that place. But I think it may be lost by now like so many other things!
Two sisters, two great figures of contemporary Italian cinema. What “ input” did your parents give to your careers?
Commitment. We were allowed to do whatever we wanted, but we had to have a reason for it. They taught us that there is no separation between personal and professional life and whatever we wanted to do with our lives, it was supposed to fill our lives, it was not only a job, but a research tool. Filmmaking represents this possibility to me, being able to better understand human beings and the connection between things, between the visible and the invisible.
Your next major plans?
I have nearly finished shooting my film La Chimera, a journey through the adventures of a gang of grave-robbers in the early 1980s: a way to describe the land’s bond with its past and, most of all, with the Etruscans. But it is also an ironic and dynamic movie partly shot in Tuscany.
And what is your motto?
A phrase I often say to myself and which was a line said by Tuscan actress Silvia Frasson in a show we did together ( I played the accordion on stage) about the life of Joan of Arc. We toured with this show for many years across Tuscany, in small towns. It was a lovely monologue, and I just played the accordion in stage at certain points of the performance. At some point in the story, Joan of Arc is afraid, she is unsure about what to do, and Silvia said: “ Okay, one step forward”. Sometimes I still say to myself: “I’m afraid… Okay, one step forward”.