Face to face with Alba and Alice Rohrwacher
Our interview with the two Florentine sisters united by their love of cinema and art
Great excitement for Florentine Alice Rohrwacher, who with her live action short film Le Pupille is in the five nominations for the 2023 Oscars. Born in Fiesole, Alice is a director and screenwriter. In 2014 she won the Special Grand Prix of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival for Le meraviglie, her second film as director after Corpo celeste. In 2018 she won the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival for Lazzaro felice.
Her older sister is actress Alba Rohrwacher. She has starred, among others, in the films Il papà di Giovanna, Io sono l'amore, Cosa voglio di più, La solitudine dei numeri primi, Le meraviglie, Hungry Hearts, Perfetti sconosciuti and The Place and in the television series In Treatment and Il Miracolo. In the course of her career as a film actress, she has won several awards, including 2 David di Donatello, 1 Nastro d'argento, 2 Globi d'oro and 3 Ciak d'oro (including one as Revelation of the Year), the Coppa Volpi for Best Actress and three Pasinetti Awards at the Venice International Film Festival.
Below we repropose our interview with the two sisters, which we published in 2014 in Firenze made in Tuscany magazine 33.
Alba is an actress. The other, Alice, a director. This year Alba won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, for her performance in Saverio Costanzo’s Hungry Hearts. And as a director, Alice won the Grand prix spécial at Cannes for her film Le Meraviglie. And for the lead role in the film, Alice chose to direct her sister Alba. Venice, Cannes. The two most important film festivals in the world, this year, lead to their name. Alba has already won two David di Donatello, a Nastro d’argento, and a Golden Globe. Alice won the Nastro d’argento and the Ingmar Bergman prize for best new director for her previous film, Corpo celeste. Of course, the two awards of 2014 are somehow a consecration. And soon, there will also be the Pegaso d’oro from the Region of Tuscany. Dawn and Alice were born in Florence, to a German father and an Italian mother. They spent their childhood and adolescence between Florence and Castel Giorgio, in Umbria, their mother’s place of origin and their father’s place of work. He is a beekeeper. They grew up among Florentine artisans, its thousand museums, and the Umbrian countryside. We are talking to both of them about their work, their art, their success.
How did you get started?
Alba: We each followed our own independent paths that lead us both to cinema. I studied in Florence, where I was enrolled in medicine. In Florence, at the Accademia dei piccolo, I was passionate about acting, and I landed in Rome at the Experimental Center of Cinematography. When Alice was seventeen, she went to Turin, and began to work in radio there and edit documentaries.
When did each of you discover the other’s talents?
Alba: On the set of the film Corpo celeste I understand that my sister’s vocation was as a director, and she does it very well.
Alice: I’m younger, and seeing what Alba has achieved in one film after another has been a source of great excitement.
Then you made a movie together, Le Meraviglie. Did you think in the earliest preparation stages of working together?
Alice: Alba was part of the project right from the start. We were able to share two very great joys: to be together and to develop a film project. Working with Alba was a surprise: the closeness of our imaginations meant that everything was immediately ‘right’, without having to make a huge effort to explain.
How was it being directed by your sister?
Alba: The confidence I have in her allowed me to be seen without the fear of how I was being seen.
Does having a famous sister somehow condition you or is it a strength?
Alice: It seems to me only an immense wealth. With two of us, we’re stronger. Two is always better than doing it alone.
Basically, one of the film’s themes is the importance of being strong, of helping each other muster courage...
Alice: I have always been fascinated by the various communities of human beings. In the countryside, you don’t live alone, many people live there.
And it’s better than living alone. In a world that tends to construct ‘individuals’, I’m interested in recovering the value of the community.
In an interview Alba says, talking about the two of you, “we were half-breeds. As Elsa Morante wrote in ‘Island of Arturo, a half-breed is a thief leaning with his back against the treasure. He doesn’t see it in front of him, and so he continuously seeks it.’ What does that mean?
Alba: The half-breed, the children of two worlds, two cultures, two different places, are those who will never find peace, because you don’t feel at home anywhere. But at the same time, you are able to make a home anywhere. On the one hand, there is a sense of inadequacy, anxiety, discomfort. On the other hand, you will have the capacity to adapt to everything.
The actress is always in an unusual place, if only a different place emotionally.
Alba: Yes, the actress is always displaced. But when I take on a film, when I work on a character that I believe in, I have the feeling of finding peace and a home. I find peace, I felt the conflict subsides.
Alba won the Volpi Cup with a very delicate role, that of the mother in Hungry Hearts by Saverio Costanzo.
A character who errs due to too much love. I feel a great affection for this mother, who is not self-centred or neglectful, but is driven only by love.
Being a parent, I say this as a daughter, is a difficult thing. And this mother gives all her energies for her son: only that things don’t go as she would like.