When he speaks, he searches for the right words and occasionally breaks off. She already has some sentences ready, she feels, they are the little shield of her first interviews. “This story of the son of… There is a list of children who have never done anything even if they would have liked to,” he says, sitting at a table in a bar. Son of Sergio Castellitto and Margaret Mazzantini, both actors, directors, writers, Pietro Castellitto breathed cinema in one way or another at home. Apart from that, «my father comes from a family nobly popular», he almost defends himself, «and I attended public schools and private schools, I did elementary school at Leopardi like Nanni Moretti, I had poor and rich friends, from the right and from the left». He graduated in philosophy on Friedrich Nietzsche with a thesis on Genealogy of morals. At 29, she lives alone in a grandmother’s old apartment in the Prati district, but she hasn’t cut the cord or family lunches, quite the contrary.
He’s an actor and that’s how we got to know him, with a funny face and a profile that seems designed. He was an aspiring porn star in the forgotten Was a star born? with Littizzetto and Papaleo, then the “Secco” in a not so successful version of the Armadillo prophecy of Zerocalcare. It is about to leap to everyone’s attention again by participating in Freaks Outsecond highly anticipated film by Gabriele Mainetti, and with the impossible feat of being Francesco Totti in the Sky series directed by Luca Ribuoli and expected for next year, title I was hoping de died earlier. “At first I was baffled. I couldn’t understand how a forty-year-old living legend could be staged who could potentially do it alone, because Totti didn’t die like Elvis Presley». A Roma fan, frequenter of the curve, expert connoisseur (so one would say) of supporter rituals, he explains that the difficulty of the undertaking is doubled by the fact that “Totti is someone who disrespects him if you imitate him”. He met Totti – who he doesn’t look like at all, but who cares – and he gave him permission to invent words where a look or a gesture was enough for the Captain’s shy character. “Basically it is the intimate tragedy of a man who has to stop doing what he was born to do, that is, play football,” he adds. And the idea that the melancholy of the End can tell a whole story suddenly enlightens us. He hasn’t seen any of his work, he adds honestly, but he has “positive feelings”, as football coaches sometimes say in interviews.
The predators – his directorial debut at the cinema on 22 October, already awarded for the best screenplay of Orizzonti at Venice 77 – he instead wrote it five years ago. Alone, he is keen to underline it: «Let’s say that I didn’t let myself be compromised. We’re very used to seeing films in which the story is written by four people and the screenplay by four others, so it’s obvious that the vision is a bit lost». The degree served him well. In the story, he cuts out for himself the role of Federico, a bewildered assistant of a university professor of philosophy (the Neapolitan actor Nando Paone) who is leaving with his collaborators to dig up Nietzsche’s body from the tomb in the small cemetery of Röcken and analyze the remains alleged organic cause of the philosopher’s madness. Although the story moves on the tracks of the almost insane, the day that Federico (like Friedrich) is kicked out of the expedition for apparently trivial reasons, his anger will prove even explosive. “At the age of 19 I really went on a journey through Niccia’s places,” he reveals. «After ten days by car wandering through Germany, I arrived in front of the tomb, the same one where we shot the ending of the film. Nobody was there and I thought: if I had a crowbar I could pull out the box and take it to Rome».
Critics have already complained about the episodic nature of the film. What should hold together a perfidious scam against an old lady of Ostia and the accident on the set of an Italian film on the Risorgimento where an actor ends up half-hung when the gallows trick doesn’t work? And why should a group of burinissimi neo-fascists, big fat and with Hawaiian shirts, share the screen with the head physician of a private clinic who is banging the wife of a partner who is ill with a bad disease? We are in Rome, the carnival form of satire (they were already practicing it around here two thousand years ago) helps. Even the more recently discovered theory of the three worlds – above, middle, below – and their permeability is perhaps unwittingly parodied. But the impression from the first empty shots – fixed pictures in a bucolic landscape of Northern Europe to discover a loud red Volkswagen parked and the boom of an explosion in the distance – is that The predators aim at a deeper target: to tell a paradoxical world where the bonds of reality are not as stable as they seem.
«This is a film where chance is central. The characters meet by chance, but when this happens, chance becomes destiny, it could only go that way. The camera is the deus ex machina that takes the case in a precise direction». There are movie quirks arty, from hyperintelligent comedy. Some sequences “break” to the montage several seconds later than necessary and the camera continues to frame the nothing. The reason must be sought in philosophy, even before cinema. “I’ve never studied cinema,” says Pietro. “Once, in London, I attended a school for two months, but I only went there to learn English. Instead I attended a lot of assistant sets, even my father’s sets. It is a profession that you learn in this way, by doing and making mistakes, it is not like writing that you first write for your own business and then write a novel…».
There really is an entomological taste in the Predators, which leads us to individually follow each of the characters grappling with their own destiny and with that of their family group, the Pavones and the Vismaras, North Rome vs. any editorial by Merlo and/or Galli della Loggia -, differently (and horrendously) vital (Italians, can we say?) both. United by an accident that takes the old mother of the fascists to the hospital of the primary Vismara and Federico to the back room of the Vismara armory, in search of the means by which to appease the anger at having been ousted from the Niccian expedition.
Both representations feed on all in all familiar stereotypes, from a Vanzinian comedy but re-read in the light of Charlie Kaufman and also of The Simpsons, seen and re-watched on Netflix or who knows where. Mostly The predators it’s the film of someone capable of exploring the more contemporary sides of the city, including its corners and shadows. It is the product of a fresh, generational look: the D’Innocenzo brothers, not surprisingly, are dear friends. “I’ve been around Rome since I was little, starting with the bars,” says Castellitto. «I had a passion for hotels, I know them all by heart». What do you mean? «Dad accompanied me with an excuse, he said: my son is doing research for the school on the most beautiful hotels in Rome. And since they recognized him, they gave us a tour of the rooms. In Naples, at the time of the fiction about Padre Pio, they gave us the keys”.
Who I really am The predators? We would bet by eye on the progressive riches (not very radical and not too chic) Massimo Popolizio and Dario Cassini. In the film, the representation of the popular and peripheral fascists – Giorgio Montanini and Antonio Gherardi among others – and their alternative style, like a parody of Casa Pound, is striking. It’s even disturbing to hear at the end, and without even the shadow of quotation marks, a song by ZetaZeroAlfa with an indie-songwriter attitude. “The fascists are very colorful in this story, they wear flowered shirts and are fat,” explains Castellitto. “I don’t mean that they are all like that. Fascism here is aposematism (italics mine, he pronounces the word with remarkable nonchalance, nda), that is the characteristic that animals have of having colored skin to tell others that they are poisonous. Then, in the course of history, they lose their poison, but this bright pigment remains». Ingenious and sophisticated metaphor. Just slippery. In interviews and press conferences around Venice, Castellitto spoke several times of a film “not anti-fascist, certainly anti-bourgeois”.
«An anti-fascist film would have made sense in the 1920s. But they wouldn’t have made me do it », he explains again, and launches into a joke. «Today they make you do it right away: power always finds very refined weapons to impose itself». The predators it is dedicated “to my grandfather”: Carlo Mazzantini was the original “boy from Salò”, a former republican, author of memoirs. Castellitto continues: «The film has the spirit of someone with ideological prejudices. If I like someone I like him, also because I myself can’t be labeled. I come to terms with my life: where I felt the absence of democracy and freedom, where I lacked air. Growing up, I always perceived that those who really had the tools to direct culture were certainly not in neo-fascist environments”.
Is there anything to worry about? Let’s hope not. Like certain philosophy students (all the good ones at least) Pietro Castellitto has a passion for dialectics, for the intoxication and for the intoxication of dialectics. In a sketch in the pub in the role of Federico, fixed camera and real beer mugs, he duels with a friend by marrying Niccia’s argument of the genes that make history, while the friend sides with the determining role of the masses. “I really believe it, but that was a post-beer clash of moods,” he comments. The scene is especially striking in the passionate finale due to the broken glass, probably by accident, left there in the editing. He concludes: «Nietzsche is a kind of guardian angel of the film. I always say that this is an ensemble film, but the characters don’t know it».