The Oscar-winning director of The Great Beauty reflected on the decision to look inward during a panel session at Deadline Contenders New York on Saturday. “The time was right,” he recalled feeling, because 50 is “an important moment in life in order to look back and not to look at the future. But at the same time, this movie is giving me a future.”
Returning to his hometown of Naples, writer-director Sorrentino draws from his own upbringing as the source for the Italian-language drama. Set in the ’80s, The Hand of God tells the story of Fabietto Schisa (Filippo Scotti), whose tumultuous life is filled with unexpected highs and lows. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival in September.
Scotti recalled being invited to an in-person audition in June 2020 — his first since of the Covid era — without knowing who was directing the film. Upon discovering it was Sorrentino, “I panicked,” he laughed. “Then I met Paolo, and I arrived, after many auditions. It was very intense because Paolo was searching for the truth.”
As he sought to honor that truth, Scotti spent the summer in Naples, living alone and “creating an environment in my mind” in order to play the role.
Sorrentino told Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro, who moderated the Contenders session, that he had no strict instructions for Scotti or other cast members in depicting his life story. “When I wrote the movie, I took care of my life, but when I went to shoot, I decided to treat this script like a movie, not like my life,” he said.
Cinematographer Daria D’Antonio, speaking through an interpreter, said Naples “is my own city as well.” It is “such a beautiful and complex city,” she added, and the film is “about our youth and it’s about youth as a particular time in one’s life. The approach was based on emotions because the city, as it is, is very different now. So I wanted to really respect the memory of our youth and respect the storytelling.”
Asked about the film’s strong reception in Italy, Sorrentino said, “Making a movie about my life, there was the risk that in case the people didn’t appreciate in Italy it would be very disappointing to me. I am relieved that the public is loving the movie and that the young people are appreciating the movie. That’s very important to me.”
Check out the panel video above.
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