Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino creates films with stunning images that are indulgently decadent and incredibly beautiful, conveying terrible and touching emotions. Sorrentino's latest film, "Loro," reunites it with actor Toni Servillo, a frequent contributor to films such as "Il Divo" and "The Great Beauty," which won the 2014 Oscars in 2014.
"Loro" is a look at controversial media mogul turned politician Silvio Berlusconi. (And yes, the story of a businessman with showbiz ties who has become a political leader may now seem strangely familiar and even prescient to the American public.) The film captures Berlusconi in his life after being Italy's prime minister, living in exile in an exaggeratedly strange size. villa, given to mercurial moods and schemes to find a way back to political life, surrounded by all manner of drug dealers and actresses.
"Loro" was originally released in Italy in two parts in 2018. A shorter international version that combines the two into one movie is currently airing in Los Angeles and available on VOD. Sorrentino and Servillo sat down for an interview together when the international version debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Most recently, Sorrentino spoke on the Los Angeles phone, where he is finalizing post-production on the upcoming HBO series "The New Pope," starring Jude Law, and developing "Mob Girl," a feature film for Jennifer Lawrence.
Toni Servillo as Silvio Berlusconi in Paolo Sorrentino's "Loro"
(Gianni Fiorito / IFC Movies)
How did you feel that "Loro" was received in Italy?
Sorrentino: I think about it I didn't follow the reaction very much, to tell the truth, because the topic lends itself to many discussions, controversies and diatribes that I didn't want to follow.
I love the idea that the public can judge the movie according to their political ideas. I prefer to think of it as a movie about a man, about his feelings about his story, his problems with his life, his wife, and the people around him.
How true is the story of the movie?
Sorrentino: Like any fictional interpretation of stories, it's a mix. The starting point is reality, of course. And we try to be as believable and as true to the truth as possible. But of course we insert our own elements of imagination. When it comes to Berlusconi's private life, it is obviously a more inaccessible sphere. We have to resort to imaginary reconstructions of this life. Therefore, we hope it will be as realistic as possible, based on the knowledge we all have about Berlusconi.
Toni, did you have strong feelings for Berlusconi before you made the movie?
Servillo: Certainly I had my own opinions about Berlusconi, which did not influence my interpretation of the character, which was dictated by what was written in the script. Of course we are talking about an extraordinary case. We have an Italian politician who is unique in the history of our politics. But this is a man who offered no political vision, he presented an illusion of politics. He used his system, based not on a political heritage but on his show business experiences, and inserted himself into the depths of the Italian soul as a movie star. There are politicians who create a community around them and there are politicians who create a dramatic relationship between the boss and the crowd. And that is what Berlusconi is.
Have any of you met him?
Servillo: Do not.
Sorrentino: Twice for lunch at your home in Rome. The first time I met Berlusconi, I was with these other guys who met him for another reason. The second time, he invited me because I was ready to film, so he invited me to lunch.
I think he had a double feeling about this. He was excited because he was vain and so quite excited about the movie, about himself, but at the same time also worried about the kind of things I put on the screen. He was concerned that I would not recognize him for his important role as a politician, as he sees it.
Do you want people to feel sympathy for him? Did you want to humanize it?
Servillo: No, I certainly don't want people to sympathize with him. I would like the audience to watch this film with a critical inclination to reflect on what happens when people who have nothing to do with politics get into politics. And that degenerates the nature of the political spectrum. Creates a deadlock system. I would like people to be aware of the fact that there are very few scenes in the movie that happen in the political chambers, because you have people who have trained and shaped your approach to life outside the political arena. And when that happens, they end up protecting the interests of the few and not the interests of the people.
Sorrentino: No, I didn't want to humanize Berlusconi. I focused on the man, not the politician. To understand what Toni was saying before, Berlusconi as a politician did not produce extraordinary results. Berlusconi's political life is known to everyone. What is most mysterious is the human aspect. And that's what I found most interesting for the movie. I just wanted to tell his story as I understood it, that deep in his behavior is a lot of fear, fear of getting old, fear of getting old. And there is a complex relationship that the ultra-rich have with themselves. They are frustrated by the fact that their wealth does not guarantee them anything more than what everyone else has.
Servillo: I don't think Berlusconi is a caricature. I think history will tell us that this image that Berlusconi created is more real than anything.
I think history will tell us that this image that Berlusconi created is more real than anything.
Toni Servillo, & # 39; Loro & # 39;
The scenes of him alone with his wife in particular are very surprising, even vulnerable.
Sorrentino: This is an aspect, a side of the character that I was very interested in. This is the wife's point of view. Berlusconi's wife has always been close to him, but has always represented internal opposition to Berlusconi, who has always been surrounded by people who grant him unconditional ascent to anything he wishes. Whereas the wife presents a different point of view and often opposed to Berlusconi. I would like to show that even in that world of extremely rich people, seemingly distant from ours, there are arguments, there is suffering, and there are difficulties that couples experience. Especially older couples who have been together for a long time.
Toni, how did you prepare for the role?
Servillo: I had the opportunity to play another historical and political character with Paolo, I played Andreotti (former Prime Minister Giulio) in “Il Divo”. A character, a man who lived at a very distant age from where we are today. And things move so fast in the way we live them. I didn't try to prepare myself by reading books or anything. The fact is that these characters dominated the political scene so much and especially Berlusconi was so overwhelming in the media that they became part of us. They entered inside us. So I just got the script.
I am friends with Bruno Ganz, who played a much more difficult and complex historical character, Adolf Hitler (in "Fall" in 2004; Ganz died in February). And when they asked the same question, he said, "I just stay on set without thinking." So what I am saying is that you should not get carried away by the story, the news. But what you want to do is to suggest to the viewer a different view of real and real facts.
Can you tell me more about the relationship between you two? What makes you go back to work together?
Sorrentino: Let's put aside the skills Toni has and anyone can see, because toni in my movies is like having an older brother. It makes me feel more comfortable, more relaxed, safer. And I always feel that way when I make a movie with Toni. So when I am making other films where he is not, I miss the figure of someone who knows me who can intuit a problem based on very few elements and he can help me get out of it. Obviously, as an actor, he can add complexity to the characters, the nuances you can ask not only for a highly talented actor, but also for a highly intelligent actor. You can't ask anyone to do what Toni does. So it's not just a matter of talent, but also the ability to think and synthesize that he has no other Italian actor I know of.
Servillo: Well, I've often said that Paolo's talent is extraordinary as a director. But as a screenwriter and dialogue writer, he's formidable. And in such a visually eloquent movie, the wonderful scene in which Berlusconi is selling an apartment over the phone, is an incredible scene with him trying to confirm to himself that he still has him as a salesman. Only a writer who understands how to write dialogue well, how to write characters well, can offer such opportunities. Also, we have a great friendship. This is the fifth movie we make together. Therefore, there is something mysterious between us and it is something that allows us to witness in each other's company and accept certain very difficult challenges from a film standpoint.
Toni Servillo as Silvio Berlusconi in Paolo Sorrentino's "Loro"
(Gianni Fiorito / IFC Movies)
Here in America, the movie makes us think of our own president, Donald Trump.
Sorrentino: I started writing this long before Trump entered the political scene, so it wasn't something that was done with Trump in mind. And I think in many ways Berlusconi and Trump are really quite different. But what they have in common is …