‘Nostalgia’ Filmmakers on Exploring the ‘Interior Labyrinth’ of One Man’s Past (Video)

TheWrap Screening Series: Italian director Mario Martone joined with his writing partner Ippolita Di Majo to discuss Italy’s Oscar submission

Mario Martone’s touching drama “Nostalgia,” about a man’s homecoming to Naples after four decades away in Egypt, made its world premiere in the main competition of last May’s Cannes Film Festival. And now the film, based on the beloved novel by the late Ermanno Rea, is Italy’s official selection for the Best International Feature Film category at the upcoming Oscars.

Martone, the prolific Italian director of stage and screen, was joined by his co-screenwriter Ippolita Di Majo for a discussion about the film, moderated by TheWrap’s awards editor Steve Pond.

Because the film acts as both an exploration of an impoverished community in Naples and the past of its lead character (played by Pierfrancesco Favino), Martone began by discussing the twin goals he hoped to achieve while making the film.

“In the source novel, there was the feeling of nostalgia,” Martone said. “It was so strong. And there were two landscapes: one the landscape of the city, this kind of labyrinth where all the action (takes place) and then the interior landscape. This was very interesting in the book – the possibility to bring to the screen both a real landscape and an interior landscape. Where the two labyrinths of memory and nostalgia could exist next to the social labyrinth of this district in Naples. These things were possible to mix (in the film).”

In addition to approaching the main character’s mind as a “labyrinth,” screenwriter Di Majo also explained that she was drawn to the possibility of blending gender conventions in the storytelling.

“What I liked was the opportunity to tell the story of a man who has very strong feminine parts inside himself,” she said. “There’s a sensitivity in him and a sweetness that (the lead character) expresses as a man, which are usually traditionally associated with women.

She added, “For example, the way that he takes care of his mother physically. I’m not sure how it is in the United States, but definitely in Italy, that’s a female prerogative. Whereas in this story, he takes care of his mother with a sweetness that’s traditionally not associated with a man.”

“Nostalgia” was a big winner at last summer’s Silver Ribbon Awards, annual prizes honoring the best in Italian cinema, given by the country’s national association of film critics. It won four awards, including for best director, best screenplay, and best actor.

Watch video of the interview with Mario Martone and Ippolita Di Majo at the top of this post.