Four characters, four excellent performers, for the 4 halves of the title of film available on Netflix from 5 January and already among the most viewed on the platform (in third place in the overall top 10, first among films). They are the soul of a story that moves on two tracks that interlock and overlap, offering us two different realities in which the four singles played by Ilenia Pastorelli, Matilde Gioli, Giuseppe Maggio and Matteo Martari end up trying to create relationships sentimental different from each other. To tell us about this romantic comedy sui generis is the director Alessio Maria Federici, with whom we had the opportunity to chat to let us explain the casting and staging choices, as well as his point of view on the idea of a soul mate at the base. of the film.
Bring the film to life
Let’s start from the beginning: how is 4 half born, both as a narrative starting point and as a real construction of the film? What came first: what to tell or how?
Alessio Maria Federici: I make a small premise: I am not an artist, I am one shooter. The book I read at night before bed is the instructions for the new camera. When Cattleya finally offered me a project that was different from almost all the plays I’ve done, a light came on. It must have been the fact that I had been locked inside the house for too long, but for the first time I realized that I could tell stories that were human. After that I realized that the difficulty of this project is that I was going to tell the easiest parts of love stories, all the apexes, and above all that I didn’t have to build four characters, but eight. And here I was wrong: because instead the characters were always the same who declined depending on the story of the film, depending on what the context was. I immediately accepted to make this film, because at 45 I had the opportunity to tell stories that seem more suitable for those ten years younger than me, but which at 45 I was able to tell for the first time with apparent maturity. From a technical point of view it seemed fantastic to me because I could use a new vehicle called Trinity, which is a camera attached to a stick that is killing the steadycam, because it allows you to make perfect movements and allows me to avoid field. , reverse and total, to create a staging in which the actors, approaching or moving away from the camera, emphasized or detached themselves from the narrative moment. This conditioned all the choices, for example I selected locations that were very airy in which I could tell, and I asked myself many questions about the Roman spirit: I tried to keep the Pastorelli as Roman as possible, Maggio is Roman but the other two are Milanese and Veronese.
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Another essential point of 4 halves is the rhythm, the lightness with which the story is told. What choices did you make to set up the story and decide what to include, and maybe what to keep out, to achieve this?
Rhythm and panache are given a little by how I ride, but also by how the film was edited. One of the first technical characteristics is the good fortune of having a person whom I have a lot of confidence in editing and knowing how to rely on. We have a job in which we cannot know how to do everything. I’m not Cuaron, I can’t make the light, I can’t edit the film, I have to trust and let myself go. It was like in a love story or perhaps, more simply, like a recipe: I tried to bring all the ingredients into the kitchen and make sure that all times were right. From a technical point of view, the big difference was that we went back. I asked the production not to get in the way and let me do four and a half hours of rehearsals. Because the key thing was the synergy and chemistry between the actors. I shot the whole film choosing two reference optics, I used optics called Pancroft which are re-encased, which have an old cinematic vision of the old super 35 with which I could always choose a color density that made my actors they were bright in the foreground, while I could choose how much and how to blur the backgrounds. This is to ensure that the viewer focuses on those emotions that I was trying to tell. In some cases I think we have succeeded and I have the feeling that as a packaging it is very different from the films I have made up to now, but it also has a nice texture and a rhythm given by the machine that never stops. This was the bet we will see if we manage to win.
The 4 halves of the story
An important aspect for the success of the film is the cast. For which characteristics did you choose each of the main performers?
First of all, I wanted to go against stereotypes, where my film begins with a scene where we talk about these. It would have been easier to get the resigned character to Gioli, the respectable Milanese who works in the hospital, and instead put Ilenia to play the rampant, taking away a bit of Roman aggression but keeping her firm. Or put Martari as a beautiful and gloomy lawyer and keep Maggio as a bookseller asking him for another kind of interpretation. I talked a lot with the actors, I wanted to go to humanity. I realized that for example Ilenia has a depth and humanity that I had never known, labeling her in a narrow and radical way as a comedy actress. I also realized that Matilde wanted and needed to get out of the stereotype of the roles she had always played, or how Maggio is a great performer, one who applies himself as I have rarely seen in my twenty years of experience. Martari was a real surprise, I found myself confronted with a Veronese of few words in contrast to my way of being. Many of our readings became almost an analytical dynamic, because we had to bring many of our human experiences back into the characters. The great fortune of the whole experience is that we did the first four shooting days in Lisbon, in full lockdown, which was much more rigid than ours. This means that from the location they took us to the hotel where we had to eat in the room alone, and by doing these readings we confronted each other and also talked about things from our past. On some things I found them so young that for the first time I was the one with the most experience. So with the actors we built everything on humanity, but it wasn’t easy for them, because the way I moved the machine, the movements they had to do were predefined.
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With so many rehearsals and such rigid movements, was there also room for a minimum of improvisation on set or did you stick to the script as much as possible?
Absolutely, because the rigidity belonged to the machine, the operator was my eye that moved, emotional improvisation was necessary. I could edit the film with five or six different angles, I could make Maggio less bad and Gioli more bad, for example. Their improvisation of intention and humanity was free, because it was a text that told about ourselves, it didn’t have to be closed. I argued with the editor to make sure there was a villain emotionally, because I needed it to show the different reactions of women that are often told incorrectly.
The point of view of Alessio Maria Federici
At the end of the film, the host explains his point of view on the idea of apples and halves. What’s your? Do you believe in the idea of a soul mate?
I believe, and I say it on my skin, that it is as they say in the film, that in life we are shaped by the context, the situations. The life of a couple is radically born when a child is born and it is no coincidence that Gioli makes the choice in the film. What changed my life the most was not seeing Totti play or being a director, but when they put something that dripped blood in my hand that I had to cut the umbilical cord, or when I told my wife “I love you, I choose you” and I stopped being an idiot. We are what life allows us to be based on our choices. We make the choices, but it is the context that conditions us.
What are your models and your inspirations? For this film specifically but also in general?
For many of my projects I had to look at what was written on the paper, some things I couldn’t afford. One of the films that turned my life upside down is Rome, a masterpiece. The way he manages to be in or out of the story using either the cart or the machine is something exciting. My great passions are the Coen or Tarantino brothers. When I browse through Tarantino’s works, except for Kill Bill, I can’t find a film that isn’t a work of art. But we must never forget where we come from and I was lucky enough to be assistant director to Paolo Genovese, with whom I have a very nice relationship, or Miniero himself, who is one who can immediately understand what makes you laugh, while Paolo knows how to tell the general public what he knows how to excite. I was also lucky enough to do three or four commercials with Sam Mendes and he made me realize how important the staging was, to make sure that the actors in what they were doing in the scene were linked to what they were saying.
There is also your signature in another Netflix Italian and international hit this year, which is the Generation 56K series. How did you find yourself in that project where you are not the only director?
I did ten analysis sessions on this! I have a job where when I enter a room I am the first to speak and the last, I ask and then I say what I want. Not being an artist, but a shooter, it’s something I do with a light heart. There I was lucky and will never be able to thank either Francesca Longardi who is the producer, or Francesco Ebbasta of TheJackal, because they put me in a project that was a gem as it was written. They gave me the opportunity to play the last four episodes, so it’s as if they had let me enter the field like Totti in Italy – Australia to take the decisive penalty. In addition, they gave me the opportunity to deal with a narrative format that for me was different from the usual: the 28 minutes compared to the 90 are something else entirely. And it was a beautiful experience.
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Streaming, but Netflix in particular, has changed viewers’ habits. As an author who has worked for both film and streaming, how do you see the situation?
Last week they invited me to a directors’ meeting and when colleagues talked about the room, what it was missing and how streaming could ruin us, I intervened by reminding them that when the cars arrived in Germany everyone thought that horses would never be. put aside, and that while we were talking there was someone inside a subway who was watching Sorrentino’s film on a mobile phone. This is our reality and it is on this that we must confront ourselves in order to continue to grow in quality. Because at this point I dream that someone who is watching a film of mine on his mobile phone gets distracted and misses the stop. This must become our goal, which is not so different than before: before we thrilled someone who had made a choice, now we have a much larger audience that we have the opportunity to thrill. It is no longer a marketing operation, we are no longer going to hit a target: our target is the community in which we live.