Pierfrancesco Favino, actor in “Nostalgia”: “The idea of ​​aging interests me, it’s exciting to see where time takes us”

Nostalgia tells of Felice’s return to Naples. How did you prepare for this role?

The starting point of the film is a novel by writer Ermanno Rea. He was an important guide even if Mario Martone, the director, and Ippolita Di Majo, the screenwriter, made a lot of changes. We had the chance to talk a lot about the film during the pandemic but, from our first meeting and reading the book, I found something interesting, hidden there… A kind of meeting with myself, at 50 years past, with this idea of ​​going back to my roots and seeing what happened in my life.

This man lost his identity and had to rebuild another one… elsewhere. Felice had two different lives before returning to Naples, to this poor district, the only one where you can’t see the sea. We are far from the image we usually have of this city. On the preparation, we walked in the streets with Mario and our feelings were very strong.

We feel that certain characters have a real influence on the city. There is of course Orestes, his childhood friend who became a godfather, but also this priest who also acts like a real boss…

This priest really exists! He was our protector. When I met him, I had in front of me a boss. He did, however, earn everyone’s respect. It has been in place for twenty years and takes care of seven churches in the district. He is highly respected for everything he does, especially with young people. Most of them are in the film. We are indeed only five professional actors, the rest of the cast is made up of locals. It was important socially, to show the reality of this place with this balance between criminality and spiritual life. There is something mysterious, Christian and pagan about it.

On a personal level, do you feel like an heir to Italian cinema, in terms of what it questions about myth and tradition?

We don’t really have discussions on the 7th art in Italy and we miss it! I would very much like to have the chance to talk about cinema and not about its market. Your question is interesting, because I find that the Latin world questions the myth every time. In my opinion, American cinema has stolen the tradition we had. The Greek gods have been replaced by superheroes, but we see that there is still this special relationship between humanity and the forces that fight with us… or against us.

You like to cultivate the ambiguity of your characters…

I don’t choose my films based on a career plan and I don’t believe in identity. As human beings, we have the ability to be multiple. We can, for example, claim to be a pacifist, but if someone knocks on our door to kill our family, are we going to sit idly by? My job allows me to live these kinds of moments, to be in the reality of these stories where there are tensions. Like the myth, we are faced with situations that require us to go beyond our ways of being to solve the problems facing us.

There is often a relationship to time in your films. For example, in Nostalgia the film takes place over a few months; in The traitor by Marco Bellocchio, the story takes place over several years… Does this change your approach to the role?

Basically, cinema is only an encounter between time and space. This is also the reason why I really appreciate Christopher Nolan’s films. When I work on a character, I always wonder about the child he was and how his old age will be. Not to draw a narrative arc, but simply because the idea of ​​aging interests me.

In The traitor by Marco Bellocchio, I have 40 years of life to play and it’s exciting to see where time takes us. When I play, I let myself be surprised by the thoughts, the images, the associations of ideas then, we “break” all that and we look at what is inside. As an actor, we can be inhabited for a few months by a life that is not ours but, at the same time, we discover something about ourselves. Sometimes it can even be violent.

Pierfrancesco Favino, actor in “Nostalgia”: “The idea of ​​aging interests me, it’s exciting to see where time takes us”