Notturno, the Middle East according to Gianfranco Rosi: “an abstract dimension of transformation of reality”

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In the first scene of Night, the new film by Gianfranco Rosi in competition at Venice Film Festival 2020, some platoons of soldiers march noisily, parading alongside the film camera placed on the ground by the director. “It’s one of the first things I shot, and it’s always placed at the beginning of the film,” Rosi said. “I’ve never quite understood why. I had also thought about taking it off, I thought it was wrong, but my editors convinced me to keep it. And then I realized he was explaining a feeling, a feeling about what’s going on in the Middle East. The platoons that march making their war cry provocatively in front of the camera, and the pauses of silence between one platoon and another, tell well a world that is always paused between one battle and another, where you always hear the echo of war in the distance, a war that then comes upon you suddenly. “

Gianfranco Rosi he turned Night over the course of three years in the areas between Iraq, Syria, Kurdistan and Lebanon. “I thought I arrived with some knowledge, but when I arrived in the Middle East I realized I had no idea of ​​those areas and those conflicts. And now to find out even less.”
Rosi had no questions that prompted him to make this film, nor, he said, did he want to give answers. Nor did he care about the borders, and to explain in the film where what happened: “The idea of ​​borders does not belong to that region,” has explained. “The boundaries were drawn in 1916 by the colonial powers, without taking into account the culture and history of those places. From there the disaster arose. Civil society paid the price for everything that followed. The challenge was to break this division, telling the everyday life of lives lived between life and death, making the boundaries waver, making them become mental. I wanted to undo the states and let the film be carried on by the story of archetypal characters. It was not important to say where what happens. The film tells a mental place that unites stories in an abstract dimension of transformation of reality.”

The transformation of reality, explained Rosi, has always been one of the elements on which his work is based: “A transformation of reality that takes place using the language of cinema, and having before him the authority of the real that must be transformed into something else: metaphor, story capable of universality. “
Another fundamental element for his work, continued the director, is the subtraction: “Here I worked hard to arrive at the absolute synthesis of the stories, to reach the essentiality of the things I tell. I wanted to find that element of the story that doesn’t make you wonder what happened before and what must come after. “
All this, then, is harmonized by the editing: “In this case,” said Rosi, “the challenge was to find the right place to leave one story to cling to another, keeping a common note.”

Per Rosi, Nightit starts where the reportage or the newspaper headline ends, and I shot it without ever judging what I saw, without having an ideological approach.”
What he used instead was time spent with characters from his film. “I talked to them for months before shooting. And so everything you see comes from a deep bond. When you have this bond, you know what is going to happen so well, you have such intimacy that you don’t need any set up. The set up of the scenes was our mutual acquaintance. Then you know: in front of a goal, people change. Without a set up there is no cinema. For this I use a large camera: I want it to be visible, I don’t want it to be invisible.”

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