Matteo Garrone: I wanted explore a different genre and I really wanted to do a comedy. I think there are a lot of things in common with all my work. Gomorrah was a movie about the crime system, and about a victim of the crime system. Reality is about the show business side. The people are complicit with the showbiz system but are also victims of the system.
Q: The sway that TV has now is comparable to the influence that the Catholic Church had; but as well as this there is also a strong political commentary in the film. I couldn’t help but make comparisons to Berlusconi…
Matteo Garrone: I think that the problems are much deeper and older than Berlusconi. I believe the themes of the film are deeply rooted in modern society, it’s about the modern phenomenon of how we want to follow a fake paradise. It is more universal than Italy’s current political situation. Back in 1975, Pasolini was already saying our country was radically changing and that we were losing our cultural identity, in part this film follows that heritage. I think that this movie is actually quite sad; the family at the centre of the movie have a good life, yet despite this they want to escape from their reality to become rich, famous and popular- their life isn’t enough for them. This situation is endemic to society’s social system. For Luciano (Aniello Arena) the desire to be on television and to become famous is part of a personal and social existential crisis.
Q: The criticism of reality TV and culture and all the problems that you have mentioned, do you think there are any positives?
Matteo Garrone: Our approach was never to judge or say what’s right or what’s wrong. Let’s take the example of the lottery; is it right or wrong that someone buys a ticket with the desire to radically change their life? With Reality we are basically seeing the guy that wins the lottery and how that changes his life – the only difference here is that we are talking about reality TV. Luciano is a nice guy; he is charismatic, he is kind. Then we took it a step further and look at the obsession and the darker elements of such a passionate desire to be famous.
Q: You discovered Aniello in a prison theatre; how did you discover him?
Matteo Garrone: There is a theatre company called La Fortezza (The Fortress) run by a man named Armando Punzo who has been working with Aniello for 12 years. When Aniello discovered that acting was his passion it changed his life. My father use to be a theatre critic, so I use to go a lot to these performance run by Punzo in the prisons- we were big fans of this company. That’s where I discovered him.
Q: What was it like having to work with an actor who is incardinated?
Matteo Garrone: We had a problem at the beginning to gain permission from the judge to shoot this film. After the shooting he went back to jail. We have to be precise with police about the times we shoot, and with our program. The police we often on set.
Q:Was it easy working with him to get the performance you wanted? I Read an interview recently were it said since he’s been in prison so long, adjusting to the world around him makes him the perfect person for the role?
Matteo Garrone: Yes, this aspect gave his performance something unique, but he’s very talented and I work on a chronological way from scene 1 to 100 so he can follow the development of the story, the feelings of the character so its like its in theatre. It was very important that he could understand the scenes emotionally.
Q: What was it like shooting in Naples again?
Matteo Garrone: Naples is a wonderful city for a director; there is so much material there for inspiration. I think you have to be careful when filming there because you can be easily distracted by all that is around you and you can get lost in the city.
Q: Would you like to make a film set outside of Naples?
Matteo Garrone: Why not. For me every story is Italian but every story is universal.
- Aniello Arena: From Gangster to Movie Star (theitalianist.com)
- Reality – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Matteo Garrone on Reality Television and Italian Culture (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)