Being human

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Valeria Golino discuss Human Capital.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Valeria Golino at the Tribeca Film Festival for Paolo Virzì's Human Capital (Il Capitale Umano)
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Valeria Golino at the Tribeca Film Festival for Paolo Virzì's Human Capital (Il Capitale Umano) Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

In my conversation with Paolo Virzì on his dynamic exploration of guilt and innocence in Human Capital (Il Capitale Umano), he described the relationship between Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and her successful husband Giovanni (Fabrizio Gifuni) as "completely desperate and unhappy." Valeria Golino plays pregnant Roberta, married to Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio). They have their own kind of disenchantment which Virzì says, "comes really from a true observation of the reality of our middle class."

Valeria Golino as Roberta:
Valeria Golino as Roberta: "I have the identity and she [Carla] has the good life."

Human Capital is a tale of people trapped in the wheels of money, prestige and unfulfilled longings, disguised as a thriller. Some create the wheels, some spin them and others run in them. Two families are tied together by an accident and by their children. Carla is a woman who has great financial privileges and no emotional stability. Her life of manicures, massages and antiques shopping makes her feel increasingly worthless. This is reinforced by her husband Giovanni who communicates nothing of importance to her.

In an attempt to add some internal beauty for herself and the community - a small fictional town near Milan - Carla buys a run-down theatre she wants to renovate and instead ends up falling into her familiar trap of meaningless seduction.

Roberta, on the other hand, is a psychologist working at the public clinic who decides to be completely ignorant about the crumbling world of her family, especially the dealings of husband Dino, who wants to move up in the world.

The day before the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, I met up with the two Valerias to speak about the entrapments of the women they play in Virzì's film and how shoes and a big belly respectively became the symbols of their characters' internal lives.

Anne-Katrin Titze greeting Valeria Golino: Good to see you again!

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi: You saw her two weeks ago?

Valeria Golino: A month and a half ago.

AKT: A month and a half ago, we did an interview. Around that time I also saw your last film at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. Where did the making of Human Capital fall in relation to the two films you directed last year? I really loved both Honey and A Castle In Italy.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as Carla with Fabrizio Gifuni as Giovanni:
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as Carla with Fabrizio Gifuni as Giovanni: "I am trying to get out of my skin, that's true."

VG: When did we do this one [Human Capital]?

VBT: Last winter. One year ago.

VG: I had finished editing [Honey] two months before, I think we did it February and I finished editing in December.

VBT: I was not finished. I was doing my editing [A Castle In Italy] during the shooting of this one.

AKT: I thought the timing was overlapping. Both of you were directing these strong films and at the same time, in Human Capital, you play women who are so dependent and in horrible relationships. Especially Carla.

VG: I don't want that life either [of Golino's character Roberta]. At least she [Carla] is rich.

AKT: At least she is rich, but at least your character has a job in the film.

VG: That's true. At least I have an identity. I have the identity and she has the good life. Her husband [Giovanni] is a monster but at least he is good looking.

VBT: I think, if I had to choose a life between the two, I would be you. Your character [Roberta].

AKT: What about you? Whose life would you chose. Hers [Clara] because she is rich with a handsome guy?

Valeria Golino as Roberta with Fabrizio Bentivoglio as Dino:
Valeria Golino as Roberta with Fabrizio Bentivoglio as Dino: "Her man being so wrong, so unpleasant, she knows it."

VG: It's hard.

AKT to VG: Your husband Dino is really quite horrible too.

VBT jumps in: Horrible, horrible. But I think she is more free. I think she has more freedom.

VG: Because she has a certain kind of ethic [Roberta] that keeps her stronger.

VBT: Roberta is the only character with some kind of ethic and also the young [step] daughter [Serena played by Matilde Gioli]. These two.

AKT: At the same time, your character Roberta has no idea what is going on. You are totally ignorant and don't know what you are reacting to. It is hard to find anything you want to identify with.

VG: They have these bad lives.

AKT: They seem very real. I think there are a lot of women who feel trapped in similar ways. Not only in their shoes. How did you walk in those shoes [to Valeria Bruni Tedeschi]?

VG: She knows how!

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's Carla with the professor - This is a nightmare about to happen.
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's Carla with the professor - This is a nightmare about to happen.

Golino coaxes Bruni Tedeschi to show me the gray suede ankle boots she was wearing that day by lifting up her jeans. They are beautiful with a high heel, still, nothing compared in height to the platform pumps her character wears in the film.

VBT: It was good. It was very important for me. How could I walk on these shoes? This disequilibrium? Really, my interior was the same. To try and balance like this.

AKT: The furs she has and the fur coats she wears also speak of the inner state of that woman who so desperately tries to shed her skin.

VBT: Absolutely. I am trying to get out of my skin, that's true.

AKT: The way parenting is shown in the film was also very interesting. How do you see motherhood portrayed for both of your characters?

VG: Well, my character, she is yet to be mom.

AKT: She is very motherly in her therapist role and with the stepdaughter already.

VG: That"s what I liked. That gave me the most pleasure, it was to have this big belly. It was the same thing as with her shoes.

AKT: Her shoes were your belly!

Paolo Virzì (centre) on the set with Fabrizio Bentivoglio and Fabrizio Gifuni:
Paolo Virzì (centre) on the set with Fabrizio Bentivoglio and Fabrizio Gifuni: "I think there is no innocence in this story. There are lots of victims."

VG: My belly is my character! She is like an egg. Whatever, no matter what is to protect. Her motherhood is what makes her not see other things. She is there to protect what's happening. Her man being so wrong, so unpleasant, she knows it. Whatever it is, she has to keep things going because she has to protect her baby. That's almost like in an archaic sense why she doesn't … Because she is smart enough to see that there is something wrong. She chooses not to see anything. Motherhood to her is more important in that moment than anything else.

AKT: Seeing the apartment where she lives with her husband, you don't want to be there really. It is so bland and real in the most normal sense.

VG: It is. And it's not really that bad.

AKT: The not so bad is what makes it so bad, I would say. How do you see Carla's sense of motherhood?

VBT: She is tender with her son. She is not so bad. She tries to speak with him. She trusts him when he says that he is not guilty. I think, the mother instincts in her are among the best things that she has. She makes me sick, she doesn't really see, she is maladroit, clumsy, but she is not a terrible mother. The rest of her life is a disaster but as a mother she is not bad. Being clumsy is okay because all parents are clumsy.

Tribeca Film Festival remaining public screenings: Monday, April 21, 10:00pm – Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 9; April 22, 6:00pm – Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 7; April 27, 2:30pm – AMC Loews Village 7 – 3

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