Sharing memories

Alba Rohrwacher on Marco Bellocchio, Daughter Of Mine, Lucia's Grace, and storytelling with her sister

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Rajendra Roy, the Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film at the Museum of Modern Art with Istituto Luce Cinecittà’s Camilla Cormanni, Alice Rohrwacher, and Alba Rohrwacher
Rajendra Roy, the Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film at the Museum of Modern Art with Istituto Luce Cinecittà’s Camilla Cormanni, Alice Rohrwacher, and Alba Rohrwacher Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

At the Istituto Luce Cinecittà opening night reception for The Wonders: Alice and Alba Rohrwacher at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Julian Schnabel circulated through the crowd, Sony Pictures Classics Michael Barker chatted with Magari (If Only) director Ginevra Elkann and Rome Film Festival Artistic Director and Le Conversazioni founder Antonio Monda held court.

Alba Rohrwacher on Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders: “I can say it's my life, but from her point of view.”
Alba Rohrwacher on Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders: “I can say it's my life, but from her point of view.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

There is only one actress linked to Gianni Zanasi’s Troppa Grazia (Lucia’s Grace); Giorgio Diritti’s L’Uomo Che Verrà (The Man Who Will Come); Luca Guadagnino’s Lo Sono L’Amore (I Am Love) and Part Deux; Silvio Soldini’s Cosa Voglio Di Più (Come Undone); Pupi Avati’s Il Papà Di Giovanna (Giovanna’s Father); Doris Dörrie’s Glück (Bliss); Laura Bispuri’s Figlia Mia (Daughter Of Mine) and Vergine Giurata (Sworn Virgin); Saverio Costanzo’s La Solitudine Dei Numeri Primi (The Solitude Of Prime Numbers) and Cuori Affamati (Hungry Hearts), and Marco Bellocchio’s Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty) and Sangue Del Mio Sangue (Blood Of My Blood) - all screening at the retrospective.

In the second half of my conversation with Alba Rohrwacher, Marco Bellocchio (the director of Italy’s Oscar submission The Traitor, with four European Film Award nominations) looms large and the personal and working relationship (Happy As Lazzaro, The Wonders) with her sister Alice Rohrwacher is revealed.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Let's discuss Happy As Lazzaro. When you work with your sister, you don't just get the script, I suppose. It's very different to the way you work with other directors?

Alba Rohrwacher on The Wonders screenplay by Alice Rohrwacher: “She put in the story a lot of elements to change the game.”
Alba Rohrwacher on The Wonders screenplay by Alice Rohrwacher: “She put in the story a lot of elements to change the game.”

Alba Rohrwacher: With Alice we build. I can say that it's different, I'm not only an actress. I knew the script, the idea from the base. From the basement. If the movie will be a house, I'm not arriving when everything is already down, and I'm arriving just to walk into this house. I'm really there from the very beginning. With Alice, we work together. Doing a movie with her is different.

AKT: Than doing a movie with anybody else?

AR: Yes, because we share the same memories, we share almost the same visual imagination. It's like I'm already part of her vision. It's not that I have to jump in a vision.

I understand immediately what she wants to do and I'm there immediately in a way she wants. So it's really a complex and very deep artistic relationship.

AKT: That continues from how you were as children?

AR: We were very close but also with big fights. We would fight a lot. It's a real love story. And in a big love story you love a lot but you fight a lot. So we fight for stupid reasons. The fight - it's like an ocean on the surface. But the base is very deep and strong. The roots go deeper and deeper. It's like a total trust. Everything can happen on the surface, but in the deep it's always quiet and deeply rooted.

Alba Rohrwacher on Italy’s Oscar submission Marco Bellocchio’s The Traitor: “I'm a big fan of this movie.”
Alba Rohrwacher on Italy’s Oscar submission Marco Bellocchio’s The Traitor: “I'm a big fan of this movie.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: Did you tell each other stories when you were little? Was storytelling a big part?

AR: Yeah, we read a lot. You know, because we grew up in the countryside. A lot of the time we were isolated. She for me was the other. And I was for her. So we got bored a lot. And we were really her and me. So we read and made drawings.

AKT: So much in the films seems to be rooted in old storytelling. Folktales, fairy tales.

AR: In the movies that Alice did? Yeah.

AKT: Details such as the honey spilling over in The Wonders. Depending on where you are in the world, there are always stories of food spilling into the streets, be it porridge or rice. In the other movie, there is the biblical story of Lazarus, returning from the dead. But I wanted to talk about another point. In The Wonders there are four sisters.

AR: Yes.

AKT: You were just describing your relationship with your sister - so did this invention mean more room, more bodies? To include all that you created?

AR: Maybe it's like a dream, you know?

AKT: Two more people to play with?

AR: But of course, The Wonders is like it's our life. The main character is the older sister, so it's like me. Because I am two years older than she. I can say it's my life, but from her point of view.

Alba Rohrwacher with Toni Servillo in Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty (Bella Addormentata)
Alba Rohrwacher with Toni Servillo in Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty (Bella Addormentata)

AKT: With you playing your mother!

AR: Yes! But then she put in the story a lot of elements to change the game. It's not so autobiographical, but the universe we were immersed in, is something that I can recognise. But the events are not so autobiographical.

AKT: You mentioned earlier to me, that the films you did in the last two years all have to do with wonder. Which are those?

AR: Well, Lazzaro, because something magic happened in the movie. I don't know if you've seen Lucia's Grace? It will be shown here. It's about a woman. It's a comedy. We went to the Quinzaine [des Réalisateurs at Cannes in 2018] and the movie won the Quinzaine. It's a comedy, but a festival comedy.

AKT: A festival comedy is something very different, not a comedy comedy.

AR: Exactly. And there is something very magic in the movie. I don't know if you saw [Bispuri’s] Daughter Of Mine?

AKT: I did. Yes, of course.

AR: And there is something magical too. Remember the child when she appears from the ground? It's not realistic.

The Wonders: Alice and Alba Rohrwacher reception at the Museum of Modern Art
The Wonders: Alice and Alba Rohrwacher reception at the Museum of Modern Art Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: I see the link to Lazzaro. To go back a little further in your career, there is Bellocchio.

AR: Bellocchio is a master. I met Bellocchio when I was 21, I was at school. He chose some of us to do something like a background extra in his movie [The Wedding Director]. It's from 2005 or so. I remember that I had to play a small character but it was my first cinema image.

My first cinema image is through Marco Bellocchio! When I went to see the movie in the cinema, I was surprised because I didn't imagine I could be so big [on the screen]. From that moment he called me often, maybe not every movie, but we started working together.

AKT: You are not in the last one, The Traitor.

AR: The last one, no, but I know everything about that movie and I'm a big fan of this movie.

AKT: I agree, it's fantastic. I spoke with Bellocchio recently about it.

AR: He is doing the Oscar campaign now, because Italy chose him. So fingers crossed. I can say he is one of my masters. He taught me a lot.

Read what Alba Rohrwacher had to say on Adam Driver in Saverio Costanzo’s Hungry Hearts, Arnaud Desplechin, Isabelle Huppert on shoes, and Sworn Virgin.

Read what Alice Rohrwacher had to say on Happy As Lazzaro (Lazzaro felice) before The Wonders: Alice and Alba Rohrwacher at the Museum of Modern Art.

Coming up - Alice Rohrwacher on Jacques Demy’s Donkey Skin (Peau D'Âne) and helicopters, Astrid Lindgren, Rip Van Winkle, and The Tin Drum’s David Bennent in Happy As Lazzaro.

The Wonders: Alice and Alba Rohrwacher retrospective is organised by Museum of Modern Art Department of Film Curator Josh Siegel with Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero of Luce Cinecittà and runs through December 23 at the Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center.

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