Exclusive: Directors Matteo Brotugno & Daniele Coluccini Chat “And Peace On Earth”

The beginning of March saw the annual London Italian Film Festival at the Cine Lumiere as part of a week showcasing 10 new and exciting works from Italy. Last week, we wrote about five films we thought deserve wider recognition and support.

Two of them, especially, were absolute knockouts. Michele Placido’s forthcoming Angels of Evil and Matteo Brotugno and Daniele Coluccini’s poetic-realist look at life on a Roman council estate, the beautifully titled, Et In Terra Pax (And Peace On Earth).

As Placido’s film is released in the UK on 27th May we’re seriously hoping Brotugno and Coluccini’s film gets picked up for distribution because it’s a marvellous film and deserves to be seen. Brotugno and Coluccini kindly accepted my request for an interview to discuss their exploration of Roman life on a vast council estate in the suburbs of the Eternal City.

FilmShaft: Was it exciting to have your film handpicked to represent your national cinema at London’s Italian Film Festival this year?

DC: Of course. Our movie was handpicked for a lot of festivals around the world, and this was the first UK screening. It’s always exciting to represent our country, especially when our movie is on the same programme with other big productions. Being selected for London is the best, because we love this city and the English audience loved our movie. We hope to come back soon there with an English distribution.

Is the film industry strong over there or is it very much based on independent movies?

DC: In Italy, the film industry is strong only with a lot of not so funny comedies or teenage movies for a large audience. The Minister of Culture cut funds for young filmmakers, festivals and movies like “And Peace On Earth”. We are fighting against this –together with other filmmakers and people who works in cinema – because we think that it’s important to give the audience a choice, especially with movies like ours. Obviously we like and support big productions like Garrone’s “Gomorrah” and Sorrentino’s “el divo”. Those we considered great movies made with a lot of funds and a strong production. Independent movies are always forgotten and we are fighting to reverse this trend.

The film’s title is very poetic and equally ironic. Where does it come from?

MB: I was thinking a lot about a story set in the Roman suburbs. I had three main stories and some other ideas, but I couldn’t organize them. I was listening to Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and I was fascinated by the strength of the second movement, called “Et in terra pax”. I wrote the story of the movie and gave it the temporary title: “Et In Terra Pax”. Then I suggested to Daniele and Andrea Esposito (our co-writer) my story and they liked it and the title as well. Vivaldi and his “Gloria” helped us to find both an ironic-provocative and epic-tragic way to write the screenplay because we thought that it was necessary to follows the two meanings of the story: the worldly and the spiritual one.

What are the inspirations for the characters?

DC: Regarding characters, we wanted to draw inspiration from our experiences and from people’s lives mixing them with crime news. We wanted to get the reality of Roman language, which is different from Italian, to talk about boredom, drugs and loneliness, in addition to telling it in a different way. We love Italian neo-realism, we love Pasolini as well, but our characters are sons of our times.

What has the reaction been to the film in Italy?

MB: We screened the movie for the first time at the Venice Film Festival and the reaction was great. Audience and critics liked the movie and we were happy. Everyone has his own opinion and interpretation (especially for the second half of the film) and people watched and liked it in different ways with different levels of interpretation. That’s what we wanted to happen!

Marco is a very interesting character because it’s his daily observations that acknowledge the reality of his environment. He is a criminal but you sense he wants to stop being one – even though his actions at the end make it worse! What does he represent, if anything?

DC: Marco is a very strange main character because he always stays still and silent, a kind of anti-hero. He wants to change his life but he can’t because the environment around him forbids him to have a new opportunity. He speaks a lot only in the scene with Sonia. Marco kills in the end because he want to sacrifice himself for saving his “friends”, demonstrating to them that the sacrifice is useless if their lives go on the same way. Nothing can change for forgotten people. This can be interpreted in a sociological way, but we prefer to extend the sense in an existential way: there’s no way out from the environment if the human being can’t elevate himself.

Were you familiar with the film’s setting and does it come from your own backgrounds?

MB: We live in part of Rome both close to the centre and the suburbs, which was useful to observe without being involved. We like Roman suburbs, and we think that in suburbs you can breathe the real Rome. The centre is great but it’s for tourists, rich people or to spend Saturday nights. Real live is somewhere else.

Where did you film it?

DC: Most of the scenes were filmed in the Corviale area, where you can find this huge building – 1km long. There are about 14,000 people living in Serpentone (Big Snake). We wanted to capture its strange, fascinating and disturbing architecture, in addition to real life.

How did you decide on the film’s style? I especially enjoyed the use of music and the opening shot of Marco walking through the complex. It feels like he goes from one prison to another.

DC: Sure, it is. Marco comes back to his personal prison that’s not so different from the real jail. We chose Vivaldi and Alessandro Marcello’s music not only for giving a sense of what we explained before, but also because we love music from the baroque period.

It is a very intricate movie with different characters and their lives coming together. Was there any stories or characters you left out?

MB: In the original short story there were two other characters, but they weren’t so important. We wanted to focus our attention on both “trios” separated by Sonia and Sergio, the boss of the bar. We decided that these characters were enough for finding a good equilibrium.

Can you talk about the idea of the housing complex being like a prison?

DC: A lot of suburbs in Rome are characterized by this kind of view: big grey buildings, a kind of ghetto filled with people. A city can’t grow in this way because the risk is that people can be excluded from the rest of Rome. We consider the building we chose like another character, a metaphor for loneliness. It looks like a prison but it’s full of life and ready to explode (in a good or bad way) at whatever time.

Et In Terra Pax is not an international audience’s image of Italian life. Was it important to show this side of life?

DC: Sure, we think it’s very important to show the dark side our country, not only for international audiences but also for the Italians too. Italian people do not often want to watch this kind of reality because it’s not good to watch and it’s not a good image of Italy. Italians are not only funny and noisy people, we have our problems and we think that the meaning of being filmmakers is to speak about uncomfortable stuff.

How does it work on set co-directing a movie? Who is in charge of what?

MB: We have know each other since we were five years old. We attended primary and secondary school, high school, university and played in the same rock band! We grew up together with the same influences, like brothers. So it wasn’t difficult to work as co-directors. With two people you can share problems and duplicate joys. When one is with the actors, the other is with the rest of the crew and vice versa. We never fight about problems in front of the crew because it wouldn’t be a good image. We plan everything before filming, so in this way we can be sure to work better with our collaborators.

Were the actors professional or non-professionals?

DC: They are all professionals. We worked with them for three months in order to reconstruct with them the reality we wanted to film. We are very satisfied with their work, because they’re so… real.

Are you planning another movie?

MB: Yes, we are. We can’t tell you a lot about it, but we hope it will be made with a bigger amount [of money]!