Writer-director Fiorella Infascelli and the cast talk about The Wedding Dress
"…man's sense of guilt is so strong that it keeps him from seeing the humanity in evil. As author I was very interested in the male character, a man who experiences love and suffers a crisis, gives up violence and discovers tenderness but also despair. He knows that their love will never survive once Stella discovers the truth. I believe that such a story can be told only through the merciful eyes of a woman…"It isn't a protest or sociological film,. It was born out of my impressions after I heard and read some news items about women who had been raped. I was struck by two cases in particular. In the first, a victim did not remember anything of the past and the only thing that came to her mind was that "there was a beautiful sunset". .. In the second, a young woman managed to escape her four rapists and got them arrested. And it was precisely her way of reacting that impressed me. There are women who fall ill and die because they just can't take it, because they are unable to bear what they have been inflicted and what they have done".
Why did you choose to set the story in a small town?
"I liked the idea of Stella walking confidently in the quiet countryside. And then, this very nature which she loves so much becoming the scene of so much violence. Yet it is also precisely through reviving her relationship with nature that helps her to get a hold of her life after being raped."
Did you do research before making the film?
"Yes, I talked to young women who had been rape victims, they had different reactions. They experienced long periods when they couldn't feel any emotion, their habits and tastes changed. One woman told me she couldn't listen to any sound without feeling sick. According to statistics, more rapes are reported today than before, women are more courageous."
In the wonderful cast there is also Piera Degli Esposti, the mother…
"An unusual mother, rather special, not possessive, but with a mother's sixth sense. The presence of Piera was very important, not only because she is a great actress, but because she is a fantastic human being, she helped me a lot in defining the story…"
Do you have any masters as references?
"The first who comes to mind is Marco Ferreri. I know him, and have made a documentary on him."
The subject of rape is a burning current issue, did you think of the impact it would have on viewers?
Fiorella Infascella: "… my film is on violence, not on rape. I decided to completely change a news story to try to get viewers to understand what Stella truly felt, and then I also wanted to help them see the "human" aspects of the monster. I think that all men can and must redeem themselves. This is the ambiguity of the film, if you like, but I am convinced that all of us deserve the chance of being redeemed.… "I was very interested in the character Franco, one of the rapists, who at the same time is in love with his victim. I almost wanted to provoke confused reactions towards him, even though I have seen a great difference in the reaction between male and female spectators.
Andrea Di Stefano: "What interested me in my character (Franco, one of the rapists) was his attempt to redeem himself, to pull himself out of a desperate condition. But I was also a little afraid because it didn't seem possible for him to gain salvation. And then I decided to accept the challenge. For me it was also growth on a human level, I liked the occult side, understanding what is inside another."
Fiorella Infascella: "Franco is a very fragile character, the most complex, he can't even bring himself to look at Stella nude."
Piera Degli Esposti: I am a soothing, tolerant mother, who has chosen to live in the country and who identifies in some ways with nature; hoping that time will heal her daughter's pain.. In fact, in both the victim's and rapist's families, we note the absence of fathers. Franco is, in fact, almost completely surrounded by women, purposely.
In the film, you play the role of Giselda, Stella's rather distant and distracted mother: how much does she resemble you?
Piera Degli Esposti: "She is very much like nature and obeys her own rhythm," replies the actress with a smile. "She is calm and patient and even if shocked, and despite the violence her daughter has undergone, she tries to go on, continuing to slice her vegetables in the kitchen: she tries to blot it out by working. I would never have been able to do that, I'm not as balanced as that. But it is good to have such a maternal model."
Is it wrong to think that Stella is the victim of the Stockholm Syndrome?
Maya Sansa: "Very wrong, since she doesn't fall in love with the man who raped her, but with a man who gains her trust after she has gone through a devastating period of suffering. It is only afterwards that Stella finds out who Franco truly is. Me? I don't know what I would have done in the young woman's place, perhaps I would have had the courage to report the rape and get everyone sent to prison. Perhaps…"
The director chose to set her characters and their actions in places that were rather shut off from the rest of the world.
She explained, would drive the characters into their initial malaise by developing a cramped, limited universe, reflected in the wedding dress that literally suffocates Stella when she tries it on at the beginning for the film. Everything is narrow and anguished. But there are also large expanses, times to breathe, particularly in the countryside, as she walks across the fields. We feel nature all around…"
One of the rapists is Franco, the tailor who makes the wedding dress. This dichotomy was thoroughly developed by Fiorella Infascelli:
"He is not Evil incarnate, he only represents one obscure part… If he had been totally sick he would not have been able to feel emotion. He would have been incapable of finding ways to express his feelings. Of course, he suffers too, but he tries to overcome it, sometimes in vain. For example when he goes with Stella to the sea and she changes in front of him. This hits right at the heart of his problem. He has reactions that are out of proportion, that are not the kinds of a normal person. But for someone who has lived what he has, it is normal that he is in crisis. Seeing Stella nude takes him back not only to the act he has committed, but also to his difficulty to share a romantic relationship. He can't. And this failure also occurs when he tries to make love with her in the pastry shop. Yet what interests the director most is the growth of both Stella and Franco, at first each separately, and then together when they fall in love: "Initial violence in some cases helps to grow. I have in mind hundreds of possible events, separations, grief, abandonment, traumas. When we can overcome the abuse, we can go on living again. Sometimes, we feel even more enjoyment in the world, we can better appreciate it. Stella, for example, discovers she was not really in love with her ex-fiancé... But let's not forget there are people who are not able to do this, and who succumb… It is not an ideological film, it is just the story of a person who is reborn after a deep wound. This is for many reasons. We don't really know why. It is as if some people have been born with a biographical solidity, that has nothing to do with force, but with the roots and the solidity of their make-up."
Through anguishing subterranean suspense, a bit like come existential thrillers by Patricia Highsmith, the film follows the existential and erratic itinerary of the young university student…
Fiorella Infascella: "I thought a lot about the ending, it seemed to me the most coherent… In fact, the young man looks for a way to redeem himself, to make it up to Stella through love, but he feels he can't do it, that he is going against an absolutely ruthless destiny"…
To grow, despite it all, to grow forced by events, by places, by mistakes, by longings. The heroes Franco and Stella both grow during the course of the film but in different ways. They change, they part, they turn away but, in the end, they are faced with a truth that binds them.
A painful but inevitable truth. It is always better to know the truth, as dreadful as it may be. Above all, the truth is necessary to carry on. Stella's walks through the fields are in fact walks towards recovery. Happy walks, sad walks, angry walks, I consider them to be the leitmotiv of the film.
A film, in black, white and orange, like Stella's wedding dress, white at the beginning and then dyed orange. A mother, Giselda, breathless, attentive and absent; the country, the discovery of the sea, the sweetness and the will to overcome, to begin to live again. The subconscious snares, the events, the tears, the loneliness, the smiles and the laughter till the end, until the last moment.
Biography Fiorella Infascelli
Born in Rome, after her studies, she began working as a photographer for Sygma, L'Espresso and Il Mondo. She then became an assistant film director for a number of Italian filmmakers.
She gained her most most important experiences with Pier Paolo Pasolini ("Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma"), Giuseppe Bertolucci ("Berlinguer ti voglio bene"), Nanni Loy ("Viaggio in seconda classe"), Giacomo Battiato ("Colomba"), Bernardo Bertolucci ("La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo").
Her first film as director was "Ladra di sogni": a short 15' minute silent comedy for the Italian TV. It was set in the 18th century and starred Roberto Benigni. In 1980 she directed "Ritratto di donna distesa": a 45' minute telefilm. A woman opens her heart in the course of a psychoanalytical session with Giuliana De Sio in the leading role. It was presented in various film festivals and screened at the Kitchen in New York.
On the occasion of the Videomeeting "Il prossimo Cinema Italiano", promoted by the Salsomaggiore Festival, she presented the video "Pa'". A portrait-interview of her father, Carlo Infascelli, a well-known film producer during the fifties. In 1987 she directed her first feature film, "La Maschera". Written with Adriano Aprà, this was a moral tale, centered round a love story, and set during the 16th century in Italy. It starred Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Maloney, and Fedor Chaliapin. Selected by the 1988 Cannes Film Festival it was screened in the section "Un Certain Regard". It was also screened at the New York Film Festival, London Film Festival, and Annecy (where it received the Audience Award), New Delhi, Istanbul, Jerusalem and at various other international film festivals. It was distributed in a number of European countries and in Japan.
In 1992 she shot "Zuppa di Pesce". Co-written with Age and Patrizia Pistagnesi, the film narrates, in a twenty-year time span starting in the fifties, the busy life of a film producer and his family. It was entirely shot in a seaside villa in Tuscany. In addition to the main cast: Philippe Noiret, Chiara Caselli and Macha Merill, it also featured Lucrezia Lante Della Rovere, Renzo Montagnani, Andrea Prodan, Fiorenzo Fiorentini, Memè Perlini and Robert Patterson. Screened at the Berlin Film Festival in the section "Panorama", it was also presented in a number of other festivals. The film was distributed throughout Europe and Japan and, as a home-video, in the U.S.A.
During the years that followed she shot: "Lazio", a three-episode series for television, where the documentary was intertwined with fiction. An old man and a young boy (Graziano Giusti and Mario Bianco) discover this region as they walk from the mountains through the countryside and to the sea. For the tenth anniversary of the Education for Human Rights Programme promoted by the United Nations, she made "I diritti umani nel mondo contemporaneo".
"Italiani": an edition film for the series "Alfabeto Italiano" (22 film directors created films using RAI archive material) was screened at the 1998 Venice Film Festival. "Viaggio per Fiesole", a short documentary on music, was entirely shot in the School of Fiesole.
"Conversazione italiana" was a film on Italian poets and novelists, where new footage was merged with RAI archive footage. Written and edited with Alberto Arbasino, it was screened at the Venice Film Festival in 1999 in the section "New Territories".
"Viaggio in musica" was a portrait of the violist, Yuri Bashmet.
"Ferreri I love you" was a tribute to and a portrait of the Italian film director Marco Ferreri. Shot between Rome, Madrid and Paris it was screened at the Venice Film Festival in 2000.
She is a screenwriter for both cinema and television.
The director has recently completed the feature "Il vestito da sposa" starring Maya Sansa, Andrea Di Stefano and Piera Degli Esposti. She has also shot commercials for Pavesi, Corriere della Sera and Laura Biagiotti, among others.
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