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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Interview with Filmmaker Tommaso Frangini for 'The Plague' (2017) and 'Ecate' (2017)

Interview with Filmmaker Tommaso Frangini for 'The Plague' (2017) Interview with Filmmaker Tommaso Frangini for 'The Plague' (2017)

Writer/director Tommaso Frangini's latest opus 'The Plague' (2017) premiered at the 71st Cannes Film Festival in the Short Film Corner. The Frankenstein-esque tale takes place in the late 18th century and tells the story of alchemist Parsifal (played by Omar Maestroni) who creates half human half monster Homunculus (Riccardo Maria Manera). Having ignored his master's foreboding, Parsifal must learn the hard way about the dangers of mixing magic with science. Frangini also directed short films 'Patient 1642' (2017) and 'Ecate' (2017).

Frangini is a young Italian director who is studying Film Directing at the prestigious California Institute of the Arts. His short 'Ecate' is a fantasy set in a medieval forest, where a knight is lost and is rescued by a mysterious lady and 'The Plague' is set in the late Eighteenth Century and tells the story of an alchemist who experiments with a forbidden formula.


I interviewed Tommaso about both films. Here is what he had to say:


What does the name of your film "Ecate" mean?

TOMMASO: Ecate is the name of a minor Goddess from Greek Mythology. She was one of the psychopomp divinities, which were an intermediary between the world of the living and that of the dead. Even if my short film takes place in a Medieval setting, I decided to give it this title because the dual essence of this Goddess reminded me of the female character of my plot. Highliting the presence of Limbo that incarnates an afterlife, a Purgatory made of desolation, where a soul is forced to wander alone.


Regarding your second short film “The Plague”, why do you think alchemy become so occult to Christian Europe?

TOMMASO: Alchemy has very ancient origins, since ancient Greece or even before that. The practice of it gradually changed through time, becoming more and more occult and obscure. As for many other disciplines, Christian Europe was not an easy place to florish and experiment, an example would be Astronomy or Medicine, and many scholars had to hide during the Inquisition period. The world of Alchemy, however, is vast. In my short, I wanted to talk about the Homunculus, the creation of life through Alchemy, which is certainly one of it’s most disturbing aspects and practices.


Is the woman in “Ecate” a kind of a Witch?

TOMMASO: I never used the term Witch during the production of the film, and I never saw her as such because of the negative tone that term has in our culture. Although I believe the situation I created, the locations of the short and the Symbolism, I used on the Altar in the final lead to a sinister interpretation of Her Character (role). In fact, I never wanted to give a her a negative trait but more of a mysterious aura. We don’t really know if she’s maleficent, or if she’s just punishing the Knight for his sins.

What does 'the plague' mean in your short?

TOMMASO: In the short 'The Plague' I wanted to mix the theme of the Homunculus with that of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The Plague is therefore one of them, in specific he is the Homunculus himself. The meaning behind the story is a metaphor of how our obsessions can lead us to the creation of absolute evil.

Who are your greatest inspirations as directors and writers?

TOMMASO: As for directors, one of my greatest inspirations comes from Alexander Sokurov, and 'The Plague' is clearly inspired by his 'Faust'. The way Sokurov creates images and disturbing atmospheres is masterful, and I want to continue experimenting with this style. I then obviously have an extreme love for directors who aren’t necessarily near to my style and my poetics, among the recent authors that I prefer there are Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Gaspar Noè, Jia Zhang Ke, Wong Kar Wai, Pawel Pawlikowski and many others. Regarding the literary world, my main inspirations are Joseph Conrad, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka and Joseph Roth; these are the authors I admire the most and from whom I receive more creative impulses.

Where did you shoot and how did you cast?

TOMMASO: 'Ecate' was my first professional experience. I decided to rely on people with more experience than me. For the locations, I went to shoot in the Alps in summer. I researched the locations during spring, doing several scoutings with the Director of Photography. With 'The Plague' it was easier to find people because I had already a project to show. I wanted to shoot in a lake area Lago di Como and Lago Maggiore. The hardest part was finding the place where to shoot the interior scenes. As for the actors, I relied a lot on my personal instinct, based on what kind of people they are and, of course, how much they can look like the character I have in my head.

Will you turn the film into a feature later?

TOMMASO: I’m working on a Long Script of 'The Plague'. It’s definitely a project I would like to do in Feature length, also because I think that it’s theme can’t really be told in 15 minutes but it needs more time. 'The Plague' is actually structured as a long feature, but compressed in less time. I want to expand now its narrative potential and use the same directional and visual rigor and style, probably trying to experiment even more with the distortions and with visual perceptions. Other than this, I’m starting to write down some others Feature Scripts, trying to experiment with different narrative and directorial style to do different kinds of work.


Where do you think Italian cinema stands in the world today, as opposed to its past?

TOMMASO: Italian cinema has had two generations of incredible talents that have influenced the World Cinema, from the late 40s to the late 70s many absolute masterpieces were produced in Italy. It is difficult to think that we can go back to such a flourishing period, not so much because of the lack of talents, but because of the fact that in Italy the producers no longer take risks, they aim to make “safe” movies, in the specific comedies. Surely something in recent years has been changing. I cannot really say whether or not in a stable way. In this moment there are Garrone and Sorrentino, who are internationally acclaimed authors, and many emerging young Directors who are having a great success at the Festivals; the real problem is that making “original” films is extremely difficult in Italy, and the public is becoming increasingly less familiar with movies of a certain level.


You had your film 'The Plague' play at Cannes. How was that experience?

TOMMASO: My short was selected at the Short Film Corner, which allowed me to experience the Festival during its second week. The atmosphere of Cannes is unique, you can almost smell the scent of great cinema in the air and entering a preview movie is very exciting. I took more this opportunity to live and enjoy the Festival rather than promote my short film, because I still consider it a project where there are many things that I would like to improve, and now I'm organizing similar experiences in other major festivals such as Sundance, Locarno, Toronto etc.


What will you be working on next?

TOMMASO: I have a lot of projects in mind! I’m preparing my Second Year’s project, which I’ll probably shoot during the coming Fall Semester at Cal Arts, it’s a totally different project from the others I did before, I’m working on the Script right now and I want it to be more realistic and “political” than my other works, a critique of the static nature of contemporary ideals. I’m also waiting on the answers from several International Festivals regarding my Cal Arts First Year’s Short Film, Patient 1642. At last, I’m thinking about my Thesis project, I don’t know if I’ll shoot it back in Italy or in the U.S., and during these Film School years I’m of course preparing some Feature Length Scripts for the future.

Interview with Filmmaker Tommaso Frangini for 'The Plague' (2017) Filmmaker Tommaso Frangini

Interview with Filmmaker Tommaso Frangini for 'The Plague' (2017)


Interview by Vanessa McMahon




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