IN THE HOUSE OF MANTEGNA was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the April 2019 Experinmental/Dance Festival in Toronto.
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?
Michele Manzini: Ever since ancient times the conscious subject has no body. It is a subject that has renounced its body and that, therefore, keeps a distance from the errors that, as Plato said, are caused by the “barbarous filth” of our desires, of our passions, of our most visceral needs. This has been and, according to me, still is an insuperable problem in Western thought, a problem that it has tried in continuation to resolve: how to free oneself of the body in order to arrive at knowledge of reality. My works inhabit this great contradiction.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
I have always worked with deferred times. There is a phase of investigation and of putting into focus conceptual themes, and this can be a very long period. Perhaps as a result of this I often find myself working contemporarily on different ideas for work. The second phase is that of making, and usually that is very brief. Often just a few weeks.
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
Reality is always revealed with irreconcilable polarities. By trying to think about this we arrive in a place that reason could never take us to. A kind of overcoming of the idea of harmony. A reality that always shows itself to be a contradiction, a dismemberment, a place in which contraries coexist and interweave in an arabesque where everything is present and nothing is excluded. An “atopic” dimension in which the body becomes the decisive element: the boundary between conflicts and a window on new worlds.
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
In every work of mine the greatest difficulty is to establish with those who collaborate with me a common “conceptual territory” within which to act. I write a lot and then we discuss these texts together in numerous meetings. For me it is necessary that the work is extremely coherent. Together we look for a direction towards which to direct our research and then I leave it up to them to show me what I am unable to see.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I do not always manage to follow my work in the various festivals around the world. When this happens it is an experience that greatly enriches me. For this reason I believe that the idea of having a video with the public’s feedback is absolutely extraordinary.
Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:
6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
The house of the painter Andrea Mantegna in Mantua has always fascinated me. Then I remembered one winter during a visit to the Brera gallery in Milan when I stopped in front of the painting of the “Dead Christ” by Mantegna. An amazing work that is capable of recounting the extreme and deeply human nakedness of that body, while keeping it covered. Starting from this image, I began to think about the possibility of a project.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
I do not see many films. My training is above all literary and linked to the visual arts. I look at and study much of the painting of the15th to the 17th centuries: Mantegna, Tintoretto, Caravaggio … the composition of the image, the handling of light and the bodies in that kind of painting is a continuous source of inspiration for me. Instead, the cinema that has always interested me is that in which the relationship between the protagonists and the architectural and urban space is very strong, and so Antonioni, Kubrick, Wenders, Lynch, Greenaway …
8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
I use various platforms for choosing festivals, but FilmFreeway is the one that decidedly suggests the most interesting things and those that are qualitatively the best. It is very simple and speedy in its management of its content and allows you to analyse closely each individual festival. For me it is an excellent work tool.
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
My musical training has its roots in English Post Punk and arrives as far as all the British Invasion of the 1980s. I still continue to follow some of the musicians now: Brian Eno, David Sylvian, Robert Fripp, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Karl Hyde, and so on.
10. What is next for you? A new film?
“In the House of Mantegna” is the second work of a trilogy titled “Umanesimo tragico”. I will begin to shoot the third video of the project next month. At the same time I am working on a project for a series of live performances.