How it happened
The identity of the film is on the table in cafés, studios and apartments between Europe and Brazil. We talk about the importance of the soundtrack currently almost diegetic- that is, coming from inside the film- and how characters and stories prevail on writing, changing themselves during the stages of the working process.
Lepanto is the tale of the friendship between Enrico and Michael, both explorers of the World. Their common objective is to complete a documentary film about the World Cup, talking of the constant invasion of Mega Event. A film about the housing emergency, experience that Mike had been through himself when he lost his home in Clay’s Lane- Stratford in 2007, due to the building of the new Olympic Stadium for London 2012.
Enrico goes to Brazil to research on World Cup and forthcoming Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games 2016, in order to find confirmation of the repetition of the process. He brings with him a little DV tape camera from his university years, a microphone and a Bolex 16mm camera borrowed from a dear friend. Coming back, he goes to London, where he proposes Mike to come to Italy to record the voiceover for the documentary, being it the representation of his personal war against a complex global phenomenon concerning mankind.
The whole cinematic operation lies on a literary imagery shared from both the director and the scriptwriter.
The starting point is the most famous novel by Cervantes, appearing in the film several times, even in an English illustrated edition published by J.M. Dent & Sons in 1919, coincidentally found in a market in Islington Angel, London. The knights quest theme is combined with Dante’s Divine Comedy and the exploration of the underworld, through the setting inside the marvellous subterranean spaces of Bagni di Mario, mysterious monument of hydraulic engineering, architectural masterpiece and example of the elegance.
Another keystone of the suggestions of the film is The Tartar Steppe. The anticipation, moved from the infinite desert to the immense ocean. In Lepanto, the ocean becomes our personal Tartars desert, from which the enemy could come at any moment. Guanabara bay with its thousands oil tankers and barges and the heat of the austral Brazilian winter reflects mirages as crystals of the wild steppe in Central Asia.
Not only a global vision, but the attempt to merge distant feelings across ages inside the narration of the film, letting them meet here, in a newly built, self-sufficient storytelling space.
Maybe the most bold imagination launch is still the one stressed in the title. The battle of Lepanto, crucial event of modern history- but a marginal one if put in a planetary dimension, since it took place during the American exploration at the end of XVI century- becomes for us allegory of a conflict between the advanced capitalistic model proposed by mega event and the housing resistance of people who endure the urban transformations due to the building of gigantic stadiums structures.
«Sport is war minus the shooting», a quote by G. Orwell becoming more and more specific, recurring from the first chapter of the trilogy: The Golden Temple – The Ultimate Odyssey into Desperate Capitalism. The dystopic feature of Orwell’s work is sent on through the voice of Michael J. Wells, who has not only an intrinsically political and critical view of modern society, but even a typical British humour, reminding Jerome K. Jerome of Three men on a boat. Shakespeare would have briefly commented: “That’s the humour of it”.
The battle of Lepanto could have taken place somewhere off the Greek coast; in the cosmic space around Jupiter, for the control of the Moon; in Guanabara bay between Niteroi and Rio de Janeiro; or maybe in Maria’s apartment in Newington Green, London, as a universal fight for resistance.
The most irrational and acrobatic flight of imagination, from a historic point of view, but pretty evident when approached from a phenomenological one, is for sure the act of likening Cyprus to the Moon. As Cyprus was the bone of contention between Turks and Venetians, so the Moon represented a fetish of possession in the conflict between USA and USSR during Cold War.
The movie has been edited in Ferrara historic centre through 2014, but in Autumn the identity of the film has heavily changed. Editing continued in Berlin: new references to Salgari, Verne and Stevenson, pirates culture and modern mythology, as described by Guimarães Rosa in his magnificent Grande Sertão, have become stronger and stronger in the cultural setting of the film. Michael J. Wells as a pirate, a cowboy from Sertão- recreated in marshlands around river Po delta, an ideal metaphysical set for Mike’s metamorphosis into Cangaceiro.
This is how the magmatic work of the film’s identity consolidation goes on, lately developing discussions on Maria as Antonio das Mortes, following the modern Brazilian epic, and Enrico as Mephistopheles, following the German inspiration that gave the film a new soul and a new courage. Literary references have changed and grown, they have become global. So Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation have joined Dante and Guimarães Rosa.
The film has now a three acts structure: Prologue- Maria in Italy- Transcendence. It’s a tale dealing with death and overtaking it, descending to hell to come back on Earth in a virtual, non-historic dimension. It’s about the liberation of the voice, the capability of escaping sorrow through fantasy. That is why Lepanto is a film-fairy tale. Because Michael, Enrico and Maria would meet all of this pain in any case, but still there is the hyperbole of Mike as the Last Cangaceiro: a fight with no weapons, but with imagination, literary tumbles and global détournements. A film belonging to its own age, therefore internally fighting to reach transcendence.
Maybe just the lyrics of the ending song by Brazilian composer Cartola will complete the picture: a majestic aerial view of a see-land somewhere in between Italy, London and Brazil.
by Enrico Masi