Study: Paolo Benetazzo Interview

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Study: Paolo Benetazzo Interview
Study is an individualistic and psychological drama by Paolo Benetazzo.  I spoke to Paolo about the film.

So tell me about “Study”.  What is it about?
Study is an independent film which follows a psychology student in the week before his final exam, discovering his life and exploring his mind. Starting on Monday, in the middle of his room, the student tries to study surrounded by his past and his present, obsessed by the concept of life and death, and tortured by the eternal struggle between science and religion. Each day is a distinct representation of how the student’s behavior can be influenced by interpersonal relationships and subsequently by society. His consciousness is revealed through a combination of memories, emotions and motivations in a six-day span, while one day is entirely focused on his unconscious cognitive processes. As the days go by, different people and situations interfere with exam preparation, leading the student to cross the line that separates him from his studies.
“Study is an individualistic and psychological film”.  What do you mean by that?
This film comes from a long introspective and experimental work developed by only one person over a period of five years. It deals with central concepts in human existence from a psychological point of view. In order to take the human individual as the unit of this work I tried to build a unique relationship between the camera and myself. Most of the shots in this movie were made by myself without any other operators or film crew members, even during the acting parts. What I was looking for was to experience a filmmaking individualism able to push my creativity and sensibility as deep as possible. Working with an open screenplay until the end allowed me to melt frame by frame the role of producer, screenwriter, director, cinematographer and actor.
Tell about your beginnings as a filmmaker and the origins of Study.
I am a self-taught filmmaker, I’ve never attended a film school. The constant vision of films along with real life experience represent the film school par excellence in my opinion. I consider films the greatest teachers of all and no matter how many I watch I will never stop learning from them. That’s what I love about cinema: it’s an endless source of inspiration.
At the age of 19 I began acting in a number of independent theater companies while I was attending psychology at the University of Padua. During the last years I started working on short movies and documentaries with a film company in the Venice area. But I couldn’t see any future in those kinds of projects, besides, every filmmaker had his own approach and finding a shared solution was rather tough. Nevertheless I was more and more fascinated by the study of psychology and its impact on modern life, so I seriously started considering exploring this connection in a full-length movie. And who better than a student to play the main role?
Why did you decide to set this film in Ireland? 
I was looking for a young and international city with some great naturalistic scenarios at the same time. So Ireland with its capital Dublin came up to my mind as the perfect place. It’s definitely a wonderful location to make a movie. Irish people are always ready to give you a hand and that‘s of basic importance, especially when you’re walking around the city with your camera or you’re in the countryside looking for instinctive shooting. Moreover, Dublin, with its historical universities, represents a modern centre of Education and, for the kind of movie I was making, this aspect caught my attention.
How is the Italian film industry for new filmmakers?
Honestly there is no such a thing as an Italian film industry for new filmmakers. All you can see is just the same old industry made by the same filmmakers and actors. With the exception of a few rare cases, nobody wants to invest in new ideas in Italy and nobody believes in new ways of making cinema. They are just stuck to the old stinking formula. Maybe that formula is working in the box office, but it’s not enhancing the value of our cinema. Because of this narrow-mindedness the independent cinema in Italy has no chance of survival. I am talking about the very same restricted mentality that reflects the actual social and economic situation and affects the new generation’s way of thinking. There are lots of young filmmakers and screenwriters around the country with innovative projects, but they can do very little about it, just because the carcinogenic Italian system is cutting them out. The power to change this situation lies in the audience alone. The audience should embrace new ideas, new films instead of leaving the choice to the market. The Italian neorealism era seems to be a wonderful dream compared to these days, it was the greatest moment of Italian cinema and we all have the responsibility to honour it and not to embarrass it film after film. For all these reasons, I’ve chosen English for my movie. And I’ve decided to initially promote the movie abroad because I was looking for a more open and dignified system.
You are the director, actor, writer, cinematographer and producer of Study.  How was that? Busy?! Stressful!?
Let me tell you, it was just like living a dream in hell…that’s exactly what it was. There were many days during the production of this film when I was thinking: “I can’t go on like this, I can’t make it anymore, at this point I should really give up”. But then I was looking back at the time when I was only dreaming of making such a long project. So I stood up again, I realized I was in the middle of something real now, something that I could take to an end and then I kept going on…and frame by frame I forced myself to think: “Only death can prevent me from completing this film, that’s all”.
Just seen the trailer, which is fantastic.  What are you trying to get across in the trailer?
Mainly I tried to express the atmosphere of the movie, emphasizing on some of its relevant themes. It’s a conceptual trailer in the end: a fragment of human psyche. It aims at combining three states of mind: the introspective calm at the beginning, the persistent doubt in the middle and the anxious chaos at the end. People are watching the trailer and they’re asking me: “Is this a horror movie? Is it a thriller? What kind of movie is it?”, but honestly I believe it’s none of them. In fact, I couldn’t place it in any specific genre. There are dramatic moments, just like horror or thriller but also romantic, realistic and even surrealistic ones. Like I was saying before, I rather think of this movie as an individualistic movie.
When is it coming out?
The post-production has been completed only a few days ago and the movie promotion has just begun. At the moment I am in contact with different distribution studios in the States, but it’s still kind of soon to talk about a release date, since “Study” will be screened in international film festivals before going to the theaters. Anyway, I’ll definitely post any news, festival premieres and release dates on the official website http://www.studythemovie.comWhat are the films and their makers that have inspired you?

I love so many films and filmmakers that I don’t even think it would be right to mention only some of them, but I also think that, no matter how much a movie can affect my spirit, I always try to keep a certain distance from it. Every great movie I admire is distinguished by a unique expression of creativity and I think that’s the way it should be for myself too. It’s getting so damn tough these days and the competition out there is just shocking, but if we’re talking about art and not money, what’s the point in reviving something already done? Maybe in the end I won’t come up with nothing original either but at least I tried and I’m not simply copying other artists.

Do you have any future projects we can talk about now?
There’s a lot going on my mind lately, but I can’t deny that I am also totally involved in promoting “Study” right now. What I must do is try to reach a balance so that I can start writing the screenplay for my second film. Something I had in mind long before making “Study”. Another very complex and ambitious project conceived to be shot in either London or New York. So that’s probably my future: leaving Italy again and start filming in another city I love.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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