She’s a household name within the Italian industry as she’s been active since the mid Eighties. Elena Sofia Ricci has performed on stage, on the big screen as well as a part of a variety of Italian TV series. Her most recent role in Paolo Sorrentino’s movie Loro sees her impersonating Veronica Lario, former wife of ex Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
We managed to speak to her on the phone shortly after her London appearance at the Made In Italy’s festival at the Ciné Lumière in South Kensington.
You’ve recently wrapped up a round of press conferences and interviews in London, what was the film’s reaction, how did it go?
Really well. They adored the movie in London, just as they have done anywhere abroad for Paolo Sorrentino’s films. London’s reaction was beautiful, very alert, the public has welcomed those ironic, playful references made by the talented hand of Paolo Sorrentino’s, and has welcomed the human side of this story. He was interested more in the human aspect of the character.
His story has been told in many ways and by other film directors, whereas he was interested in the intimate, personal side of this man, of his story and of his phenomena, of the reason why they have all orbited around him. It can be said that all of it was truly appreciated, the film was understood properly, including the final theme of his solitude, which at some point seems to become the protagonist of this movie. In the end, all there’s left are these poor souls, it’s like a Greek tragedy, it’s that sort of vibe. I come from classical theatre, it’s easy for me to create a comparison..
Yes, I found it quite theatrical indeed, and I really enjoyed this digging into his human side, the reasons driving his actions, his solitude, and so on. So, let’s start with your role, where you interpret Veronica Lario, Silvio Berlusconi’s wife (at the time), not that well known outside Italy…
And not that well known in Italy also, she’s always been ten steps behind her husband. When I was looking for videos of hers, to see for example how she walks, how she moves, I found nothing..
That’s what I wanted to ask you… what did you make of her as a person while researching and preparing yourself for this role?
Well, for example not having found anything about her on video, and noticing how much this woman lived in the shadows, says a lot about her character.. On the whole, one imagines someone who’s very discreet, reserved, silent, quiet. And yet, this doesn’t mean she is not capable of deep feelings and profound considerations, including those made in that famous letter for us Italians published in daily newspaper Repubblica, when she said ‘I close the curtains on my life with this man’. I actually met her 5 years ago, way before I had any idea that Sorrentino would call me for this film and for this particular role. If someone had told me at the time, I would have said… that’s just an impossible thing to happen!
Yes, and I’ve met her in a hotel, we were both staying at this sea resort. She was there on her own, quite secluded, quiet, incredibly kind with everyone, very reserved. She used to come down, eat, read something and go away. She was always very polite, very discreet, not at all showy. This image I had of her also gave me a way in on my interpretation, of how to go about this character. I then also studied her biography. There’s a biography by Maria Latella, who’s Veronica’s dearest friend, a book called Tendenza Veronica which I read very carefully. I was surprised to find how much common ground we had, despite taking different paths, different situations. There were often some overlapping of our lives that have often coincided.
Can I ask you for some examples…? Or is it too personal?
Oh no, some things can be said, they are in her biography, it’s nothing that’s not already been put out there. For example, she lost her father very early on, and therefore she’s learnt early on not to disturb, not to bother her mother, who was already coping with this profound pain, therefore she wasn’t to upset her mum. It was like learning to tip toe. Now, I found my father again when I was 30, I didn’t have a father at all growing up, because my parents had a bad breakup and as a result I had to be the girl who didn’t cause any trouble, that didn’t upset her mother who had already endured plenty of suffering.
So this attitude of walking on tip toes, to avoid upsetting people, is something that affects me profoundly. So we had this aspect in common. As well as other much more ‘friendly’ aspects, like having a high school teacher that one didn’t particularly love at school but that ended up becoming mine and her close friend. I mean, it wasn’t the same teacher, but both of us had this great love for a teacher who, at the time, we both felt like we wished her to have a minor car crash while we were at college! (laughs).
Or, for example, the fact that she didn’t want to do her Holy Communion when she was 8, whereas I wanted to do it all costs because I wanted to dress up like a bride, with the big white dress and so on. And my mother, who was not a religious woman but had a profound respect for religion, asked me ‘why do you want to do it? Is it because you want to dress up like a bride and have a big party or what? I mean, you can do it if you really want to, but not dressed like a bride, you’ll have to dress normally’. And so, I didn’t end up doing it. So neither of us ended up doing the Holy Communion when we were eight! (laughs)
I wonder what she will think about this movie..
I know she’s seen the first part of the movie, I think she’s loved it, I think she’s appreciated Tony Servillo’s performance and mine, too. I’m not sure she’s seen the second part, because it could be quite painful for her to retrace some stages. I mean, this is my theory, I’m not sure, but I don’t think she’s seen the second part. There will be a willingness to get to know each other, but perhaps the time is not right yet. Over there, the film will come out in one whole section… Over there, you will see the reduced version, the one that’s been sold abroad, about to launch in the UK and in the US. It’s already come out in France, in Spain.. I think it’s been sold all over the world.
Now, what message would you give to a British cinema-goer with an average knowledge of Italian affairs about this movie? In a few words, how could you describe Loro and why they should watch it?
Sorrentino’s cinema is a type of cinema making that throws you in a sea of question marks. Whether you’re talking about Berlusconi or you’re talking about a certain way to go about life, about one’s social life, one’s political life, it doesn’t matter if it’s Berlusconi, what’s interesting are those dynamics that are behind some men and some women’s actions towards some existential places.
Therefore if one comes to the cinema to see Loro and sets about to see something that’s about human beings in general and not that particular human being, it could happen that they go to see them (‘loro’) and to come out and see ‘us’ because ‘those’ who populate Sorrentino’s movies seem to have come straight out of a Dante’s round, of course Dante’s Inferno (Hell), but then the film ends and… this is an important message I want to give to all who are going to watch this film. Do not leave before the end of the credits because in the very last part, right at the end, you’ll find the real ending of that movie.
Because that film ends on a tracking shot of other them (‘loro’), who hopefully inhabit all of our lives. So if one can see it as a metaphor, of other meanings, and if one doesn’t fall into the trap of wondering who are those people, who’s who, that we don’t have a Silvio Berlusconi, … well, the other side of the ocean there is a Trump who’s not that dissimilar… Anyway, there are these characters who we kind of carry inside, in our soul, in our history.
And thankfully, there are those ‘them’ (‘loro’) who make it to the end, because in the end, good people, people who help others… and that Christ stored there is, after all, a bit of all of us, us poor normal people who at some point in our lives have had to carry some kind of cross on our shoulders. And we will all end up, up there eventually.
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