FILMATIQUE: Il Solengo focuses on the life of Mario de Marcella, a solitary man living outside of society about whom many stories are told, but little very is known for certain. How did you encounter this man, and what inspired you to tell his story?
ALESSIO RIGO DE RIGHI & MATTEO ZOPPIS: The story of Solengo was told to us during a lunch break while were shooting our previous documentary, Belva Nera. Our hunter friends recalled the life of the hermit Mario, his tragic past, and some special episodes that he personally lived or talked about. We were struck by the narrative potential that his story had to offer— the hunters opened our eyes to the contradictions of oral narratives, as well as the charms of an Italian rural world that resists modernity to the extent that it's as though modernity did not exist.
With Solengo we tried to recreate the sensations we experienced during that lunch, and played with the form of the documentary itself in order to stage the impossibility of enclosing one's life in a movie.
FLMTQ: Some of the film's more comical moments arise from interactions between the other hunters— for example, over the usefulness of a chair. What motivated you to depict this 'other side' of Italian culture: the authentic world of men living off the land, in the wilderness? What do you believe this life has to offer— petty arguments, quotidian details, walks through the forest— that mainstream cinema does not? Why is it important?
ARDR & MZ: We felt that these older people had something to offer, so we listened to them and let them build the story with their own words: listening to them almost gives you the same emotion of reading a fairy tale. In making our film, we didn't take into account the distance between mainstream cinema and auteur cinema— we work with total freedom, letting people and places take the center of the scene. We were guided by our instinct, while orchestrating the stories of our characters in order to build a myth around the life of Mario the Solengo. But the real world is, inevitably, contaminated by our imagination.
FLMTQ: Filmed interviews in their shared hunting lodge reveal that these men are also singularly obsessed with Solengo's origins, his history, his life. Disparities arising between these ever-evolving and conflicting stories qualify Il Solengo as a meditation on the nature of storytelling itself. How do you believe cinema can act as a tool for us to challenge our preconceptions, our idea of truth?
ARDR & MZ: The intent was to build a film in which words shape the images and not the other way around. Starting from this assumption, Mario's character is built through memories, often contradictory, about his life.
We didn't want to make an investigative documentary. We wanted the different portraits of the character to strike the spectator in a manner that he would leave with the feeling of not having come to an absolute truth. We were not interested in locking Solengo's character into a single story, but rather to transcend the story itself by revealing a story's full potential.