This article was written exclusively for The Film Magazine by Rose Dymock.
The D’Innocenzo Brothers’ triumphant return to Berlinale, with their second feature Bad Tales, is indicative of the kind of profile that festivals are able to give new and upcoming directors. Their first film, Boys Cry, played in Berlin in 2018 as part of the Panorama strand, while Bad Tales took its place among such directors as Kelly Reichdert and Abel Ferrera in competing for the Golden Bear, the festival’s most celebrated award won in 2020 by There Is No Evil.
Still from Bad Tales (Favolacce).
Set in an isolated suburb of Rome, this woozy film tracks the lives of a group of families, each connected by tenuous friendships and the neighbourhood they live in, as summer stretches out ahead of them with dangerous consequences. With a large ensemble cast, Bad Tales examines the tensions and unease that begin to peek into the minds of those on the cusp of teenagehood. Here, in this affluent yet unhappy suburb, the tranquility of summer is disrupted by distant or violent parents, dealing with the issues and emotions that the children are unable to comprehend but who still experience the aftershocks of their actions.
Bad Tales has been a long time in the making. Damiano D’Innocenzo explained the writer-directors had “written the script when [they] were nine” and felt the need to tell the story now as they were “getting old” and wanted to have the impartiality to talk about children and adults in a way that felt realistic on both sides. For both directors, this is not a film about a generational vendetta – Fabio stated that the children “don’t have anything to complain about” as they live in the relative comfort of a middle class suburb – but is instead about the “profound” anger of childhood that is not vindictive but instead has a “virginal innocence”.
When asked about whether the childrens’ anger and subsequent actions are a rejection of the parental attempts to control their futures (when seeing the violent, misogynistic attitudes of their fathers, or the passive behaviour of their mothers, the children react against this) Damiano agreed, saying that children have a “strange way of looking” that is gradually lost as they enter adulthood and are forced to suppress their “innermost being”. For the brothers, Bad Tales is an observation of a reality that is “surrounded by harshness” – it is a film that features a sunny palette and slow, contemplative pace that hides the darkness lurking just underneath the surface.
The performances of the four main child actors – who were not present at the press conference – was also discussed, as were the issues of working with such a young cast dealing with difficult and upsetting topics. Damiano D’Innocenzo talked about how they had considered using an acting coach at first, but in the end decided against it as they did not want “a filter” between themselves and the actors. Both brothers were aware of the “huge responsibility” of working with such young children, and as a result decided only to inform the cast of elements of the plot in the moments prior to filming a scene.
When asked about the D’Innocenzo Brothers’ directing techniques, Ileana D’Ambra who plays Vilma, a heavily pregnant teen who skirts around the periphery of the children’s existence, said that she felt very “fortunate” to be allowed the space to improvise on her “first experience making a film”. Barbara Chichiarelli, the actress playing Dalila, the mother of Dennis, agreed, saying that being given the permission to improvise made the cast take on a “creative, almost authorial” role in the process of making the film.
The brothers’ approach to the division of labour when directing is “instinctive” and can change from scene to scene with no set plan of who will be in charge of each moment, and they paid credit to the producers Paolo Del Brocco and Giuseppe Sacca who allowed them the space to work in their “unfettered” way, even if they “[didn’t] understand what they were saying”.
Bad Tales is due for release on 16th April in Italy, with no release date for the UK or the US yet detailed.
Article by Rose Dymock
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Featured image courtesy of berlinale.de.