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‘Space’ director faces life and death

Comencini's film receives warm response at fest

Post-natal anxiety and the intense vitality of the city of Naples were the two main themes for helmer Francesca Comencini in making “The White Space,” which screened in competish to warm response on Tuesday.

Pic follows special education teacher Maria, who’s in agony about whether her incubator-ridden daughter, Irene, will live after being born prematurely in a Neapolitan hospital.

It is based on the eponymous novel by young Neapolitan author Valeria Parrella.

“There is something in Naples that palpitates very strongly, just as Irene’s heart is palpitating in the incubator,” said Comencini.

Comencini, who has three kids, certainly had an empathetic connection with motherhood.

But to capture Naples, the Rome native, whose mother is Neapolitan, relied largely on Parrella.

“We met, and something clicked. She wanted me to make a movie from her book, and I wanted to make it. But we both agreed that she would not work on the script,” said Comencini.

“But she showed me locations in the Naples’ Montesanto neighborhood where it is set — the Naples portrayed in the film is the Naples of Valeria Parrella; I let her lead me,” she added. 

Parrella, who was at the press conference for the film, said she is very happy with the adaptation.

Of course Naples, last seen on the international fest circuit in Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah,” is far from an idyllic city.

Indeed, Comencini included several shots staged in the Montesanto cable car. She recalls that sometime later, while she was editing the film, “a Romanian accordion player was killed by a stray bullet in the same cable car station, and nobody stopped to come to his aid.”

As for maternity, Comencini also took her cues from Parrella’s book, which she called “very dense.”

“Its white spaces are like windows that you can open. And there was room for things that I know as a mother,” she said. “Maria’s anxiety, ultimately, is the anxiety of the ambivalence between life and death, which is inherent in all pregnancies.”

 Pic, which is produced by Domenico Procacci’s Fandango, will be released by RAI Cinema in October. Fandango/Portobello is handling international sales.

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