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Karlovy Vary: Roberto Ando on Mystery Thriller ‘The Confessions’

Italian director discusses global politics, failure of capitalism, monastic orders

Roberto Ando Talks ‘Confessions’ at Karlovy
Courtesy: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

KARLOVY VARY — Italian director Roberto Ando’s latest film, “Le confessioni” (The Confessions), is a spiritual sequel to his 2013 hit “Viva la liberta” (Long Live Freedom). While his previous film provided a satirical look at Italian politics, “The Confessions” broadens the filmmaker’s canvass to skewer global economic institutions.

The mystery thriller, which is vying for Karlovy Vary Film Festival’s Crystal Globe, centers on a simple monk, played by Toni Servillo, who upsets the goings-on at a G8 meeting in a seaside hotel in northern Germany (the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm, which actually hosted a G8 meeting in 2007) after a high-ranking official is found dead. The film’s international cast includes Daniel Auteuil, Connie Nielsen, Marie-Josee Croze, Pierfrancesco Favino, Lambert Wilson and Moritz Bleibtreu.

Produced by Angelo Barbagallo, the film has already sold to a number of territories worldwide via Italian sales company True Colours, including major markets in Europe, Asia and Latin America. “The Confessions” was produced by BiBi Film in coproduction with Barbary Films.

Variety spoke with Ando in Karlovy Vary.

Your last film, “Long Live Freedom,” dealt with Italian politics. Was your intention with this film to examine global politics? 

Yes, I think it’s really connected with “Viva la liberta.” That film concerned politics and people who work in politics. Here, the film deals with people who work behind the scenes: Economists, people who work with the banks, where the money is. These are the only politics we have now. We don’t really have politics, it’s all only a question of money. It’s also connected to my previous film in that there is again a stranger. In “Viva la liberta” the stranger, also played by Toni Servillo, was [a political leader’s] twin brother, a crazy man. Here he is a monk.

In what way does the monk, a member of the Carthusian Order, who in the film seems to be the voice of compassion and rationality, represent the church?

Monks do not represent the church. They have always been separate and independent from the church. In many different situations, there have been conflicts between monks and the church. They live in a world of no power and sometimes they became too eccentric for the church. They work in agriculture, they restore books. They are people who take care of something. And they are disciplined.

Was the character of the monk influenced by Pope Francis, who is very different to previous popes and often speaks out against the wealthy who exploit the poor?

It’s interesting because we just came back from Argentina [where the film screened at Semana de Cine Italiano in Buenos Aires], and people were crazy about the movie, I think because it’s a place where all these kinds of problems are really evident, but also because of the influence of the pope. What I think is that the pope is an isolated man in the church. He is not the church, he is a stranger. The ideology — although it’s not really an ideology — of Franciscanism is taking care of something in a different way. For me, this is really the solution. In our world, we have arrived at a moment in which capitalism is not working any more. We have to deal from the standpoint of how to start again. This is the moment in which we live. ISIS is also a face of that, I think. … We have had 15 years of neoliberalism, and this is the real politics all over the world. There are no differences in all of Europe, leaders all speak about austerity.

What motivated you to tell this story?

I was very attracted to this monk and the chance to let him meet these people and see what happens. I saw him as a real character who explores this world that pretends to be rational, that pretends to be truthful and pretends to take responsibility.

What is your next project?

I’m writing a series. It’s the first series about politics. In Italy nobody has done that. We have seen “House of Cards” but we don’t have an Italian one, so I’m trying to do that. I will do it next year with RAI. It’s called “L’irresistible ascesa” (The Irresistible Rise). What interests me is mixing different situations in politics with the human side.