London-schooled Italian director Duccio Chiarini is in Locarno with his second feature “The Guest,” an end-of-relationship drama-comedy which was launched as a project at Locarno’s Alliance for Development initiative, after which the script was developed at Cannes’ Cinefondation La Résidence. It’s an end-of-relationship drama triggered by a pregnancy scare. The couple’s breakup prompts the protagonist Guido, who is pushing 40, to wind up sleeping on friends and parents’ couches in homes where he witnesses the fragility of other relationships. “The Guest” will screen Thursday on the Piazza Grande, a clear indication that it’s considered a potential crowdpleaser. Chiarini spoke to Variety about making the transition from his micro-budget debut “Short Skin” to larger scale, albeit ultra-indie, production and why he thinks that, though it stems from typically Italian woes, “The Guest” can speak to global audiences.
Do you have a personal connection to this story?
Yes. It’s something I started working on many years ago, born of a personal experience. In part because after a relationship ended I actually wound up as a guest in several people’s homes and, more importantly, in those homes I picked up a lot of stories. Before making this film I shot “Short Skin” [about a teen whose drive to loose his virginity is complicated by his suffering phimosis, or a short foreskin] which was prompted by a much more autobiographical element. So afterwards when I re-read the script [for “The Guest”] I realized that, more so than some of its more frivolous parts, the aspect that still stuck with me was the difficulty of establishing deep connections; this difficulty of becoming an “us,” of becoming a couple, today.
While I’m sure this problem exists everywhere, in “The Guest” the disconnect seems to be prompted by the impact of Italy’s depressed labor market that is stunting the ambitions of Italy’s new generations. Have you asked yourself whether this film will resonate outside Italy?
I have to say I’m curious to see if it will speak to everyone. It’s true that there are some [typically] Italian social aspects in the film that are not necessarily the same as what you might find in Switzerland, France, or England. Especially when it comes to Italian youths entering the job market late and often in precarious positions…which has deep — if not immediately apparent — consequences on relationships. But I don’t think that’s the only aspect. I worked with international writers and script editors on the screenplay. The project was developed within the Cannes Cinefondation, and then at Torino Film Lab. What triggers the breakup is that Guido’s girlfriend realizes that her journey as a student now in the workplace has led her to wanting something more. Her dissatisfaction leads her to not wanting to be crushed into an old-fashioned maternal/feminine role. But I don’t want to tell a story that is just Italian. I want to portray a modality of being together that couples have today, which is being redefined.
The film has a very specific tone. How would you define its genre?
I’ve been trying to understand where the line lies between bittersweet comedy and dramedy. It’s as though [in this film] I kept crossing that line in both directions. It’s in the DNA of this story to oscillate a bit. But that’s true of all stories I want to tell. I toe that thin line that separates irony from tragedy, or at least sadness.