Mario Martone, who is active as a director in theatre as well as in film, first made a splash on the festival circuit in 1995 with his Elena Ferrante adaptation “L’amore molesto” which went to Cannes. The last time he was in Venice was in 2014 with “Leopardi” which did great at the Italian box office and also travelled. Martone’s latest work “Capri-Revolution” is set in 1914 on the Italian island where a group of Northern European artists at the time formed a commune which helps emancipate an independent-minded young local woman, a goat herder named Lucia. Martone spoke to Variety about his fascination with Capri as a germinator of big societal changes that were to come. Excerpts

Let’s start with Capri. There’s a great quote at the beginning of the film describing the island as a place that is still “virgin territory.” 

Yes that’s a homage to late great writer Fabrizia Ramondino with whom I wrote my first movie “Death of a Neapolitan Mathematician.” Capri at the start of the 20th century attracted all these people that were driven towards utopia, or in any case change. Who wanted to overturn everything. There were some pretty extreme, anti-conformist personalities of many types. There was [the writer Maksim] Gor’Kij who was getting ready for the Russian revolution…and all this was very strange because the island is very particular…it’s like a piece of the Dolomites that was dropped into the Mediterranean, so it has this Homeric power.

There was also the German painter Karl Diefenbach

Yes, and his story fascinated me. Not so much what he painted, but they way he created a collective, a new form of society and him doing this experiment on this island, which is not an isolated place but is connected with the rest of the world.

As I understand it you also drew on similar utopian, or in any event deeply innovative, movements also happening elsewhere

Yes, there are several strands which led me from Diefenbach to Monte Verità in Switzerland where they had these communes, which are the forerunners of what will happen in the ’60’s and ’70’s. So the thing I really loved the most was to capture the dawn, the birth of these movements. That’s why it was very important for me to have such a young cast.

Talk to me about the casting

Well the cast are almost all under 30 and it took some time to assemble because the film is half in English and half in Neapolitan dialect. I had seen Marianna [Fontana] (who plays the goat herder) in “Indivisible”…I saw Reinout [Scholten Van Aschat] (who plays Diefenbach) in several films. They I went to Holland and saw him act in a small theatre…I’m a theatre person, so I like seeing actors on stage. The cast was chosen not just based on their talent, but also on their affinity with a certain spirit at the heart of the film. Before we started shooting we did a long workshop.

So what is the spirit at the heart of Capri-Revolution?

We are so burdened by all the failures of the 20th century. All the ruins of all the walls; all the things that have crumbled. There is a terrible distrust. What I liked about this story was to be able to breathe again the oxygen of that new hope, with all its contradictions and difficulties. The possibility of being able to imagine a future of freedom amid all the close-mindedness and oppressiveness we are going through today.