“I am a product of my dream. Even as a child, I wanted to be an actress and enter this world, even though it was very far from my reality,” said Monica Bellucci at the Torino Film Festival, where she accepted the Stella Della Mole Award for Artistic Innovation.
Bellucci also held a masterclass at the National Cinema Museum of Turin, discussing her career alongside Antongiulio Panizzi, who directed her recently in “The Girl in the Fountain.” In the film, which screened for the first time at the festival, Bellucci plays Anita Ekberg, the Swedish star famous for her role in “La Dolce Vita.”
“Back then, Italian women would exist mostly within the domestic world. When Ekberg, already so different physically, arrived and allowed herself to be so free, also economically, it was as if a bomb exploded in that society,” said Bellucci, discussing Ekberg’s rapid ascent and then her descent, which was “abrupt and painful.”
“Many times, art comes from pain. This woman has given so much to cinema, perhaps unconsciously, she was so full of light, beautiful, has experienced so many things and then ended up alone, in a wheelchair and died in a hospice. It was nice to give her back her dignity.”
In order to bring them together, they turned to the role played by dream sequences in the film. “It’s a wink at Fellini, who loved [dream sequences] very much,” said Bellucci, also mentioning her brief role in David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks,” in which she featured in the dreams of FBI deputy director Gordon Cole, played by Lynch himself.
“When we sleep, all these strange things happen and then: Cut! We are in another scene, but there is still a connection. Because Lynch thinks like Fellini, and because he meditates a lot, he gives a lot of importance to dreams. If you have something strong to give, it doesn’t matter how long you are on the screen. When I want to work with a director, five minutes are as important as two hours.”
Noting that the internet has changed stardom forever – an era when “nothing is untouchable,” she said – Bellucci said that new freedoms also came with it.
“In the past, being beautiful was inseparable from being an actress. Today, it’s not. Women can be beautiful in a thousand different ways,” she said, listing some of the films that changed her career, from “Irréversible” and “The Passion of the Christ” to the little-seen “Rhino Season” and comedy-drama “Malèna,” directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.
“When I watch [‘Malèna’], I watch it with gratitude. I was still a model when I did a commercial with Tornatore [for Dolce & Gabbana]. He told me: ‘I have this film in my head and if I ever make it, I will make it with you.’ I went on to make my first French film ‘The Apartment,’ then my first American film ‘Under Suspicion’ with Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman, and one day he called, saying: ‘Do you remember that film?’ I am tied to it in the most incredible way.”
While Bellucci has worked with more male directors, her relationship with female helmers is different, she said. The actor will soon collaborate with Catherine Hardwicke on “Mafia Mama.”
“With women, we sometimes look at each other and understand each other without words. Also, a woman can’t lie so much to another woman. With men, we are a bit more cunning. I love men, but women inspire me,” she said, pointing out that both sexes should really learn to communicate better.
“A war won’t lead us anywhere. We need you, you need us, and this evolution of ours, this search for equality, actually frees you too. You used to be forced to take on this role of a knight who has to save everyone from everything. Now, we arrive, saying: ‘We can help you.’ You don’t have to do it alone.”
Compared to Mona Lisa by a member of the audience, Bellucci named Italian actresses as her biggest inspiration, from Anna Magnani to Sophia Loren, noting that she tries her best to remain level-headed.
“You have made me soar so high that I need to go home; my daughters will help me get back on the ground in two minutes. I’m glad to hear that I can make people dream. We all need it.”