"In a time where creativity is manipulated, astonishment is not a trivial emotion. It's a lifestyle"
An interview with Massimiliano Finazzer Flory | Being Leonardo da Vinci | VMA19 Best Inspirational Film | July Edition
Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most incredible players in Italian and world art history. Endowed with an unstoppable curiosity, intelligence and creativity, and amazing explorer of the intricacies of the human mind.
A raw talent able to express concepts of logic and emotions so anachronistic for his time, obsessively searching for answers to too complex questions, and proud spokesman of an extraordinary awareness of things obtainable only through reasoning.
Despite the astounding written records of his thought handed down to us through his numerous writings and projects, we still have the bitterness of not being able to ask him questions anymore, which would certainly change our way of seeing the world and open our minds even further.
500 years after the death of the great Tuscan genius, another great Italian artist, Massimiliano Finazzer Flory, managed to turn this impossible interview into reality, in a movie that won at the Vegas Movie Awards as Best Inspirational Film - Award of Excellence, where Massimiliano himself plays the part of the great Master.
Here is the beautiful interview that Massimiliano has granted us.
• Ciao Massimiliano! First of all congratulations on your win as Best Inspirational Film - Award of Excellence at the Vegas Movie Awards. You are being acknowledged as an ambassador for your significant contribution of ‘Italian art’, both in Italy as on an international scale. We see you winning awards and receiving very important honors. You decided to direct a movie about the Italian genius Leonardo Da Vinci. What impact did the movie had on your personal life?
It increased the dose of ‘astonishment’ in my life. A feeling that I love because it is one of the oldest, yet essential emotions that human beings can feel. Being ‘surprised’ in a time where creativity is manipulated. Reflecting about all sorts of topics and realizing that there is nothing better than having the opportunity to ‘think by yourself’, that’s what has enlightened my personal life. Astonishment is not a trivial emotion, it is a lifestyle. Thanks to Leonardo and his view points, we realize how much beauty lies within all living species.
Bringing Leonardo Da Vinci back to life, symbolizes the identity of the Renaissance, originated in Italy, but still noticeable in the whole wide world as a duality: the co-existence of art and science as well as religion standing next to rationality.
• The movie is a remake of an international theater piece that traveled around the world. It was showcased in premiere in London in 2012 in occasion of the exposition that was dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci. How did you come up with the idea of a theater piece and, later on, felt the need to transform it into a feature?
The aim of the theater piece, that leads to the movie, serves a guideline on how we should live our lives. From my point of view as an actor, the lyrics are king and the power of it lies in the chosen language. When I discovered the fascinating Italian language that was used in the 14th century and the freedom that I felt when using all these complex thoughts and poetic words, I fell in love with the project.
Like Leonardo himself used to say: “Love and knowledge are the two souls of the project”. They have always influenced ideas and actions, first in the theaters and now on big screen. Today all big writers find themselves in front of the same challenge. Interpreting a dramaturgy or a film script means that we have to become a part of a movie that will have no end.
The psychological transfer that takes place when I research or act, is a natural process based on two values: honesty and kindness. Honesty means that in order to become a specific character and adopt his humanity, one must ask himself every day during weeks, months- and in the case of Leonardo for years-, the following question. Who am I? The identification with the persona is a process that has to be completed. Before that process takes place, many contradictions, insecurities, virtues, nervous break downs, dissatisfactions, ... will rise.
The component ‘kindness’ is needed because one may never take advantage of the identity of the character and transform it into a caricature or use it for other means.
The film reflects exactly what Leonardo wanted and indicated: the mixture of genres, the continuous and creative contamination between styles.
• How difficult was it to identify yourself with a character so fascinating, but at the same time incredibly complex like Leonardo Da Vinci? How difficult was it to edit a script in the original ancient language that Leonardo used?
In order for the project to be worthy of Leonardo, it was necessary to have an approach that was not only interdisciplinary, but capable of integrating all his experiences, the institutions that for years had dealt with Leonardo. Each on its own way, but in the end all converging in placing the experience at the center of ‘complexity’. From this point of view the film reflects exactly what Leonardo wanted and indicated: the mixture of genres, the continuous and creative contamination between styles. • 'Being Leonardo da Vinci' is a project that must have required much more effort and time compared to other films, given the use of locations, the authentic works of art, the original documents from the Italian state archives and their in-depth study with so many artistic, philosophical and science concepts that are still so innovative today. How did you manage to make this film and who had your back during the execution of this ambitious project?
The realization of the movie took me two years, but I feel that’s ok. Today things are done too quickly. Especially in the movie industry, which is a pity, since it requires time to create a piece that deserves the tag of ‘seventh art’. Photography, above all had to make the difference, because as a director I wanted to constantly adapt it to Leonardo's indications. I tried to link it to his theory of painting: shadow, light, surface, proximity and distance. The intersection of points of view had to create a dialogue between theater and cinema, photography and music. To achieve this, it was necessary to mix- as the late Renaissance genius did-, tradition and innovation. From a cinematographic point of view this meant following the natural filming process without fearing critic and daring to make a courageous choice between for example a traditional camera held on the shoulder and a modern drone.
• How much time did the adaptation from the stage play to your film version take? It must have been a complicated process, considering their diversity in terms of rhythm and the audience to which they are addressed? Not to mention the different background of the collaborators.
“Work, work, work.” This was the famous answer of Giuseppe Verdi - the Italian classical music composer -, when asked what his secret to success was.
If we consider cinema still as a collective work, the result of teamwork…Then I would say that a film, from startup till post-production phase, offers a marvelous life experience to its crew. But when women and men, with a demonstrated experience in theater, meet at the cinema, the experience is completely different and moves towards a deeper alliance where the company leads to a new family.
• We witnessed a great synergy between the characters of Jack and Francesco, represented by the outstanding Jacopo Rampini and Gianni Quillico. They managed to turn the movie into an extremely intimate and fascinating story. How did you meet? Will you be working together in the near future?
We will certainly continue to spend time together, because this is also a part of the artistic challenge. When I choose actors, artists, collaborators, above all I choose friendship. I choose people I. I would like to quote the great, but far too unknown literary figure of Jorge Louis Borges: “I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities I have visited.”
Out of the three enlightenment values of freedom, equality and fraternity, the last is the one that matters the most to me in this particular moment.
• Speaking from an artistically and philosophically point of view, how much "Leonardo" do you think there is in Massimiliano Finazzer Flory?
When I decided what the title of the theater show would be, I had already-unconsciously-, foreseen the feature. Being Leonardo, just as Being John Malkovich, meant having a broader internal direction, an inner guide, feeling directed by a higher consciousness. I felt thrown into history. On the one hand, I feel like this every single time I become ‘someone else’. After all, my specialty is biographies. But in the case of Leonardo, I feel like I am interpreting a prophet. Leonardo has always been a part of me, ever since I was a child. Maybe because my childhood had many similarities with Leonardo’s life: we are both left-handed, we have a fascination for unpaired numbers, our battle against the unwritten rules of society, our large imagination, the creative distraction and the myth of the body, and last but not least using dissatisfaction as an activator in any competition. Those elements unite us, sort of speaking.
• With this film you proved to master a great talent. Are you considering the production of a new film project? If so, would you like to share a scoop with us?
I notice that many persons today are ashamed of their bodies, but only a few are ashamed of what goes on in their head. I stand on the side of those who want to learn, grow and change. Cinema for me is now an open road and I feel like I'm on my way...I wrote to DiCaprio and asked him if- for the sake of our Leonardo-, we could partner up and do something for the environment combining science and art.
I notice that many persons today are ashamed of their bodies, but only a few are ashamed of what goes on in their head. I stand on the side of those who want to learn, grow and change.
• We know that you are planning a tour in the United States of America. Where can our readers find you in the upcoming months?
I will be touring in the USA, starting from fall and mostly on the West Coast, from October 13 till 24. October 14 > Albuquerque; October 15 > Santa Fe; October 17 > Las Vegas; October 18 > Los Angeles, UCLA; October 20 > Orange County. From November 16 till 22, you can find me in New York.
• One last question: what would you advise younger generations that pursue an artistic career?
Study, study, study and philosophize! Don't be afraid to be a bit melancholic, be yourself, hang out with old wise men and keep your life together by exercising. Find a place for boxing and yoga in your daily life, a let it be a metaphor for fair fighting and deep meditation.
• Thank you for this wonderful interview, it was a pleasure and a great honor to have two great artists like Massimiliano Finazzer Flory and Leonardo da Vinci at the Vegas Movie Awards.
I am sure that Leonardo, who was born in Vinci- a small town less than an hour drive from Florence-, would have been very happy with this invitation to visit the city of Las Vegas. I believe he would have considered it more interesting than staying in Rome to quarrel with the Pope on quantum physics.
I am a European who loves America. My nationality is Italian, but I owe France a lot because of the incredible recognition I received over there. It is also true that I have always dreamed of leaving, even just a tiny, sign of my life in the United States, that I consider my second home. I am now succeeding in my attempts.
Even in New York, the city where I live when I am in the US, I have always fought against prejudice and stereotypes. In Italy, the city of Las Vegas is synonym to entertainment and gambling, but I have experienced it’s not always like that. I have encountered creative resistance in Nevada, but also in some other states. I a way I am discovering a different, sensitive, cultured America, which I enjoy collaborating with and above all become a part of it.
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