Beauty Beyond Truth: A Workshop with Paolo Sorrentino


Great Beauty, a film by Italian director and screenwriter Paolo Sorrentino, was followed by the author’s workshop in a packed hall. Asked to comment the title of his movie, Sorrentino admitted that Great Beauty was a title of an unshot script by his friend. He further explained that the working title of this script was Human Apparatus.
Answering to a question as to why he chose a 65-year-old cynic for a protagonist and to what extent the main character was similar to the director in real life, Sorrentino noted that he had always made films about people older than him. He then felt the need to soften the word cynicism.

This is about a disenchanted worldview. Behind this worldview there is sentimentality. Such cynicism is, in fact, a need for beauty, and, at the same time, it owes much o great literature which is often cited in the film.

Commenting on a remark that in his film Rome was portrayed neater and cleaner than it actually is, Sorrentino described his view of a relationship between reality and fiction.

Beautiful images are not a lie. I do not like naturalistic films nor do I shoot movies which denounce. When I was shooting a movie about Giulio Andreotti (Il Divo), I realized that his public life was well-known to everyone, while people knew almost nothing about his private life. This is why I invented his private life. When he commented on the film, Andreotti said that all instances of his private life were true unlike those political ones taken from the public domain. Relationship between reality and fiction is complex.

Asked if he used any special effects to make the picture look hyperreal, Sorrentino replied negatively. He also commented on a general use of technologically advanced aides.

When you have many options, you should use the simplest one.

The author of the Italian nominee for Oscar explained why he focused on fiction in his movies.

I don’t like movies which are too realistic… Also, it is often very difficult to tell the difference between the fake and the real. Sometimes when I think something is real and I shoot it, it looks completely fake on the screen. But I often shoot fake things and people tell me: Oh, how real this is!

Asked to explain the way in which he was writing his scripts, Sorrentino stressed that he used intuition to a great extent.

I write very fast because I don’t like writing. … I also make many notebooks about my future films. I steal many ideas from other films.

Commenting on his work with actors, particularly with Toni Servillo, the director said:

The most important thing is that the actor should trust the director, not that the director should trust the actor… At the beginning, nobody trusted me. Of course, when you make your first movie, it’s easier because the people can see what you have done.

Asked to explain the motive of Great Beauty’s protagonist, Sorrentino was at first reluctant, but in the end finally conceded:

He has a great chance to put order in life if he writes. Like me. This is what he realizes in the end.

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