Portrait: Alice Rohrwacher – Corpo celeste (Directors’ Fortnight)
17.05.2011 - Rohrwacher’s name certainly rings a bell to the ears of Italian cinema fans, since she’s the younger sister of the famous actress Alba. Alice grew up in Florence and firstly studied literature and philosophy at the University of Turin. She then did a master degree in screenwriting and documentary languages, as well as attended the courses of narrative techniques, screenplay and dramaturgy at the Scuola Holden. Together with Pier Paolo Giarolo she developed the documentary Un piccolo spettacolo in 2005, which won a prize at the International Documentary Festival in Rome. She then co-directed the short documentary Vila Morena with Alexandra Loureiro, produced by the Videoteca Municipal of Lisbon. In 2006, together with nine other directors, she made the documentary Checosamanca. During the last five years Alice Rohrwacher participated in several other film projects, contributing her work as a cutter and photographer.
Corpo Celeste is her first feature film, co-produced between Italy, Switzerland, and France. It is the story of Marta, a 13-year old girl who moves to Reggio Calabria with her mother after having grown up in Germany. In Italy, Marta immerses into a new world she has difficulties to adapt to. Rohrwacher arranges this coming-of-age story within a religious framework, since Marta is within preparations of her own confirmation. Confronted with the unfamiliar conditions of a rather moral society in Southern Italy, Marta is experiencing feelings of anxiety and otherness and is trying to arrange between contradictory worlds of tradition and consumerism, past and present.
Alice Rohrwacher, who has a German father herself, denies that Marta’s story has to do with her own biography. “As a director everything you make bears some traces of you, but that doesn’t mean it’s your own story.” In fact her inspiration for Corpo Celeste came by reading Nick Cave´s Gospel According to Mark and then further developed by including other subjects that were important for her. Telling about puberty within a religious context was a decision she made “because it was a subject about which I knew very little and I wanted to learn more.”
Delighted to take her first feature to Cannes, Alice Rohrwacher is thankful for her wonderful cast and crew. Especially for the young Yle Vianello who is playing Marta. “Yle comes from a very self-sufficient community based in the mountains of Tuscany. In many ways this background has given her an interesting outside or foreign outlook, which suited the character of Marta.” Alice Rohrwacher, who feels inspired from directors like Roberto Rossellini, Matteo Garrone, Claire Denis, Agnès Varda and Lee Chang-Dong, brings a fresh, female perspective into the Italian representatives at Cannes. Her debut film is undoubtedly a sensitive and elaborate portrait of a teenage girl and the community she lives in.
This article originally appeared in Nisimazine Cannes 2011 and is republished with the permission of Nisi Masa. The first edition of the Nisimazine Abu Dhabi film journalism workshop took place from October 14-23, 2010. The second edition will be held during the 5th Abu Dhabi Film Festival, October 13-23, 2011.