AFTER winning critical-acclaim for her debut feature Sworn Virgin in 2015, Italian-born writer-director Laura Bispuri returns to the big-screen with her ‘riveting maternity drama’ Daughter of Mine. Close-up Culture had the chance to speak with Bispuri and learn more about the film which is already gathering glowing reviews.
Q: Daughter of Mine is the title of your latest film. When did you first conceive this project and what attracted you to the story?
A: I THOUGHT about the movie for the first time many years ago – before my first, Sworn Virgin. It happened when I heard a strange story from a friend, a 20 year old girl, who lived in a normal family but wanted to be adopted by another mother.
I immediately thought that in this story there was something strong that I would like to tell. I started to investigate and I read A.M. Homes’s book The Mistress’s Daughter. Then there was Sworn Virgin but when I finished the movie, when it was time to look for a new story for my second movie, I found in my mind this old story.
For me in Daughter of Mine, which developed into something different from the tale of my friend, there is the possibility to dive inside maternity in a real way with the painting of imperfect motherood.
In the film there is also a strong mix between an archaic story – like in the biblical tale of Salomon – and a contemporary reflection on a new vision of classic parenthood.
Q: The film takes place in a remote Sardinian fishing village. Why did you pick this location?
A: I SPENT more or less two years scouting locations on Sardinia. Not two years continuously but from time to time I went to explore the island.
This part of the work was important and in many ways was the moment when I found my movie. For this reason in that moment I needed to be alone.
Everything I find and everybody I meet during a location scouting becomes part of the script process that I share with my screenwriter.
I picked this part of the island because it is a mix of a contemporary and an archaic world. Also, I picked this area for its particular light. There are salt flats, the lagoon and the sea, so the reflection of the light is strong and strange and I think this is important in the movie.
The little village of fishermen is a very specific universe – they are famous for the craft of making bottarga – but at the same time it can become a metaphor for a bigger world.
Q: Ten year-old actor Sara Casu has already received praise for her performance. How did you find the process of casting and working with a young actor?
A: THE search for Vittoria was long. I worked on it for eight months. I was not finding her until Sara arrived and I stopped the search.
Sara shocked me with her voice, for her particular colour of hair and skin – she could be Angelica’s daughter – and for her sensibility and strength. Right from our first meeting. I started to work with her and she put herself completely inside the movie without being crashed by this adventure. I have worked many times with young girls and boys and often cinema can be dangerous for their lives.
In this case Sara had a very strong centre on herself. This allowed me to ask her for very emotional feelings for a lot of scenes without fear and she went completely inside them. The movie was shot entirely with long takes which can be complicated sometimes. She responded in an incredible way to my emotional and technical requests. She is a talent.
Q: You had already worked with Alba Rohrwacher on Sworn Virgin. What did Valeria Golino bring to the project and to the creative dynamic?
A: ME and Alba were already in a strong and symbiotic relationship because during Sworn Virgin we also became friends in life. We share a lot and it is special.
It was not easy to create a new balance from the start, but during the shooting we built a particular triangle between us. We spoke a lot without filters in a true way. Valeria is an incredible actress and person and she put all of herself into the movie.
I spoke a lot with Valeria about her Greek origins and I think that we found something interesting for our work in this part of her life. Also, about the connection with her mother, who is Greek.
Then on location Valeria and I went together to the church with the Sardinian women and Valeria mixed among them. I think for the movie she did great work on herself, not only in her look (changing the colour of her hair and eyes) but also internally.
Now we have a great connection too. It is very special when a relationship is born from working together in an authentic way.
Q: I have heard you like to give freedom and space for your actors. How do you foster this atmosphere on set?
A: I ARRIVE on set with a clear idea of how to move the camera in the space. I shoot with long takes and before shooting I paint this movement in my mind and also on the paper, designing big camera paths.
In any case, I do not want a perfect movement of the camera. I use long takes not for the perfection of style that I hate, but to have the feeling of real life.
For this reason I put the actresses inside this big path of the camera and I try to offer them freedom inside it. For example the camera can change with a little movement if the actress turns against the window, so she is free to turn but she also knows that at one point she has to go to this part of the house.
I am not sure I can explain this clearly – it is a delicate and complex process. I always find a balance between my idea of movement in the space and little unexpected movements, dirty and real, along this designed path.
Q: Can you tell us about the film’s soundtrack and music?
A: MUSIC for me is the soul of the movie. I always work with the same compositor and we work before the shooting.
This way I have the music in my mind and heart during the shooting and I can also decide to put it on the set. In this movie I tried to do something different because during the rodeo, the first scene, and during the scenes in the bar, I used intradiegetic music in a strange way, close to an extradiegetic use.
In any case I like having the music of one take not overlapping another take. I cannot keep it over the cut with another scene, I do not know why, but that is what I do.
About the sound, I worked a lot to have a real sound from the village. I went back to Sardinia after the editing to record more sounds of the village and more voices. In the bar scenes I put the ambient sound very close to the dialogue and it was difficult, but I like it. For me it was important to have the real life of the village and to put two famous actresses inside this world, and the work on the sound help me with this balance.
Q: Can you tell us about the journey this film has taken you on and what you have learnt from it?
A: FOR me this movie is a journey to understand and tell the human complexity. The three women of this movie accept their complexity and they can go on. I learned that the complexity of everybody is a value.
Q: What is next for you?
A: I AM starting to think about this but I prefer not to talk about it yet.