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Cesare Pavese’s La bella estate becomes a film

Cesare Pavese’s La bella estate becomes a film

par Laura Pugno

Director Laura Luchetti, who has also directed Fiore Gemello, took part in the Cinema Made in Italy festival (11-14 June, Grand Teatret) organised by the Italian Cultural Institute in Copenhagen last June. She is now directing Cesare Pavese’s short novel La bella estate, a classic of twentieth-century Italian literature, for Kino productions. She answers our questions for italiana.esteri.it and newitalianbooks.

 

How did the idea of adapting Cesare Pavese’s La bella estate come about, and what was the process of transposing the book into a film?

I had recently read La bella estate and, by an incredible coincidence, shortly afterwards the producers told me that they had bought the rights to this magnificent coming-of-age story and asked me if I would be interested in adapting it… Pavese’s short story, which is so difficult to transpose to film because it has almost no plot but a great deal of sensual, evocative atmosphere, was a huge challenge. What this story does contain, however, is a universal narrative, applicable in any place and time. The story of a young woman coming of age, learning to accept herself and her sexuality. One of my favourite themes. How can you refuse? With love and terror, I began the transposition, respecting this magnificent author and with the intention of leaving the themes he dealt with intact, but translating them into a cinematic narrative and bringing the 1930s he told as close as possible to a contemporary language. It was important for me to leave the historical framework, so that it didn’t become a story about a subject that is hotly debated today (which would have made it less powerful), but the story of a universal theme. Today as yesterday. The theme of choice in love, of who and how, vehemently debated by today’s youth, was present in past generations. In short, it has always been there. It was essential for me to emphasise this point in my approach to history.

 

Through Pavese, what does this film tell us about contemporary sensibilities and how does the story told in La bella estate still affect us today?

This story touches us today because of its ability to tell the story of human nature, which changes little despite the times. It’s a story about coming of age. It tells of the courage to be oneself from a woman’s point of view.  It’s a look at female desire, so little told, it’s the thrill of a young woman who falls in love with another woman and finally accepts herself despite social and cultural pressures to the contrary. It’s a magnificent tale of freedom, the greatest freedom in my opinion, the freedom to love whoever you want and however you want.

 

The film premiered at the Locarno Film Festival on 4 August. What will its international tour be like, and how will this artistic operation help to make Cesare Pavese’s work better known to foreign audiences?

The film made a marvellous entrance in the Piazza Grande at the Locarno Festival, which attracts the largest audience in Europe, around eight thousand people. A great thrill. The film’s steps are now starting to move, and it has already been sold in many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland… It has also received invitations to international festivals, which unfortunately we cannot yet reveal, but which we hope will lead to international travel… Pavese certainly doesn’t need my film to be known abroad, but the fact that so many young people turned up at screenings with a brand new copy of the novel to sign, made me smile and hope that, especially as far as the younger ones are concerned, if the film makes them want to read a classic, then with this work we’ve done much more than we could have hoped for…..

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