Reality-Quad-PosterFollowing on from the critically acclaimed crime drama Gomorrah, Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone returns with his latest picture Reality, entering into a somewhat different world to his previous project, as we focus on a man desperate to claim a spot on Italian Big Brother – and back at the London Film Festival when Garrone was over in Britain, we sat down to discuss his latest feature with him.

Garrone explains the similarities between Reality and Gomorrah, the religious connotations that exist, as well as telling us that this is his most difficult movie yet. Garrone also discusses his lead star Aniello Arena – who was discovered in a prison production, as the former criminal turned actor had to shoot the movie while serving a life sentence for a triple homicide…

Do you think that because the main theme in Reality is surrounding one man’s desire to be on reality TV – something that is quite prevalent over here in Britain – this could be a feature that could resonate with British audiences in the same way it has with Italians?

I don’t know because the television is not so important in this movie, it’s more a movie about the audiences. The television is a sort of fake paradise that you can reach but it’s not so focused on that problem. It’s more a movie about a black fairytale, and it’s a movie about how dreams can become our nightmares and a movie about the perception of reality and a movie about escaping from reality. It’s tragic, who would want to escape from reality?

In this case it’s a very normal family who have their work and their house, but their dreams are in another dimension of show business. It’s a movie about the system of show business, like Gomorrah was about the system of crime, and it’s about the victim of the system, so as you see the television programme is not so important. What is important is the idea that it’s like a lottery that everybody can win, and someone does win, so everybody buys the ticket [laughs] This is connected to society, you have to pay the money, and we are all a part of this system and this is why the character of the movie is not so far from me and my world, so we made this movie with this approach. It’s very simple and direct, to understand the choice of the character – sometimes I agree and sometimes I disagree, but always remain close.

Even though this does share similar themes to Gomorrah, it’s a whole different world – was it always your intention to try something completely different and move away from crime and violence?

It seems different, but I don’t think it is very different. As I said before, it’s all about system, and it’s all about losing, in a way. It’s visual and it’s connected with fairy tales and of course Naples is different, but the location is always important to talk about the character in the movie. In this case we wanted to show Naples as more decadent, melancholic, close to the cinema of 1960’s, commedia all’italiana, many great movies. The present is the water parks and commercial centres, places where you feel like you already on a set of a television show. So this contrast is something that is important in telling of the contradiction that we live in our country, but is also in yours.

You mentioned this is a dark fairy tale, was it difficult to combine that enchanting atmosphere with what is effectively a rather upsetting, moving story?

It was very difficult yes, to combine the fairy tale and the realism, to be believable. This balance was the most difficult thing to do. The place must be real and must be true, but at the same time also connected to our dreams, so it’s probably my most difficult movie. Also when you talk about television… television and cinema are very different to show and there are many risks and if you make an imitation of television it’s a disaster, you have to make an interpretation, it’s very tricky. Probably when you talk about crime organisations it’s more visual for the audience so you can surprise them more easily than talking about a television programme or something about an audition, so we have to reinvent but at the same time be true, to make a comedy but also be dramatic, to be real but to be abstract – that’s the challenge.

The film is very symbolic, lots of religious connotations – the Big Brother house is Luciano’s heaven in a sense – can you tell us about that?

Yeah when I heard about this story I found fun in the fact that these two guys – Luciano and his cousin, one believed in God and the other in Big Brother. The television is like a religion, and so I thought it was quite interesting visually, also.

Aniello Arena is brilliant as the lead role, am I right in thinking you discovered him at a prison production?

Yeah, in prison. I’ve cast many actors, but not many actors from the working class, we have a lot of good actors in Italy but not many from the working class. Most of them are middle class. Aniello was an actor that came from theatre but I thought he was perfect, his face is very strong. It was a big challenge for me and for him, but I thought it was better to run the risk.

Would you say that given his situation, he almost brings more to the role as this new world Luciano is entering into, is reflective of Aniello’s predicament?

Yes, I always try and connect the character with the person. In this case he didn’t bring to the character his past, his criminal past, but I’m sure that the way he look at the world around him, the purity is candid, and the surprise that you see in his eyes in connected to the fact that he has spent twenty years of his life in jail. So during the shooting he really discovered something, and this aspect I think gives something really unique to his performance. It mixes his talents as an actor and also to his past.

Were you ever worried about how the other actors might react to him being on set knowing of his history?

All the actors come from theatre so they are professional so they were a very close-knit group. So everybody was very happy to work with the others, and you know, now he is an actor. In twenty years he changed a lot, he made a crime when he was 23 and then twelve years ago he discovered a talent for acting and his life changed completely and now he is a completely different person from his past.

So what is next for you now? Do you think one day you may move to America or England do an English speaking feature perhaps?

Why not? I’d like to do it, but I want to wait for the right project, because when you jump on another cart it’s always very dangerous, so I want to be sure it’s the right project, and the risk is to lose, to lose yourself like Luciano – following the dreamland, in this case it’s Hollywood [laughs].