Interview with Bernardo Bertolucci, recipient of the EFA Lifetime Achievement Award
You made your first film LA COMMARE SECCA in 1962, exactly 50 years ago. Looking back at your career, what comes to your mind?
Bernardo Bertolucci: I hadn’t thought of it until now, thanks a lot for reminding me of my age! [laughs] I don’t look back or ahead. It feels like I have done my first film last year. I don’t feel this weight of half a century on my shoulders. I don’t know if this is a trick or a secret but it’s not chronological for me. Everything is around me, from LAST TANGO IN PARIS and 1900 to THE LAST EMPEROR and THE DREAMERS. Time is not linear in my mind, it all adds up to a wonderful minestrone!
Without your films, Italian and also European cinema would be a lot poorer. And now after almost a decade, you have the courage to return with a rather small film, IO E TE (Me and You), that almost exclusively takes places in a basement with two teenagers...
This is part of accepting the state I live in: after a series of operations on my back that went wrong I am bound to a wheel chair and for a long time I thought I wouldn’t be able to make another film. Until I accepted to be in this damn chair and said: That’s it. This acceptance made me start again. I knew I wasn’t able to make huge projects like THE LAST EMPEROR anymore. I had to find a new way to make films.
Now you receive the European Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. How did you learn about the honour?
Wim (Wenders, the EFA President) called me and said: Please come to Malta! And I said: Of course! It’s the first time I truly feel European.
Even though you made films in different European countries and also abroad? Don’t you consider yourself a European filmmaker?
Maybe when I receive the award I will finally understand what it means to be a European! I remember when Wim Wenders managed to get Ingmar Bergman out of his silence and made him come to the first European Film Awards. I remember sitting in front of him and for me he was the most beautiful man in the world.
How did filmmaking change for you over the last 50 years?
In the beginning it was very difficult: in the first five years or so I was not able to finance any movie. They offered me to do a Spaghetti Western but I said no because I wanted to do my own films. After LAST TANGO IN PARIS everything changed, I could have adapted the phone book of Rome! It became quite easy for me and I was able to do these megalomaniac projects. Suddenly I found myself in China shooting THE LAST EMPEROR which was quite strange. I tried to change with every film, not to repeat myself
With this new approach you take now, has your point of view on cinema changed?
I hope my point of view changes every time I move the camera!
Have you already thought about what you are going to say onstage in Malta?
No, but it will be short. I don’t like long monologues.
Interview: Thomas Abeltshauser
Bernardo Bertolucci (c) Brigitte Lacombe
"It's the first time I truly feel European"