La meglio gioventù



THE BEST OF YOUTH tells the story of an Italian family from the end of the 60s till nowadays. The lives of two brothers, Nicola and Matteo, are at the heart of the story. At first they share the same dreams, the same hopes, the same books and friendships. Meeting Giorgia, a girl with mental disorders, will be determinant for the future of the two brothers: Nicola decides to become a psychiatrist, Matteo abandons his studies and joins the police.

Angelo - the father - is a loving parent and husband. The family experiences his exuberance with tolerant complaisance. Adriana -the mother - is a modern and irreproachable teacher, who loves her pupils like her own children.
Then we have Giovanna, the eldest daughter, who joined the magistracy very young, and Francesca, the last member of the family. She will marry Carlo, Nicola's best friend, who will take up an important role in the Bank of Italy and will - therefore - be in the sights of terrorist groups during the "leaden years" ('Anni di piombo' known as the "leaden years" is the term given to the 1970s in Italy, as the decade was marked by violent protest and intense terrorist activity) . These are the members of the family.
The last characters are Giulia, Nicola's greatest love, who will give birth to Sara, and Mirella, who will bump, in different moments and different ways, into the lives of Matteo and Nicola.
Through this little group of characters La Meglio Gioventü deals with the most crucial events and sites of Italy's history: Florence during the flooding, Sicily and its struggle against the Mafia, the great football matches that saw Italy's national team playing against Korea and Germany, songs that mark an epoch, Turin during the 70s with its blue-collar-workers, Milan during the 80s, the youth movements, terrorism, the crisis during the 90s, the efforts made to rebuild and reinvent a modern nation. Our characters will reluctantly pursue their passions: they will stumble over history, they will grow up, hurt themselves, nurture new illusions and put themselves at stake again. Like it happens for everyone.
THE BEST OF YOUTH - both the title of a Friulian poetry collection by Pier Paolo Pasolini and an old song, sung by the Alpine troops - is the portrait of a generation, that tried - despite its contradictions, its ingenuous and violent furies, its authoritative voice, sometimes out of tune - not to accept the world as it is, but to make it a little bit better than they found it.

Director's Statement

... a few years ago Angelo Barbagallo proposed me to direct THE BEST OF YOUTH. I had already been working with Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli for the screenplay of Pasolini, an Italian Crime and I knew it would have been an interesting project. The first pages already captured me. I always thought of it as a single corpus, a single movie; dividing it up into episodes for the television was merely accidental. At the same time, such an articulation produces a length that cinema can't afford: six hours time, an infinite lapse of time, almost novelistic: it allows you to follow the life of many characters and many parallel stories, it enables you to dilate what we have to cut out, to synthesise in a movie. Moreover — besides the challenge itself - it had been RAI, the Italian State Television, that had commissioned us to teil an important chapter of our history, of our country, of our time. It would have been wrong not to encourage such an effort. They asked us not to work on stereotypes, but, on the contrary, to develop an original point of view, completely different from all the standards of serial products. It was one of those rare cases in which we had been asked to do a "public service". The conditions were particularly favourable: a significant productive dimension (guaranteed by the reliability of a producer like Angelo Barbagallo) and a complete freedom in putting together the cast and choosing the crew.

Italian cinema often presented stories of families, like THE EARTH TREMBLES or ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS and THE DAMNED by Luchino Visconti, FISTS IN THE POCKET by Marco Bellocchio, THE FAMILY by Ettore Scola. More recently also Gianni Amelio dealt with the topic of the family in THE WAY WE LAUGHED, and even THE HUNDRED STEPS, if we want, talks about a conflict within the family and about the relationship love /hatred that tears at its members. In THE BEST OF YOUTH there's one scene — when Matteo returns to his family on New Year's Eve - that resembles a similar scene of ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS, when Simone (Renato Salvatori) returns back home. I loved Visconti's movies when I was a young man. I was bucking the trend: during the 70s my friends devoted to cinema thought that I was a little bit unorthodox! Rossellini was their idol and compared to him Visconti was just a bulky wreck. To be honest, I loved both and never understood why we had to take side for one of these parties. The good thing about cinema is that you can see and love many different things, even antithetic ones: Cinema has no rules — says Godard — that' s why people still love it! Therefore: Visconti as well as Rossellini. In THE BEST OF YOUTH you can discover both influences. Of course, it is very different from their movies - it couldn't be otherwise. But if s like the painters of the Trans Avant-garde — Chia, Clemente, Cucchi: they tried to reinvent a relationship with the classical painting. In a very indirect, maybe only virtual way, there is a feeling in this movie that reminds us of those movies. I didn't try to recreate the style: there's no evident quotation or if there is one, it's very distorted and hidden.

Lately I realize I identify myself with all the protagonists of a movie. At one time it was natural to espouse a point of view, to take part, to back someone. Now I don't elude the charm of characters that are completely different from me, even the most distanced. For example: Nicola and Matteo, the two brothers protagonists of THE BEST OF YOUTH, come from the same family; presumably they had the same education, did the same studies, had the same friendships (there's just one year difference between the two brothers) and thus, they couldn't have been more different. There's something in them that rhymes: a same sensitivity, a similar love for culture. Matteo's sensitivity is almost pathological and prevents him from growing up, whereas Nicola is capable of defeating, of elaborating his ghosts. Even though he will have to deal with disillusion, he won't be held hostage, but will try to transform it in experience. With whom do I identify myself more? With both of them. I have been a tormented, negative, almost self-murdering boy, like Matteo. But, at the same time, I've been volitive, idealistic and happy like Nicola. Matteo is very gifted: he loves books and poetry, is curious about people, but doesn't have the courage to exploit these capabilities, to choose them for his life. He even becomes a policeman, because then he won't have to take decisions any more. The others will take decisions for him and he will just follow orders. The barrack, the uniform (just to be like the others) are for him the rule and the order in that chaos he doesn't stand any more. On the contrary Nicola is able to transform his university studies which do not interest him very much (at the beginning he's a doctor not really convinced about his vocation), into his raison d'etre. He takes every chance to know himself better. As soon as fortune favours him, he mounts it, without being afraid of falling down or getting hurt. On the contrary, Matteo's emotions, even the most generous ones, perish, because he's not able to follow them. Matteo is a list of unaccomplished things, a would-be-artist (at the beginning he cultivates the passion for photography) who will end up taking photographs of corpses and scenes of the crimes for the forensic police. He falls in love with Giorgia and loses her because of his shyness, because he's afraid of dealing with a relationship that will be difficult. The same thing happens with Mirella, even though she appears to him as a very sunny and enamoured person. Nicola is not afraid of women, doesn't fear them. He falls in love almost every second, "he loves the idea of being in love", as Jules says about Jim in Truffat's movie (I used the main theme of Jule et Jim's soundtrack in THE BEST OF YOUTH!). Nicola falls in love with people, with friends, with intellectual affairs, always ready to pack his bags and set off. Women are for him like the key to knowledge. He competes with them; their emancipation isn't confusing nor intimidating. He feels them similar, near. A quality he'll keep even in his later years, and not only for the sake of seducing them: Nicola is deeply, intimately on their side. There is even a feminine element in him.

You need the language to communicate, but also to hide things: it is the first form of alienation. In each and every relationship there is something that is not said, something that lies underwater, when words sound like intentions. This happens even more often in family relationships: here we have the greatest affection as well as the biggest disagreements - a sort of hidden aggressiveness. I'm not trying to put up a psychoanalytic thesis, but more a phenomenological one; as a director I'm dealing more with how it happens than why it happens. The why is more important for the actors, because they have to build up a motivation. A director is more concemed with recreating as precisely and naturally as possible the way people exchange or hold back signs. In every family, where such ways are exasperated, there's something intimate, embarrassing, something shameful. We protect ourselves from the other members of the family -from our parents, from our brothers, from our children- for we know that this love needs to raise limits, censures. Even more: it needs to become inaccessible because of the big taboo upon which all modern cultures, mainly for patrimonial reasons, are based: incest. The family is the place of the impossible love-stories and its members try to avoid any kind of Eros. That is why all the feelings that are at stake are so violent, so excessive, so fatal.

You don't always have to explain everything. For example: you don't get to know how Giulia -the woman Nicola falls in love with and who will give birth to their daughter - becomes a terrorist. Maybe she acted just like the others who were feeling helpless and inhibited; it was the absolute inhospitability and deafness with which politics was dealing with their illusions at that time. Loneliness, the feeling of not belonging anywhere. I'm not trying to defend them, but I know that they took such decisions out of a deep strong pair, so strong that the only way to free oneself was to inflict it to somebody else. Nowadays we are not interested in knowing all this, because it's something belonging to the past. It wouldn't have been so ten or twenty years ago, when we were keen on getting aware of how and why: terrorism was still active at that time; it existed and was not that marginal and fortunately isolated problem of nowadays. I didn't want to tell a story about terrorism, but the story about a terrorist, about her: Giulia. I'm very interested in people with leaks in their lives. Maybe Giulia is, along with Matten, the most tragic character of the movie. Like Matteo she abandons everything that life could offer her. A farewell from music, from love, from her daughter, from her partner. In a self-injuring way, she keeps on amputating parts of her life, almost like an addict. There are times in which these kinds of implosions don't produce any sodal contamination you find yourself alone, foolish, abandoned and that's all. In other periods such implosions become collective movements, experiences you do in a group. In that case it is more difficult to tmderstand the pathology and find the cure.
I start understanding a movie during the screen-tests with the actors. That's why I do many of them. I give them just little hints about their character. I prefer them to show me their interpretation, the feeling they got while reading the part. Thanks to these improvisations I often find out new even unpredictable aspects about the characters. Putting together the cast is for me very important. It takes up most of the time of preparation. I need to choose even the last of the extras, tobe sure that everyone is tuned the same and will sound like an orchestra. It was easy to choose some actors I had already worked with. For example I was sure that Luigi Lo Cascio would have played with extreme fineness the role of Nicola. The rote seemed to have been written for him. He is one of the few Italian actors who are able to interpret the role of an intellectual without making it pedantic and unrealistic. He is capable of playing very different characters and psychologies and I had had a display of his talent in The Hundred Steps.
With the other actors it was like a placing a bet. I had seen Alessio Boni (Matteo) in a TV production and I had fett that he was very talented. Both Boni and Lo Cascio, Fabrizio Gifuni and Claudio Gioe have attended the Accademia d'Arte Drammatica Silvio d'Amico in Rome. They had been studying together. I knew it and I liked the fast that their friendship was real, not only a formal one. Alessio Boni truly impressed me during the screen-test. He was able to deliver on scene the full fragility of Matten, hidden behind his permanent aggressive reactions. Under the rind you could feel the gentle-ness of a very meek person, seriously doubting about himself.
Fabrizio Gifuni was very courageous in accepting a role that was originally confined to just a few scenes but was later expanded during the shooting. He's a very talented actor and people tend to underline his dramatic side: in La meglio gioventü he could express a vis comica that is congenial to him in real life, but he is rarely asked on the screen. I can say the same for Claudio Gioe, whose character originally had to disappear in the second episode but then assumed a very important role: it was the persistence of a friendship between different social classes. Such feelings were only possible at that time. Nowadays we are so fully compliant with our social group, with our profession, our income and our consumerist attitude, that such friendships would be impossible.
I had admired Sonia Bergamasco in Probably Love by Giuseppe Bertolucci. I was impressed by her. She too comes from the theatre scene and has worked with Carmelo Bene for a long time. I knew she had obtained the piano diploma so I decided to confer Giulia, her character, the same talent. That gave me the opportunity to shoot even those scenes in which she's playing in direct sound. As a former music student, I can't stand to see actors pretending to play. This love for music -a kind of love that needs great efforts, dedication and self-sacrifice - is an important feature of Giulia. Holding back this passion explains the seif-punishing aspect of her character very well.
I had seen Jasmine Trinca playing in The Son's Room by Nanni Moretti when she was still a teen-ager. I thought she would have interpreted the role of Giorgia as I was imagining it: a young girl who has all the qualities of a "normal" being at hand, who is still in the balance. If I had to choose one character of the movie to identify with, I would chose her. She would need very little to become like everybody else, maybe just affection or attention. Instead they have drawn her away, locking her up in a clinic where they try to cure her with the shock therapy. This is what marks her as "insane". We are dose to madness with our neurosis, our unease, our loss of control. If only Giorgia hadn't been locked up in those mental hospitals, that were fortunately dosed by Franco Basaglia (even though they are now thinking of restoring them)! Jasmine found her way alone: she invented that key of being torn between absence and anxiety, between aggressiveness and that call for help. I think that "directing" actors is something very delicate. Each actor is different and there's no golden rule for all of them. You need to back some of them. Others need to be in the hands of the director, almost like hostages. Some others need certainties and some simply need an alternately hot and cold shower. Actors are strange: you constantly have to keep in mind that they are mostly exposed in a movie, they are the movie, the ones that risk more than the others, even more than the director or the producer. I choose them by analysing them as human beings, trying to understand if they are familiar to the character they'll play, if they feel near to it, if they love it or even if they hate it, thus maintaining a strong relationship to the character. I'm not obsessed with an absolute control over the actors: I don't search for it, I don't want it. They have to exist on the screen, they have to be alive, transmit the emotions they really feel - they don't have to emulate a series of instructions. And in order to obtain this, sometimes m even more paranoid than those directors that want everything to be done the way they want. It's just a different obsession. In my work I can't be very theoretic: I know it's a work with the actors, not an the actors.
I had seen Maya Sansa playing in Marco Bellocchio's The Nanny and even though that character was completely different from Mirella I had the feeling that she could have played the role with all her power and her lurninosity. It was a difficult role: a young woman that suffers the great violence of a man who loves her but refuses to be involved with her. I was looking for an actress who wouldn't play the role of the victim. Andrea Tidona had worked with me in The Hundred Steps. He proposed himself to play the role of the father - I had chosen him for another role. But alter the screen-test I asked myself why hadn't I thought about it before. Tidona too comes from the theatre scene; I have a particular preference for those who tread the boards: its easier to work with them, even though I only worked in theatre in one occasion. Theatre tempers differently than cinema does, it exposes the actors to the direct contact with the audience. One always has to be on the ball and -once the premire is over, with the director being on stage, checking out everything- you can stand on your own two feet. Adriana Asti -an aciress with lots of experience- has worked with all our greatest directors: from Visconti to De Sica, Pasolini, Bertolucci, Ronconi- I had already met her at the time of Pasolini, an Italian Crime. I was sure she would illuminate the character of Adriana, with her surrealistic Lombard madness, in other words, the same that we find in Gadda. Moreover she has a great sense of humour, she is a really brilliant and clever person, with an incredible humbleness and patience, if you consider her rank and her talent. I liked the idea of the mother coming from Milan and the father from Rome. I liked to have a mixture of places, mentalities and traditions within a family and to have parents that were permanently at each other's throats, as if arguing all the time was a paradox way of showing one's affection for the other.
THE BEST OF YOUTH ends like a relay race. Nicola passes the baton to the next generation. Others do not succeed in this attempt or maybe they don't even have a baton to transmit and stop before reaching the end line, exhausted. The movie is all about this. It's not a topic within ideologies - we are not talking about Italy's left-wing. It's a broader discussion about Italy in its entireness, the West, the feeling of being at the end of an entire civilization. We don't believe in a global salvation but there's a dear appeal at one's consciousness, at the decisions each one has to take. I don't think it is pessimistic to abandon the illusion of "magnificent and progressive destinies", on the contrary I see this as an improvement in comparison to the general agreement that is always requested, to the unconditional adhesion to present mythologems. The characters of La meglio gioventü fascinated me, because they are completely different, not from the Italians, but from how -the Italians are depicted, mainly by televi-sion. Television tries to elude all their worries, to anaesthetize their anxiety; it induces them to a sort of bulimic consumerism (and one tends to ask himself: with which money?) and brings them in a permanent state of dizziness, just in case they might be tempted to think.

Director's Biography

Marco Tullio Giordana's first movie was To Love the Damned (1980). In 1981 he malized La Caduta degli Angeli Ribelli, and in 1982 the video Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, based on a score by Benjamin Britten. In 1983 he shoots for television Notti e nebbie, based on the novel by Carlo Castellaneta, and in 1988 Appuntamento a Liverpool. In 1991 he directs La neue sul fuoco, an episocli of the movie Especially an Sunday (the other episodes were directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci, Giuseppe Tornatore, Francesco Barilli). In 1994 he participates in the collective movie L'Unico Paese al Mondo (other directors: Francesca Archibugi, Antonio Capuano, Daniele Luchetti, Mario Martone, Nanni Moretti, Marco Risi, Stefano Rulli). In 1995 he directs Pasolini, an Italian Crime, and in 1996 he produces and directs for RAI and UNICEF the movie The White Shoes (together with Gianni Amelio, Marco Risi, Alessandro D'Alatri and Mario Martone). In 1997 he reali7es the documentary La rovina della patria and in 2000 he directs The Hundred Steps.

In 1990 at the Teatro Verdi di Trieste he directed the Elisir of Love by Gaetano Donizetti and in 1997 the play Morte di Galeazzo Ciano, by Enzo Skillano, for the Carignano Theatre in Turin.

He published Vita segreta del signore delle macchine (1990) and the essay Pasolini, an Italian Crime (1994).

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Marco Tullio Giordana

Written by: Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli

Produced by: Angelo Barbagallo, Donatella Botti

Cinematography: Roberto Forza

Editing: Roberto Missiroli

Production Design: Franco Ceraolo

Costume Design: Elisabetta Montaldo

Sound Design: Fulgenzio Ceccon

Cast: Luigi Lo Cascio (Nicola), Alessio Boni (Matteo), Jasmine Trinca (Giorgia), Sonia Bergamasco (Giulia Monfalco), Maya Sansa (Mirella Utano)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Director 2003
  • European Actor 2003
  • European Screenwriter 2003
  • Feature Film Selection 2003