Filippo Meneghetti is an Italian director living in France, and is the author of Two of Us (2020). A first daring and measured feature-length film, which brings a secret passion between two elderly women to the screen. This intimate drama has been conceived as a thriller will represent France for Best International Feature Film at the 2021 Oscars.
Where did your appetite for film come from?
I didn't grow up going to the cinema. It’s a passion that two friends got me into when I was a teenager. Between 16 and 18, this pair took it on them to open the doors of film to me: I borrowed films from their VHS collection, listened to what they had to say about such and such a director… They didn't have a film background, just loved the big screen and wanted to pass their passion for it on to me. And it worked: it was thanks to their contact that I realised that film could be an interesting path to follow.
When I finished high school, I took off for New York. I was hungry for new things, and wanted to travel the world. I was a waiter, all while hanging around student film sets in my free time. I went back to Italy in 2001 to study film at film school. I then registered at La Sapienza university in Rome: I took anthropology classes to learn more about how everyone sees the world. At the time I got experience by working on film sets as an assistant. It was a step I needed to do, to be sure that I wanted to get behind the camera – which I did when I was 30, filming my first short film, L’Intruso (2012). The film was shown at the Premier Plans Festival in Angers and won the public award. Up until then my work as a film maker had something of an abstract nature. All of a sudden it took shape, it became real.
Perception of immigration in L’Intruso (2012), the fear of dark forces in La Bête (2017), and secret homosexuality regarding Two of Us (2020). Is there a common thread to your three films?
My two short films, L’Intruso and La Bête, form a diptyque on fear. The way in which it creeps in, spreads, impacts individual destinies. Two of Us also addresses these issues because its central theme is self-censorship, which always interprets a form of fear. Fear is a theme I’ve dealt with on several occasions but with different tools, to unearth what’s buried individually and collectively, and question it on screen.
Does Two of Us intend to shed light on an unexplored area of cinema: lesbian desire between two mature women?
As a film maker, I want to represent the complexity of the world by producing images that reflect our reality. Yet I had the feeling that something in our audiovisual field was missing and could be filled, but perhaps not as much regarding female homosexuality as from the point of view of love, and sexual relations, between elderly people. We live in a society obsessed by young people who construct standards of beauty that apply pressure that’s a problem. It seemed important to me to go to against this dynamic, by focussing the camera on senior citizens. With no make-up, or almost. In close up. To face up to the truth of age, but also to reveal beauties that are too often forgotten. For example I’ve always been fascinated by wrinkles, because each of them has a story. I said to myself that this sensitivity could be shared.
You bring several of the thriller’s anxiety-provoking codes into play in Two of Us. Is this a way of showing the persistent weight of coming out in French society?
With my co-scriptwriter, Malysone Bovorasmy, we were aware that the film’s narrative codes brought together all the elements of a melodrama. But we wanted to treat the love affair like a thriller. First because it’s a genre that I like, and that I had already touched upon in my previous short films. Then because it seemed appropriate to communicate the main characters’ fears to the spectator. Regarding coming out, of course, we had to illustrate the fear of how others would look at them, society’s judgement…and feeling of love. The idea wasn’t to present it under its “romantic aspect”, but as it is really. That is ambiguous, contradictory, and sometimes obsessional affection. The thriller enabled these palettes of emotion to be dealt with effectively.
Did tackling a theme that’s so specific, or even taboo, as the twilight years along with feminine homosexuality hinder the film’s financing?
First of all, depicting a story between mature people was an obstacle. Then homosexuality. And then again the weight of a subject like illness. That was a lot. We spent 5 years requesting financing from commissions. This search also meant that we were constantly rewriting the script. But we managed to find the funds without letting go of its core. It was a real victory.
Did the financed difficulties impact filming?
Inevitably. Only 5 weeks into filming we realised we wouldn’t have enough money to film all of the scenes. Choices had to be made, scenes cut. We filmed for 31 days, between the Occitanie region for the outdoor scenes, and studios in Luxembourg for the interiors. Which basically means each day counted.
Despite a risky script stance, the film has received multiple awards, from the Angers Premiers Plans Festival to the 2021 Oscars where it will represent France. What does that represent for you?
I’ve received these awards as huge gifts. I’ve watched my film grow and stand alone, a bit like watching a child take its first steps in the world. Originally, I’d considered Two of Us as a tribute to the pair that introduced me to film. It was somewhat a private gesture. I was touched to see that this intimate approach can also widely touch people. In France, but also around the world as the film has been distributed in twenty or so countries. In addition I was moved that the CNC selected an Italian to represent France, which has recently become my host country. I see it as a sign of opening.
Showing of Two of Us started in February 2020, but the lockdown put a stop to it. Can we expect to see the film back on the big screen soon?
There’s still some doubt with the pandemic. Two of Us was supposed to be out in French cinemas again at the end of 2020… But that didn't take a second lockdown into account. So it’s impossible to say whether the film can be shown again soon. However I know that the distributors are keen to do so. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Two of Us has been screened internationally by the Institut français. The Institut français offers a catalogue of over 2,500 titles, enabling the French cultural network and its partners to screen French films around the world.
In 2020 Two of Us was part of the Selection of the Festival Premiers Plans d'Angers, an emblematic event of which the Institut français is a partner. The 2021 edition of the Festival Premiers Plans d'Angers took place from January 25 to 31.
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