With Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi’s ("No One Knows About Persian Cats") new film, “Rhino Season,” screening Out of Competition at the Marrakech International Film Festival (our review is to follow shortly), we got to speak with the film’s Italian star, Monica Bellucci, in a small press group. Once our eyes recovered from the dazzle a bit (no, she really is very gorgeous), she was asked about her motives for taking a role that could be seen as quite a step outside her comfort zone.
“Well yes, it wasn’t really comfortable to make this movie! But it’s good to have the chance to work with great people, so when Bahman Ghobadi met me and asked me to play an Iranian character I was really happy that he thought about me for that. I do this job because it gives me the chance to get in touch with cultures, with realities so far away from mine, and these people, they are suffering so much," she said. "The director cannot go back to his country, actually his brother is in prison right now, they don’t know where and so it’s incredible that someone like Ghobadi is fighting using his art. He is making films without money in situations that are so very difficult… He’s like a warrior in an arty kind of way.”
“European actors are in a much more lucky situation," she continues, "and we have to help these people to express themselves. Also I think for an Iranian actress it would have been difficult for her to accept a role like that and go back home. I am much more free and can give life to a character like that. Even though she is so far away from what I know I can understand her, because I come from a country where women had to fight for their rights... I come from a macho culture. Until six years ago in Italy a woman could be killed by her husband and he would not go to prison because it would have been described as a crime of passion. And still now in the South if you don’t have your virginity it’s very difficult to find a husband. It is a country still very conservative where women have to fight. I know what it means to fight to have a voice.”
However, she is proud of her contribution to an emerging canon within world cinema. “...right now Iranian culture is really important, in every festival we have new Iranian directors and after ‘A Separation’ Iranian culture is becoming really part of the world of cinema.”
One of the aspects of her performance that piqued interest early was the fact that in it she speaks Farsi, a language she previously knew nothing of, but she demurs a little here: “I have to say this movie is more about the images, and actors work much more through their eyes, their bodies, their body languages than through dialogue. But there is dialogue and every time I speak I have to be perfect, I can’t have any accent, nothing. So I had to work with a coach, I had to be really Iranian, and they told me that it works.”
The next film she’ll be seen in is a French comedy from director Daniele Thompson, “Des Gens Qui S’embrassent,” about which Bellucci says “we are in the atmosphere of Daniele Thompson and she has this light was of saying profound things. It’s a film chorale -- so many characters -- and my role is an Italian woman in a Jewish family so I don’t understand any of the rules, and I make one mistake after another and say things I shouldn’t say, so it’s so funny.”
But while she enjoys comedy, tragedy and drama are more where she feels a kinship. “I have drama inside me, I don’t know where it comes from. I love to do comedy too, but when I have to play drama, I feel so in touch with my spirit inside me. I understand drama so well and sadness… I love tragic stuff. My tragic soul! I had great parents, they loved me, I loved them, so I don’t know where it came from...”