Big Brother Is Just The MacGuffin – Discussing Reality With Matteo Garrone


This Friday sees the release of Reality in UK cinemas, and as such, the press have been running reviews of the film and interviews with its director, Matteo Garrone. Many of them have focused on the film’s central plot device: the lead character, Luciano, wishes to be selected to appear on the TV show Big Brother.

But when I spoke to Garrone, he was as keen as me to skip past that MacGuffin as quickly as we could. Here, then, is some of what we talked about instead.

If we have to say what the movie is really about, it’s more a movie about capitalism and faith. Unfortunately, the press sometimes focus on the Big Brother element. I think that hasn’t helped the movie.

The story of this film started from a true story and the characters of that true story were connected with the Catholic church. The real Luciano had a cousin who was a strong believer in God and they would talk about God, the cousin talking about God while Luciano is talking about Big Brother. I tried to follow that true story, but the ending of the real story was not in Rome, was not what we showed in the movie. The real Luciano was the brother of my wife so I know his true story very well.

I think the story is particularly rooted in my country but at the same time, it talks about capitalism and that’s a story that can be understood from many countries, not just from Italy. This is a story that could happen in many other countries. I have felt myself to be quite close to the temptations of Luciano, to his ingenuity and his weakness.

In a way, I am a man of faith but I’m not Catholic. I do have faith in something.

It’s a story about desire, about dreams and illusion. It’s about the desire to escape from every day life. We see a family who aren’t in such a bad situation but they still desire to escape. The desires of Luciano are pushed by the desires of the people around him, the daughter and the neighbour. It’s a sort of compendium of desire, it’s not just coming from him.

Both Reality and my previous film Gomorrah are talking about systems. Gomorrah talks about the criminal system, and Reality talks about the victim of the showbusiness system.

I think we’re doing something quite close to Pirandello. This is a story in which the main character builds himself a new character to reach his goal. He starts to lose himself, to lose his identity, as he builds a new one.

The most difficult part of the work was that we move always on the subtle line between realism and surrealism, the abstract dimension, the dimension of fairy tales. We’re always moving from one side to another and the line is very subtle. It was a big challenge to find the balance and tell the story in a believable way at the same time as not trying to make an imitation of reality.

My decisions about camera are very instinctive. I am the cameraman on my movies and the camera is very emotional for me. I sometimes make storyboards before but on the set I often realise that the storyboard already feels dead to me and I have to find a new way. I can prepare before, but it always ends up being influenced by instinct and emotion. I work with the actors, trying to be surprised by them and also by my camera movement. I will follow my emotion and follow the actor. It’s not the actor that will follow me. When I find a unique moment that can never happen again, that is the most important thing to me.

Thanks again to Matteo for taking the time to talk with me.

Previously: the trailer for the film, and Hannah Shaw-Williams’ rather positive review.*

Reality will unravel on UK screens from March 22nd. Seems a shame they didn’t release it at Easter, really.

*From way back when she wrote for a website that allowed to her to use her personality. Boo hoo, sob sob, etc.


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