Alice Rohrwacher is one of contemporary Italian cinema’s visionaries. With films like the Cannes Best Screenplay-winning Happy as Lazarro (2018), she has developed an eloquent style fusing revitalized neorealism with her own richly emotional sense of fantasy. On the occasion of MoMA’s retrospective celebrating the director and her sister, actress Alba Rohrwacher (I Am Love, Dormant Beauty), we are screening her Violettina, an exquisite, rarely-seen miniature shot on 16mm by cinematographer Hélène Louvart (Beach Rats, Pina) and made as part of her first opera production, of La traviata in 2016.
Staged at the Teatro Municipale in Reggio Emilia, Italy, Rohrwacher conceived her version of Verdi’s classic as a film production in progress. The characters moved around the trappings of a film set, including lights, equipment boxes – and back-projection screens. On these screens she showed short films that reveal other aspects of the story or the characters’ interiority, including Violettina, which focuses on the opera’s protagonist, Violetta Valéry.
“The image we chose to tell Traviata evokes the hands of a little girl who is doing ‘he loves me he loves me not’ with a daisy. It’s the gesture that made Violetta famous, allowing us to say that while yes, she is Violetta the prostitute, the kept woman, the spirit of her gesture is young and spontaneous, [and through it] we are able to see the little girl she was.” ALICE ROHRWACHER
In just a couple of minutes and with a few delicate images – the hands of a little girl (played by Rohrwacher’s daughter, Anita), her gaze, the golden color of the flowers and the fields – Rohrwacher creates a moment of real cinema, one imbued with her distinct and elegant filmmaking voice.
After several years working in documentary as an editor and cinematographer, Rohrwacher made her feature fiction debut in 2011 with Corpo celeste, an official selection of the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. Her Cannes Grand Prix-winning follow-up The Wonders (2014) drew on her childhood in Tuscany and her father’s work as a beekeeper. It also starred her sister, Alba Rohrwacher, as did her most-recent film, Happy as Lazarro, a remarkable political fable of Italy past and present, told through the eyes of an innocent young laborer.
- Credits for
- Anita Crucitti
- Hélène Louvart
- Giuseppe Verdi