“I don't create idealised characters”

an interview with Laura Bispuri

Heroes (Issue II/2018)


Ms Bispuri, your current film "Daughter of Mine" creates a portrait of two contrasting mother figures. What do you find so fascinating about the topic of motherhood?

Italy has an enduring myth of the perfect mother, or "la mamma perfetta". This image is often a role model - and I wanted to question that. At the start of the film Tina appears to live up to this mythical image: She is a sort of helicopter mother, who is always there for her child and her foster daughter, offering them overflowing love and attention. In the course of the film, the characters become more complex and their reality fails to keep pace with this ideal. It is the story of two mothers, who were both far from perfect. I was fascinated by the relationship between mothers and daughters, because I believe they are one of the strongest relationships.

Are mothers heroes for children?

At the start children idealise their mothers. Over time however, the child rejects this role model and fights back. I believe that there is always an interplay between rejection and idealisation as children grow up. Heroic figures rarely reflect reality.

I don't create typical heroes of the sort often seen in the cinema. I view such figures as outmoded.

But you show strong female characters in your film.

It is a film about a girl, who stands between two women, her biological mother and her adoptive mother. Vittoria is raised by Tina and her husband Umberto. Tina is loving and caring - she is always there when she's needed. That is a very concrete and realistic love, which can also be suffocating if it is too much. Shortly before her tenth birthday Vittoria meets her biological mother Angelica. Angelica at first appears unconventional and a bit lost. She drinks and has lots of affairs. But she shows Vittoria freedom and gives her the courage to throw herself headfirst into life. She shows her the wind, high places and spectacular landscapes. She helps her to overcome her fears. She exposes herself to both the dangerous and the great aspects of life.

With Tina and Angelica you seem to return to the typical biblical contrast between the saint and the whore. Is Angelica a sort of anti-hero?

Both figures are more complex than simply being saints or whores. During the film a sort of switching of roles takes place. With these contrasting mother figures I allude to the biblical story of King Solomon, in which the true mother reveals herself by saying she would rather spare her child than harm it. There can only be one true mother in the Bible. In "Daughter of Mine" I find the two mothers together create a complete picture. To me they are both heroes. They are even more heroic because they are realistic. Imperfection and incompletion brings reality into our reach. It is only together that they create a good mother, giving Vittoria space to grow up and find out who she is.

Does your film question the classical image of femininity?

I wanted to make a film about motherhood, which is why I focused on the triangular relationship between the women. I also wanted to focus on the image of the family. That is not static but rather always develops itself. The foster father Umberto is perhaps the most positive figure in the story. He is a real man, not a macho. He is a man who can love without fear of loss. This aspect of masculinity is rarely shown. Right now, it is a political statement to make a film about a strong, contradictory woman. For decades true representations of women were rarely sighted on the big screen. 

The Interview was conducted by Gundula Haage
Translated from Italian by Frank Miesel



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