This weekend sees the release of Dogman, the new film from Matteo Garrone, the director of Gomorrah (read our reiew here). Part crime drama and part Western, the gripping psychological thriller features a Cannes award-winning performance from Marcello Fonte as a gentle dog groomer, Marcello, who finds himself in a dangerous relationship with a violent former boxer, Simone. With the film premiering at the London Film Festival, before being released in cinemas and online, we caught up with Matteo to chat going back to the crime genre, digital distribution, and his upcoming movie, Pinocchio.
After the fairytales of Tale of Tales, this feels like a return to Gomorrah territory, but there’s still that fable-like quality to the story.
Yes, there is a connetion with Gomorrah, but at the same time, I think Dogman goes deeper into the psychology of Marcello. Gomorrah is more a portrait of different stories and Dogman is more about a journey of one character that goes into how he loses his innocence during that journey and how he remains trapped in a mechanism of violence – even though he’s not a violent man.
The location has that claustrophobic feel of a trap – it’s almost like a Western
Yeah, exactly. That’s why we decided to choose that village, because the village where we shot reminds us of a land, a frontier, a place where the community is very important – we were looking for a place where the community was very close to you, to your life, because it’s very important to the decision Marcello has to take, how he’s judged by the people. That metaphysical location – abstract, in a way – was perfect for this story.
Was it a challenge to find that location?
No, because it’s a very familiar location! I shot Gomorrah there 10 years ago. The story of the two kids that are against the system is shoot in that part. I always go with pleasure there, because it’s a familiar place, I love to shoot there.
The sound is also very clausfrophobic, with the intimidating whine of Simone’s motorbike…
Yeah, it’s like a mosquito in the head of Marcello! We worked very hard to find the right sound; it’s a sound that became like a character.
It’s basedon a true story – just how close is this to the actual events that took place?
It’s a starting point – it’s an inspiration – then we took our professional way to tell the story. We put a lot of our imagination inside it; we changed a lot, with the help of Marcello, and the final part is completely different. We invented a lot of the scenes; it’s more about psychological violence than a splatter movie. The original story was a lot more… splatter!
It’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Marcello Fonte in the lead role – what did he bring to the project?
Yeah, absolutely. I was lucky that I found him, because he took the movie on his shoulder and he really gave this character a humanity that was the key part of this story. The character could be more sweet, human, sensitive, it could be more painful to see the transformation of him. So that was very important, and Marcello brought to the first part a very comic aspect that was very important, more light, and then he goes in this labryinth, this dark journey. For me, he’s the most important part of the movie.
Edoardo Pesce as Simone is also brilliantly scary…
It’s also important the antagonist, the role of Simone; in the movie, if the bad guy is wrong, then the move loses its power. The work that Edoardo did was important. For me, I remember when I started to work on the character of Marcello, we were thinking a character that could remind you of the great comic actor of the silent movies of Buster Keaton, and Marcello played with his eyes… he’s a face that in Italy is disappearing.
The film is being released in cinemas and on VOD on the same day. What you think of releasing movies online?
I think it’s a good idea, honestly. Because then poeople can decide to go to the cinema or to watch it at home. I discovered it yesterday talking with the distributor and I think it’s a good opportunity for the audience. The way to see movies is changing and it’s something that we can’t hide; always more people watch movies on their televisions. I’m a filmmaker, I’m a very visual filmmaker, I come from painting, so, of course, my romantic approach when I make a movie, I hope people will see my movie in the cinema, but I understand that the direction is going more on the digital platforms, more on the TV – I hope that TVs will become bigger and bigger! At the moment, the screeen is getting smaller and the television is getting bigger. I’m happy to have the opportunity to be released in theatres in England!
Do you watch much on VOD yourself?
Oh, no no, not yet – but I will probably soon!
Your next film is Pinocchio. How’s that going?
It’s a new adventure, a crazy adventure. I will shoot in February and I’m trying to make a movie faithful to the original book – I believe that if you are faithful to the original book, it’s the only way to make something that is properly unexpected for the audience. We’ll see! It will be a lot of work to do, and we’ll see what comes out, but I’m very happy to be working on the movie.