• 23 March 2024


For its fourteenth edition the Ca’ Foscari Short Film Festival as guest the famous Liliana Cavani, who made history in Italian and international cinema with her films. In a meeting moderated by journalist and university professor Anton Giulio Mancino, through the screening of some clips of her films, Cavani has retraced her long and brilliant career. 

The first work in line, The Night Porter, is a masterpiece renowned at international level, although at the time it came out in 1974 the response from audience and critics was not enthusiastic. The film, in telling the sadomasochistic relationship between a former Nazi officer and a Jewish prisoner who survived the concentration camps, faces the theme of power intertwined with the ambiguity of human nature. The director recalls that it was a difficult time to make movies which challenged the common morality, and she specifically recalls that her relationship with the critics “has been a real hell”. Beyond good and evil was just as much of a scandal, falling into the hands of Italian censorship because of some scenes that were thought excessive. The film was memorialised through the screening of a clip set in the very city of Venice, and the director recalls it with fondness. 

If Beyond Good and Evil can be linked to the new rise in feminist awareness, Francis of Assisi, miniseries released in 1966 and then readapted into a film in 1972, anticipates in some way the spirit of ‘68. Cavani says she’s always been fascinated by the religious and spiritual element and that she’s decided to make a film about the Saint’s life after reading the biography written by Paul Sabatier. The film garnered a strong reaction from the Italian right, that viewed with suspicion the particularly original way of representing the Saint, but was eventually re-evaluated after a screening out of competition in Venice. The director remembers: “freedom was kept under control during those years, but I’ve never thought much about it”. 

The following projection, a clip from The Berlin Affair, opened the discussion on the progressive attitude demonstrated by Cavani in showing a love scene between the two women protagonists from a feminine perspective, too often sidelined in the male-dominated and chauvinist cinema world. Cavani reminds us that the instinct of love has always been freer than we believe, but not always it has been possible to express it without fetters. “If you do something that goes against the moral rules of the time, it’s a scandal, but if a woman does it, even more so.  Many women have been discouraged to do what they wanted” says Cavani, remembering how at the time her emancipation journey started from the making of her first film on the figure of Saint Francis.

Continuing to review her career, Mancino recalls Where are you? I’m Here, a work that addresses with great sensitivity the world of disability through the story of two deaf people. The director relates that the idea came about after witnessing a play organized by a deaf community in Modena, where she decided to tell the story of lives that should not be marginalized or forgotten: “I wanted to show that there are many ways to communicate, and that they should also be given more consideration in the social context,” Cavani says.

After screening a final clip from Ripley’s Game, featuring a strong musical score and extraordinary framing, the talk wraps up with a recollection of the director’s last film, The Order of Time, loosely based on the essay of the same name. “We live as if we have all the time in the world, but there is an end, even if we don’t know when it will happen,” Cavani comments on the subject, explaining that the idea behind the film is to investigate the human psyche, the feelings arising the face of possible dangers that are always just around the corner. The meeting then concluded with a reflection by Cavani about man’s need to always look for the enemy elsewhere, in the other: “We are our own enemies,” said the director, concluding, “Change is needed, I will not be there, but I really hope for a change of perspective.”