Written by Monica Camozzi
Watching Laura Morante in the interpretation of a life -whether the subject is hers or someone else’s- is like stepping into those shoes, walking in them, vibrating with the same emotions, going up the column to the thalamus. You can almost smell the scent, of that torment, that uncertainty, that subtle counterpoint betrayed by a blink of an eye.
We could say, stealing Paoli’s words, that it is an endless moment. That’s because you carry it within you.
In fact, when Nanni Moretti’s film La Stanza del Figlio (The Son’s Room) was released, many asked her whether she had simulated the same loss within herself in order to portray that mother so truthfully.
It is natural to see her as the narrator, to give life to the pathos that animated the Divina in the performance dedicated Callas 100, a travelling concert on the occasion of the centenary of her death.
I remember that she died in 77 and I was on stage in Paris with Carmelo Bene; he dedicated that evening’s performance to her.
Laura, what impressed you most about Maria Callas as a woman?
My daughter, an opera lover, had given me a small epistolary with her letters. Maria experienced a conflict that is not uncommon: the one between human desires and aspirations. When you have such great artistic gifts, it is impossible to escape the need to express them, it becomes almost a tyranny.
Kafka said live to write. The more gifted you are, the more difficult it is to live a fulfilling and balanced existence’.
What did you notice in Maria’s letters?
I was struck by the naive component, a very important element for artistic expression but penalising on a personal level.
If we think about it, Callas suffered atrociously for a man, Onassis, who perhaps did not deserve her. Her innocence, her childlike component, so precious for expressing talent, became almost a handicap in life.
You performed another great personality, Sarah Bernhardt, in Madame Tosca. A strong, passionate woman, full of contrasts. Do you recognise yourself in her?
Well, if we look at the biography we have little in common: she was a star who loved stardom, exhibitionist and spendthrift. I have none of these characteristics but, as I always do, I find points of contact. In this case, the underlying fragility that masquerades as strength. The tendency to conceal the more fragile part in order to protect it.
Does living many lives as an actor help you to better understand your own?
There is often an unexpressed characteristic inside you that on stage or set you manage to bring out. In a way it is therapeutic but I think Magnani was right.
Anna Magnani used to say that actors are often people with emotional deficiencies, who seek in the abstract love of the audience to make up for unfulfilled needs.
Are we victims of perfect models to emulate? Like the protagonist of Solo, a topic you wrote?
Only she sees them as perfect… the illusion of perfection collapses as she sees one insecure friend, the other betraying. In reality, it is the protagonist who wallows in the chimera of perfection. A self-destructive instinct, seeing others better than ourselves. In reality, all absolute references prove fallacious in the end.
Do you like yourself? Do you look at yourself with pleasure?
There are films I have made that I have never seen! And it happened several times that I didn’t watch them.
When I go to do synchronisations in post production, repeating lines said on stage, I often say ‘here she’ and am reminded that it is me, that I should say ‘I’! In reality it’s almost a dissociation, I sound like someone else!
Is it true that your passion was dance? And that cinema arrived almost by chance?
Yes, I was in a dance company and was ‘lent’ by my choreographer, Patrizia Cerroni, for a performance by Carmelo Bene. It was a time of great effort, he worked at night, in the morning at 8.30 I was in the rehearsal room.
As a dancer, I didn’t feel confident in the goals I was setting for myself and slowly another profession crept in, one that worked.
Who gave you your first film audition?
I was acting in the theatre with a director and actor, Donato Sannini, who was a friend of Giuseppe Bertolucci. Giuseppe saw me and wanted to audition me.
Needless to ask whether you prefer cinema or theatre?
My father wrote for the theatre, I had done things for him as a young girl. The distinction between cinema and theatre is actually an Italian characteristic, abroad it is almost impossible for an actor not to do theatre. Cinema is a wonderful deception, with editing, close-ups and lighting we can make even a mediocre actor look extraordinary.
In theatre there is no deception, there is the challenge with yourself, the unexpected, the memory hole. And then the unrepeatability of that evening, of that moment.
How do you manage to portray pain so well?
I don’t know, I’ll have my own personal dose that I draw on! We all know death, pain, anxiety, fear, uncertainties..it is a bottomless pit. It usually happens unconsciously. I always look for a form of authenticity, I am concerned that it is not a simulation, that it is not an external fact but that it is real. It happens a bit to all artists, you ask yourself ‘how did this thing come out of me’?
The artist has the faculty of dreaming even when he is not asleep.
Speaking of dreams, tell us one of yours!
I had a dream to play a Greek tragedy and… I realised it myself. I have always done auteur cinema where characters are nuanced and often, rather than choosing intense characters in an unconvincing film, I would choose a setting with performers I liked. Now the need has arisen in me to play strong, more fictional characters.
Strong women? Like the heroines of tragedies?
Heroines is not the right word, rather I would say wonderful female characters. Cassandra, Helen, Andromache, Electra.
Clytemnestra is perhaps my favourite.
The play is called Night of Blazing Darkness and stages six monologues by as many female characters, all related to the Trojan War.