“Il Silenzio Grande” (in English, “the great silence”), the latest work as a director by Alessandro Gassman, portrays 1960s Naples and a family conflict dwelling on the “stage” of a former manor house. On the occasion of the release of the movie, we interviewed one of the protagonists of the story, Antonia Fotaras, who plays the young heir Adele.
The courage of the smallest everyday choices, even the ones that scare us most, is the leitmotif of this domestic tale, and with Antonia, we talked just about this, the importance of authenticity in every action and thought we make in life, and the double-edged sword that silence often proves to be.
What’s your first cinema memory?
My mom and my aunt making me watch “Rear Window.”
You’re one of the protagonists of “Il Silenzio Grande,” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival as part of the Giornate degli Autori section. What was your first reaction as you were reading the script? And what was the first question you asked the director, Alessandro Gassman?
The script impressed me as soon as I started reading it and I fell in love with it, I felt euphoric, scared, and very willing to put myself out there. I was happy to have a chance to work on a text that had so many words, but, at the same time, I was scared by the responsibility that this would have implied. I wanted to try it all as soon as I could, discuss it with the others and create something together. The first question I asked Alessandro was during my last audition, where, after he had given me all the directions about the scene, I went out of the door to start acting it out, but I was also feeling confused, so I went back in and asked him if he could explain it all to me once again very quickly, to revise everything before we started.
In this movie, silence, family, and the contrast between participating in life and “keeping out” of it, almost letting yourself get carried away by it, are very important topics. What was your approach to your character like, and how much of Antonia is there in it?
I tried and understand, together with Alessandro, the reasons behind her silence and every single one of her choices. The most difficult one for me to understand was the choice she makes in the second part of the film, and only after extensive research on the historical period, I managed to understand the reasons behind that one: abortion was illegal back then, and women couldn’t even own a bank account, and these restrictions have a huge influence on the choices Adele makes. Adele and I share both the characteristic of sometimes being too quiet, and the will to break that silence that pollutes relationships.
“The will to break that silence that pollutes relationships.”
How did you work with the rest of the cast on the family dynamics?
Working with the cast was great, not only are they brilliant actors and artists, but they were always available to rehearse the scenes and clear up any confusion. We worked on the family dynamics first discussing them with Alessandro and then rehearsing the scenes, so we could soon test the ideas that came to our minds. All of this has been possible thanks to Alessandro, who ensured that we could rehearse before the start of production, and that was vital to me.
What’s the power of silence for you?
I think it has both a positive and negative power, which, in both cases, is strictly linked to authenticity. By negative silence I mean when someone, out of fear, turns off their feelings, doesn’t express what they feel and think; whereas, by positive power I mean that kind of silence you keep when, for example, a friend tells you laughingly something that’s hurting her and, instead of laughing with her, you stay silent, and in such way, you help her face what is hurting her… Or even the pleasure of feeling comfortable being quiet in the company of someone else!
How would you describe “Il Silenzio Grande” in one word?
Did you discover something new about yourself thanks to your experience on the set of “Il Silenzio Grande”?
I discovered that, in my own everyday life, I’d love to be as well-dressed as Adele thanks to Lavinia Bonsignore’s wonderful costumes.
You took part in period TV series like “The Name of the Rose,” fantasy worlds like the one of “Luna Nera” (English: Black Moon), and representations of what it means to be young today with “Skam Italia.” What have you taken with you from such different characters? And what’s the next genre you would like to experiment with?
I’ve taken with me all the experience, it’s an amazing heritage that comes with me in every project I deal with. I’m not sure about what genre I would like to experiment with, because there are so many that I love… Maybe, musicals?
Your must-have on set.
My earphones to listen to music.
Have you ever had an epic fail on set?
Yes, when I had this idea of blowing out a candle with a book because I thought the air that would have been created by closing the book would have blown out the candle… During rehearsals, it worked great, but as soon as we started filming, no way.
What’s the book on your nightstand?
Right now, “Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F.”
What does it mean to you to feel comfortable in your own skin?
It means to feel calm and relaxed and let go of my fears.
The latest thing you’ve discovered about yourself?
I discovered that too much perfectionism is bad for me and that I like to rush into things and follow my instincts.
“I like to rush into things and follow my instincts.”
Your Instagram bio includes this quote: “Have courage and be kind.” What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
I wouldn’t know exactly, but I think that courage can be found in every little everyday situation where you choose not to be comfortable and face the situations with honesty and authenticity, no matter how scary it can be, which is what this movie is about, in a way.
What’s your biggest fear, instead?
Right now, maybe the possibility that there might be another lockdown, or that this pandemic could last many more years.
What about your happy place?
It’s made of many activities, places, people, small ordinary things that make me happy.
Photos by Luca Ortolani.
Thanks to Ausonia Hungaria