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Director Paolo Sorrentio at the Nastri D'Argento - Nominees Presentation
Ernesto Ruscio

Paolo Sorrentino: ‘It’s not worth making films about politicians’

‘The Great Beauty’ director on his new Silvio Berlusconi biopic ‘Loro’

Written by
Joseph Walsh

It’s safe to say that Italy has more interesting prime ministers than us. Not every politician catches the eye of a filmmaker as gifted as Paolo Sorrentino, but sleazy political magnate Silvio Berlusconi has done just that in his new biopic ‘Loro’. The result is a combustible mix of sex, drugs and scheming, with Sorrentino regular Toni Servillo as the perma-grinning bunga bunga devotee.

Some people feel ‘Loro’ is vulgar in its depiction of Berlusconi. How do you respond? 
‘The film is my reality, not the reality of Berlusconi’s world. Being vulgar can be about dishonesty or cruelty but to me, it can also be beautiful, especially when there are hidden feelings behind it. I wanted to show the emotions behind the desperation of being young; the inadequacy of being beautiful. As long as feelings are also being represented, there is no vulgarity.’

Is it true that you met Berlusconi? 
‘Yes, a couple of times. There isn’t a lot to say from what I saw; he isn’t any different in person to how he comes across on TV. He has a great skill of eliciting sympathy from people; this is something even his opponents recognise. He can sell everything and anything.’

Toni Servillo as Silvio Berlusconi in ‘Loro’

Was there anything about his life that you wanted to show but couldn’t? 
‘No, because I wasn’t starting from a position of criticism or flattery, so there wasn’t anything I felt I couldn’t show. I didn’t want to be scandalous or uncover hidden truths. For me, it was about capturing a time in life where you are attempting to grab back at youth, even if your body is going in the other direction.’

Your films have explored the Catholic Church, the Mafia and politics. What is it about these subjects that interests you?
‘I’m fascinated by power relations among people. The Catholic Church, state powers and the
Mafia are worlds where power relations are extremely important and are at their most extreme. [But] I could also make a movie about a doctor and his patient – that is an equally fascinating power dynamic.’

Would you ever look at someone in British politics the way you have with Berlusconi? 
‘[Given the controversy around this one] I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not worth making films about politicians.’

‘Loro’ opens Fri Apr 19. Read our review here.

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