Italian actress Anita Kravos rarely plays in comedies, but just like her favorite Monica Vitti she can make laugh anyone. We asked her about her life in Russia, her role in Oscar-winning movie “The Great Beauty”, her roots and about the future of the Italian cinema during her stay in Baku.
Anita, you are not just a successful actress, but also a polyglot…
I am from Gorizia. Grew up as Slovenian and Italian, because in my regions mixing up languages and cultures was a common practice, similar to what I see here, in Azerbaijan. I also learned German and Russian languages at the university in Venice, attending school of Commedia dell'arte at the same time...
As I am aware, this is a traditional school for Italy…
Yes it is. There is also a school in Italy, teaching how to become a harlequin, who I was in Avogaria.
How did you get in GITIS?
After Avogaria school there was the international European school called École des Maîtres. It was a project for the best students from the whole Europe, and that year three students from Russia, assistants to professor of GITIS Vasily Ivanovich Skorik participated in it. Two of them recommended him to pay attention to me when we played in Taganka Theatre, and it was for me some kind of audition. Skorik agreed to accept me, and I decided to write my graduation work in Russian. It was just that times when the Chechen terrorists took hostages in theater on Dubrovka. My mother was worried sick about me, but I worked on something really unique and felt that attending this school was a real gift from above.
How was it like to live in a country so different from Italy?
You know, in those days actresses in Moscow earned 42 dollars per month. It was quite hard to live on such salary, and I, just like many other students, made ends meet with potato, porridge and boiled water. When I felt worse, doctors told me that as to European boiled tap water is contraindicated. But bottled water cost the whole dollar those days, I just could not afford it. Life was absolutely intolerable... And I decided to return to Italy.
What did you decide to do after returning to Italy?
I wanted to be a theatrical actress. And chose Rome where nobody knew what GITIS is. So I had to do temp job as shop assistant of ice cream at Campo dei Fiori Square... One my colleagues helping one Italian director with casting asked me to help with audition of guys from Russia and Slovenia. Then I received a small role of a Ukrainian girl and began to represent on auditions women from the Slavic countries. I once replied to the announcement on the Internet – the director Marina Spada looked for actresses on a role of the Ukrainian girl... As a result she gave me a role of the Italian, main character in the movie "As the Shadow".
What is this film about?
This film was inspired by lines from Anna Akhmatova’s poem:
As the shadow from the body wants to part,
As the flesh from the soul wants to separate,
So I want now – to be forgotten.
My heroine – a thirty-year-old woman living in Milan. She goes to Russian courses where meets this Russian teacher... The movie was presented on a competition of the independent film at the Venice Film Festival in 2006. Like that, our life has changed: I received a small role in an Oscar-winning movie, the movie by Marina Spada was presented at the Roman film festival, and the producer of the film released in Italy a lot of good author's movies afterwards, and now he is a quite important figure...
Where do you spot a difference between Russian and Italian cinematographic schools?
I can tell that Italians have nine tenth of acting – on a surface and one tenth – "under water", and on the contrary with Russians. During studying at GITIS it was important to analyze the situation, structure of a role, transformation of it into a perceived plot, and then to find a way of showing it on stage. This is how my approach to acting – absolutely different from other Italian actors was formed. People refer to me when they need to master a difficult role – like a role of a transsexual in the movie "Raise your Head". It’s a story about the man (he was played by Sergio Castellito), who wanted to raise a boxer from his little son. But the boy died, and his heart was given to another man. And this man is also gone: he became a woman whom I played. The director Alessandro Angelini then introduced me to many people, who underwent this surgery. It was a hard work for me...
Your role in “The Great Beauty” is also very difficult…
I tried to correspond to the leading man. In the movie he speaks very little, usually voice-over, he has a long dialogue with the lady on a terrace and one more dialogue – with the modern artist whom I play. The main character, Jep Gambardella, asks me about art: what is it for, what is beauty and why we need it. I have my point of view, and he has his... We speak almost about nothing, but this is the main point of the movie.
And your role only takes five minutes…
Yes, but it took a whole day of shooting: five hours on knocking my head against the wall and four on the dialogue. It was hard because they found inflated information about my height and installed the pillow higher than needed. I had to jump up in order to knock my head exactly to the spot where the pillow was, and it looked pretty funny: a small performance of my artist was getting little crazy, how it actually was supposed to be.
How did you feel yourself in this role? And how are your relations with art?
Being actress is a pretty specific way of being an artist: you always witness, how your art is created. If to take a painter for comparison, then you will see his canvas after it is done. But actor’s art is seen “in process”… So, us – me and my heroine are both artists, the only difference is that she a lonely person, who hides her feelings, she arrogant, with her own ideas… But I always appreciate my colleagues’ and critics opinion. I actually like actors, playing roles, which I personally do not understand.
As well as Fellini in "Dolce vita", in "The Great beauty" Sorrentino derides the modern art, Italian bohemia, the politics on the background of eternal beauty of Rome of which may lead to death as it happened to the Asian tourist. What do you think of it? Are these really reflections of Europe’s decline?
The movie talks about a great era which already came to an end. Politicians say that we cannot be fed with art and culture, and do not allocate funds for it. However, this is more about Italy, than whole Europe. I think this is the reason, why American film academicians were so interested in the movie: because it’s about us, how we treat beauty. As if they speak to us: "Guys, you have Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice - chin up!"
The movie is often compared to "Dolce vita" and "Eight and the half" by the great Fellini. Which role in a Fellini movie you would play?
Anita Ekberg: “Marcello, come here!” You know, Anita Ekberg was pretty tall, big, well-breasted, they called her “Anitona” – “big Anita”, and that’s how I’m called because of her. I feel some connection with her, even though we are very different…
And which character is closer to you?
You know, I would prefer to play Monica Vitti in the movie by Antonioni. I always admired her – she can play roles both comic and tragic. Do you remember that scene from Alberto Sordi where they hit each other at the seaside? It is so funny! At the moment of tragedy they make you laugh. I love her because in the tragedy you can always smile together with her, and in the comedy you seriously perceive everything she says.
In which films do you usually play: comedies or dramas?
Usually I play dramatic roles, as I started from “As the shadow" of Marina Spada. But I also played in Matteo Pellegrini's comedy film "Italian movies" with Alexey Guskov: seven people, the main characters, clean up a film studio, then begin to shoot their own movies, and then create their business...Generally, I really love comedies.
In conclusion: what do you think of the future of Italian cinema?
We don’t look forward anymore, the future has already come! We won the Academy Awards, we are the best in the world! We finally see this recognition for so many years of hard work, and this is a big moment for Italian cinema!