By Lauren Hurrell
On April 15th, CinemaItaliaUK showcased the new hit Italian film, Quo Vado?, in the sold out event with more than 500 people attending, hosted by the stunning arthouse Genesis Cinema in East London. Following the screening, we enjoyed an amusing Q&A session with Italian comedian and star of the film, Checco Zalone, as well as producer Pietro Valsecchi, writer and editor Ian Haydn Smith and moderator Luisa Pretolani.
Quo Vado? – or Where Am I Going? – is a comedy film currently smashing records at the Italian box office, almost overtaking Avatar as the highest-grossing film in Italian box office history, and already beating Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The title, Quo Vado?, is a spin on the 1950s epic Quo Vadis? (Where Are You Going?). Tied up in a unique narrative frame, the story follows Checco, who has enjoyed a life of relative comfort and privilege among his peers in his small town in southern Italy. He is a lucky holder of a posto fisso, or guaranteed job as a public servant. When a new reformist government vows to cut down on bureaucracy, Checco is forced to accept ever-worsening public-sector postings in order to maintain his guaranteed pay, benefits, and lifetime employment. During his position at the North Pole, Checco falls in love with Valeria, described by Checco in the film to be the Cameron Diaz of biologists with a swish of ecologist, who lives in Norway and introduces him to a whole new way of life. He becomes enchanted not just with Valeria, but also with her progressive, merit-based society. Ultimately Checco must choose between his secure yet parasitic place in Italy, and a new and uncertain life with Valeria.
It may be the political relevance to contemporary Italy as the source of its comedy which has created this film’s immense popularity among Italian audiences. However, the film has also been tremendously received by international audiences for its ability to make people laugh, regardless of the specificity on Italian nuances. Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, is reported to have “laughed from start to finish” watching the film that has generated €65M since its opening on New Year’s Day this year.
FilmDoo also had the opportunity to personally speak with leading actor Checco Zalone before the premier screening.
Congratulations on the successful reception of this film, with it becoming a huge blockbuster hit in Italy. How are you feeling about it?
Quite shocked almost, because we didn’t expect that a film like this would be liked and loved by so many people!
Do you have a personal favourite moment in the film?
Yes, some critics haven’t liked the moment but for me it’s very important. It’s when we see the two icons of Italian singing in our world, Al Bano and Romina, and I say, “I miss Italy”, as I look at them together. I’m up in Bergen, Norway, in the freezing cold, after having embodied and taken on the Norwegian life style, you know, growing the beard and learning to stay in queues! I was becoming very good at staying in line, having done a lot of self-critiquing in this part of the film. You know, we criticise ourselves a lot as Italians. We’re famous for that. No other community does that as much as we do, I think. I find it a very poetic moment.
There is another moment at the beginning of the film where I give my character’s point of view, and the view of many Italians probably, that there are different kinds of crimes. Things can be crimes if you see them from one point of view, or not crimes, depending on the logistics, the landscape and the people you’re dealing with, so that’s quite important. This is the first scene with the quail, when my character says that the exchange of the quail over the desk is not a bribe and the guy keeps asking whether he should be allowed to do this in order to receive his hunting permit, and my character gives his explanation that it’s not corruption and why my character should receive that quail. This scene in the film has been very well received in Italy because Italians are, unfortunately, very used to this kind of reading of the law. They’re trying to find their space in society but having to pay for it, when it’s something that should be their right, actually.
Are there any striking moments or lines that seem to hit the key topic in the film with the most impact?
I feel that a strong topical element of the film is found in the street party scene because the First Republic is sort of coming back. Of course, it isn’t truly because once it’s gone it’s gone, but the characters who were the mechanisms of the engine of the First Republic are coming back. And so the senator is back and now he’s the mayor of the little town and all those old politicians and supporters of the town are back. It’s very energetic.
Given the various locations in the film, did you have a favourite place when shooting?
The North Pole in Norway at the Centre for International Research. We were exactly on the top of the North Pole, and it was extremely difficult to get there but these are beautiful, beautiful places.
How do you feel about the concept of the “il posto fisso,” a job for life?
I don’t have it, obviously, but it is still very much in the spirit of a lot of the young generations in the south of Italy. Because we have made a comedy out of it, we have used a lot of metaphors and really pushed the envelope, pushed the situation, in order to make people laugh. But generally, the idea is that you have a place where you’re safe for life until you retire, where you actually don’t really work, but you get a good salary, so it’s a very good spot to have. I think anyone in the world would like that!
Catch Quo Vado? in Vue cinemas across the UK from Friday 22nd April.