JOY AND PAIN AMID CHAOS
Two women meet in a psychiatric institution and embark on an adventure of discovery, writes Philippa Hawker
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi owes her role in Like Crazy to a moment of serendipity. She was working with writer-director Paolo Virzi on a film called Human Capital. Virzi’s wife, actress Micaela Ramazzotti, was visiting the set, and she and Bruni Tedeschi went for a walk.
“I think Paolo had a sort of vision or an intuition,” Bruni Tedeschi says, “that Micaela and I could be a couple, a cinema couple. He had this story that was important for him to tell, about a woman and her sickness,” and seeing the two actresses together, he felt that he had glimpsed a way of bringing the story to life.
Like Crazy is a comedy, a drama and an emotional road trip, the story of two women who meet at a psychiatric institution and embark on an adventure of discovery and chaos.
Bruni Tedeschi is vivid, funny and fragile as Beatrice; a patrician, lofty and disconcerting figure with an unstoppable flow of conversation and evasion. She’s a manipulator and a fabulist, but she’s also perceptive and shrewd. “She has a sort of strange intelligence and intuition, a strange way to tell the truth, a strange way to love,” Bruni Tedeschi says. She takes charge of Donatella (Ramazzotti) — silent, skeletal — who carries a burden of trauma and longs to be reunited with her young son. The pair seem utterly unalike, but they have crucial things in common.
“It’s a joyful movie,” Bruni Tedeschi says, “but it’s a painful movie too, It wasn’t easy to be in contact with these feelings. Even if the scenes are sometimes funny, I had to stay in touch with what was deep and painful. That was the journey of this movie.”
On the first day of shooting, she says, after a series of false starts, she found the right rhythm for her character, “faster than my rhythm in life”. Beatrice has a lot in common with Blanche Dubois of A Streetcar Named Desire, Bruni Tedeschi says. Blanche was a reference point for Virzi and his co-writer, Francesca Archibugi, “and I thought of her all the time”.
Beatrice has her own, singular qualities, however. She is impetuous; she rushes in, then works out what to do afterwards. She’s a volatile figure who can switch rapidly from one emotional state to another, and Bruni Tedeschi had to find the right way to make these abrupt transitions. The risk was to do too much, to be too entertaining, she says.
Some of the inmates at the institution — Valeria Bruni Tedeschi in Like Crazy, left; Tedeschi and Micaela Ramazzotti in a scene from the film, below which is shown to be a progressive place — are played by actual psychiatric patients. “It was important for us to be with them, it was a big inspiration and obligation of truth and respect”, even in the comic scenes, Bruni Tedeschi says
As an actress, she’s still discovering things about her character long after the end of the shoot: she’s beginning to realise, she says, that Donatella is the first person who has needed Beatrice, she is the daughter Beatrice would have liked to have had. “It’s in the movie,” she says, “but I only begin to see it now.”
Bruni Tedeschi, a French-Italian actress and writer-director who often stars in her own films, recently co-directed a documentary, Une jeune fille de 90 ans (A Young Girl of 90), about an elderly woman with dementia who falls in love with a choreographer who does dance workshops for people with Alzheimer’s.
She can see that the film has things in common with the themes of Like Crazy, she says. The choreographer, Thierry Thieu Ngiang, was a regular collaborator with the Patrice Chereau, the film, theatre and opera director with whom she made several films and who she was close to. “For me, since the death of Chereau, I do many things connected with him, it’s a way to still be with him,” she says.
Looking ahead, she’s doing her first television series, Les Parisiennes — “it’s very well written and I hope it will be good”. She has a new film she’s planning to write and direct that she can’t say too much about. She has no doubt, she adds, that it will be in some way connected with what she has done before, even if it’s not immediately clear to her. “There are unconscious links between everything I do,” she says. Discovering what they are is a part of the creative process with which she’s very comfortable. is currently screening.