Valeria Bruni Tedeschi seems to like to air her family laundry, dirty and otherwise, and whether or not other people want to see it seems to be up for debate. In her third semi-autobiographical film, Un Castello In Italia, (Un Chateau En Italie, A Castle In Italy, depending on your language) she airs it with honesty and self-awareness that may not always serve the story, but is fascinating never-the-less.
Inspired by her real life brother’s death from AIDS and her own feelings about mortality and aging, Bruni Tedeschi plays Louise, a retired actress from a wealthy family who travels to Italy from her home in Paris to help her family figure out their money problems.
It isn’t essential for the viewer to know that the castle in the film is Bruni-Tedeschi’s actual childhood home (no longer in the family but borrowed for the movie), that her mother was played by her real mother, Marisa Borini, and her lover played by her former boyfriend Louis Garrel, but watching it with that knowledge makes you feel like you’re in on something. Like Johannes Vermeer insisting that the girl with the pearl earring pierce even the ear that no one could see, it no doubt this added indulgence of reality affected the creation of Un Castello In Italia. Her brother is played by Filippo Timi (Vincere).
It’s notable that one famous member of the real life family was not represented in the film; Bruni Tedeschi’s sister, Carla Bruni (former First Lady of France) was not a character in the story, and this was intentional. According to Bruni Tedeschi, it was important to focus on the brother-sister relationship, one that seems, at once, incestuous and immature. The two, having long ago formed an alliance against their parents, the servants (who barely hide their scorn for them), and the outside world, giggle and mock like children who share a secret.
Though it’s hard to sympathize with those that have lived with such wealth and privilege, at the core there’s a tragic story that could be a real tear-jerker if not for Bruni-Tedeschi’s giddy approach to it. This princess with the bloom off the rose is losing her castle, her brother, the prince, and her family fortune all at once and you have to be pretty hard not to sympathize even a little.
I’ve always said that I could never write a book because I’m not honest enough, because writing fact or fiction , lies ruin the story. You might not like the story that Valeria Bruni Tedeschi tells, but its authenticity of this fractured fairytale, perhaps honest to a fault, seems evident.
Director: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
Writers: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Noémie Lvovsky
Stars: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Louis Garrel, Filippo Timi
Premiered at Cannes