Folklore Meets Urban Legend In His First Narrative Full Length Film, I Tempi Felici Verranno Presto (Happy Times Will Come Soon).
“In World War II when Italy was allied with Germany a friend of my Grandfather’s fought with the Nazis in the Russian campaign and when he came home, he talked about it like an adventure story. It was sad, people freezing to death and the war, but it was also funny, there was a love story with a girl. He stayed there for three years and then wanted to come home, but since he’d fought with the Nazis he had to spend some time in prison first.”
And that’s where the idea for Comodin’s often cryptic, and positively mysterious film I Tempi Felici Verranno Presto came from.
“His family thought he was dead”, Comodin told me. “For him,freedom came from prison”.
So when Comodin talks about the film coming “full circle”, from the opening with POWs escaping their camp, and the film ending with an prison inmate getting a visit from his girlfriend, pieces of the movie’s puzzle start coming together. Don’t expect anything to be obvious, though; even Comodin didn’t know what the big picture would look like when he was filming.
“I put the actors in situations and I told them to speak when that felt right to them or be quiet if that’s what came naturally”, he said. “I don’t work with a script. It’s a very personal way to work. We have one or two takes of a scene with only one shot.”
“It’s a very documentary-like way of working”, he says. “At the end I put images and shots together and I try to construct a story – after.”
I was especially curious about a part of the film in which townspeople are telling about a story that was apparently well-known in the town, and I wondered if they were real people telling a real story.
“No!” Comodin told me, “I was worried about that part. These were non-professional actors, people from the area, and I told them the story I wanted them to tell and asked them to say it in their own words, like it was real to them. I worried that it didn’t seem natural.”
I assured him that I thought that it was, and I’d assumed that the story of the ill daughter returning to her father’s mountain home was real and that it was based on real people. I told him that it had a kind of “urban legend” feel to it, as though the people had personal relationships to the story.
“There is an old folk story about a wolf and a white deer, but the rest of it is made up”, he said. “The structure of telling the story was like for me as a child, which is another important aspect of the film, like the folklore stories, the fairy tales that my Grandmother and Grandfather told me when they were alive.”
As much as I hate it when people ask artists to “explain” their work, I had to ask, “In the scene in which the young man and woman are in the water, playing in the bright sunlight in the forest, is that heaven?”
“Well, I don’t believe in heaven, but it’s a place like that. It’s not a real place, but in fact, it’s very real. I mean, it’s not very “nice”. It’s muddy, dirty. I think I chose it because I love the water.”
What does Comodin think of today’s Italian cinema?
“I watched a popular film on the plane (we won’t say which one) and I thought that it was a movie I have seen 1000 times,” meaning, it’s not exactly “fresh” or innovative.
Of the adjectives that I’d use when describing Alessandro Comodin and his work, fresh and innovative would be at the top of the list, along with “daring” and startling”.
Let’s throw in “revolutionary” and “avant-garde”, and we have a pretty good description of I Tempi Felici Verranno Presto. READ MY REVIEW