The Last Day Of Winter is a provocative and haunting tale of love and betrayal told through the weaving and often wary lives of families, friends and lovers. Beautifully shot and enigmatically told, the film is a great exploration of emotional fragility and inner struggles. Director Sergio Fabio Ferrari talks to us about the making of the film and the thought processes behind it.
Tell me about the title of the film – why ‘The Last Day of Winter’?
The choice of the title was very simple: the last day of winter is March 20th and it’s my birthday. The title came out by itself at the end of the script and it seemed to be the perfect keystone, because some characters were inspired by my past. Over the years, I have changed the way I deal with situations, sometimes fleeing or lying when young, sometimes paying the price for the choices made at a more mature age.
The film is shot really beautifully. What inspires your style as a filmmaker?
I started out as a painter. I studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera and it was essential for me to be able to balance the colors with the atmosphere. That’s why I worked hard with the costume designer Mara Bonofiglio and cinematographer Stefan Radu. With him it was always stimulating to work because he tried to get into my head to give the film the look that I had pictured. I designed the film with storyboards but this was only the first step in visualizing the world that I had written on paper. It was thanks to the talents of every single person who has worked for months on this adventure that the film is truly how my vision imagined.
Silence seems to be used continually throughout the film, bringing a lot of tension to several scenes. How much was this a consideration in the making of the film? Were you consciously using silence in this way?
I’ve always found that silence is a fundamental key to balancing a film. It is the moment in which the viewer is alone with your images, without words to guide their thinking. Even for the music, I did not want to be omnipresent and crush the film.
One little moment that struck me as clever in the film was the short scene where the husband is disposing of the dead plants around the house, as we’re told of a great silence between him and his wife. Was the symbolism of dead plant / dead marriage intentional?
The symbolism is entirely intentional. We discover at the end that the loss that the family has had to live through has brought these two people to die as a couple, little by little. In their warm, welcoming home everything seems to be perfectly in place but something inside has died and is dying. Her husband throws them out because he sees them, knows what they mean.
Watching the film, it could be easy to think of it as a tale of deceit, passion and betrayal but there is the sense that it was more of a story all about confusion and self-doubt. What do you want the viewer to take away from the story in terms of this? Are we supposed to dislike the male lead for his choices, or feel for him?
The film undoubtedly shows off confusion and doubt but these are aspects which I used to be able to tell the two major themes of the film: choice and judgment. Each character comes to a point where they are forced or led to make a decision. And these choices inevitably lead to a judgment. Our society now has led us to judge any gesture, action, word spoken or written by anyone. We are even aware of doing so. How often do we say “I’m not judging, but …”.
Here I wanted to create extreme situations that would lead the public to judge each individual action and character in the movie but at the end of the film I do not think that the opinion expressed is the same. You cannot judge any character for what he has done. You cannot judge the wife who chooses to abandon her husband. You can not judge a politician, you cannot judge the mother of the young priest for the choices he has made so desperately, because at the end of the film we are given an explanation for everything. Perhaps it would be good to refrain from judging the actions of others so easily because we’re not seeing a movie and we will never have, with the end credits, an explanation as to why they acted and spoke in a certain way.
I never had the time for writer’s block. I find it rather challenging with a white sheet in front of me. The first draft I write is always on an old ‘40s typewriter because it helps to be noisy. Of course then you have to go to a hotel and give them everything and there may be sharp and problematic moments but the writing flows easily, at least for now.
The film is a frank and, at times, very depressing look at life and relationships, with all different story-lines telling tales of broken ties or heartbreak – yet there are certainly moments of beauty shown as well. How hard was it to strike this balance?
It was very difficult to build a script that allows you to balance all of this, I cannot say it’s a happy movie but I think it’s an optimistic film because whenever an important decision is made, our life takes its course, in the way it was intended. Living a lie is much more depressing than a rude awakening, I think. At least then, awake, you can finally start living.
[spoiler alert!]The final scenes between wife and lover are really quite shocking. How important was it that the film ended this way?
I wanted that scene to be as shocking as possible, this is why I didn’t cut it (edit it). I left it as if the viewer is peeking through a hole.When Andrea speaks of his novel ‘Skinless’, he says that even a caress can cause him infinite pain and he clearly speaks about it not in a fictional manner. The shock was necessary to show what that scene represented for him (Andrea). During the first meeting on the couch with Carl, Andrea tells him that ‘Skinless’ is about a story of a boy who lives without skin. Because of this, even the sweetest and tender caress is too painful for him to bear, so he lives alone etc.
Andrea decides to take his own life not because of the lies Carl told him (this would have been too simple and too childish) but he takes his own life because what he felt and experienced during the rape was too much for him; he is the “skinless” bit in the novel… If you look at the scene, at the end of the rape, Andrea puts her arm around his neck, searching for a hug or something like a warm gesture. That violence is a violence against the woman of course but also a bigger violence against Andrea’s purity.
Finally, what’s next for you? Do we have any other films to look forward to in the near future?
The next project is a thriller. I will have a budget of respect and I will have more control over everything since the difficult parts will be shot in a studio. I am very excited to start filming and also try my hand at a completely different genre, perhaps more commercial, but it has so many possibilities that the idea is only euphoric!