TIFF 2018: Director Laura Luchetti on ‘Twin Flower’ and the Art of Giving Shape to a Story

Italian cinema is known for its male giants, and one does not often come across a female filmmaker from Italy making an appearance in film festivals. In fact, Laura Luchetti is one of the few Italian female filmmakers to be featured in the Toronto International Film Festival in recent years. Her film Fiore Gemello (Twin Flower) had its world premiere at TIFF this year and was awarded an Honourable Mention for the FIPRESCI Prize. Twin Flower is one of those rare films that is able to effectively use silence to convey the poignancy and fragility of human emotions that are so fleeting that language often fails to capture them.

Set in Sardinia, it is the story of two teenagers, Anna and Basim, who run away from imminent dangers that make it impossible for them to return home. Basim is an Ivory Coast immigrant who is desperately trying to make his way to Northern Europe, and Anna is running away from a man who wants to harm her. What develops from a chance meeting between them is a tale of a fragile friendship that tiptoes towards a distant idea of freedom, as life forces them to grow up before their time. Twin Flower is a tale of lost innocence with subtle commentaries on immigration, race and childhoods.

I caught up with the filmmaker shortly after the premiere of her beautiful film.

Why did you want to make films?

I have always been writing short stories since I was a child, and then eventually I wanted to develop these stories and see them lift off the page — like Origami, where you can fold a flat piece of paper and lift it to become a three-dimensional shape… a bird or a flower or a crane. So that was the idea; what if I keep folding a short story and it became something else!

So, this is your second feature film…

It’s my second “first” film!

What was your first “first” film about?

It is a love story called Hayfever; very melancholic but very sweet — very different from this one. It’s set in a vintage shop where the owner gives old things a second chance at life; so, you have people looking for a second chance at love. Someone is still in love with a girlfriend who left him, someone is in love with a superstar and somebody is in love with his job so much that he lies to his wife and gets into trouble! That’s the gist, everyone getting a second chance, just like antiques in a vintage store.

I see a connection there. Because Twin Flower is also so much about a second chance…

Of course, these two people are fighting for a second chance. It is a fight for their futures and also a fight to restore the innocence that both of them have lost in two different ways. I am a strong believer in second chances. My heart goes out to stories of lost and found, and the broken and saved.

Your actors are both non-professionals essaying extremely intense roles…

It’s difficult to find professional, established actors who are that young. I also wanted real people, people with whom I could trim the excess, people who would allow me to. Experienced actors wouldn’t! I did not want teenagers who came to me already trained and shaped. I, of course, won’t do this for every film; there were all professional actors in my first film, but for this film, I needed people I could mould. It was a big challenge to try and get them to convey something that was so intense and mature.

Was the silence a conscious stylistic choice?

Yes, and also something determined by the story. They are both in situations where there is a breakdown of language; Anna suffers from a deep trauma, the meaning of her whole life has changed and she has no words that can give meaning to her new life. Basim is in a new country, he literally can’t speak the language. So, they have to convey their emotions and feelings with their eyes and their bodies. It wasn’t so much my choice as it was the story’s.

There is also a strong political statement…

We are always making political statements; whether we eat meat or not, whether we choose to wear wooden clogs or leather shoes… the minute you make a choice, you’re making a political statement. I wanted to tell a story about innocence, and I looked for characters who lost theirs. There are thousands of children like Anna and Basim in Italy, and I did not sit down to pick and choose where they come from, what do they look like and what do they speak. I told a story I see around me all the time. Then it became a statement. It’s a consequence.

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Bedatri Datta Choudhury (@Bedatri) grew up in India and has studied Literature and Cinema at the University of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University and New York University. She moonlights as a writer and likes writing on films, gender and culture. She lives in New York City and loves eating cake.