The physicality of Franz Rogowski, cinema, Visconti and identity: Ira Sachs tells Passages. In theaters and streaming on MUBI.
He, she, the other. As we wrote in our review (which you can read here), Passages Of Ira Sachs is an inverted triangle, which follows the emotional disturbances – fluid and angry – of the director Tomas, played by Franz Rogowski. A homosexual, and then bisexual director, emblem of a certain power, as well as characters with markedly childish traits. Next to him, a great cast: Adèle Exarchopouloswho plays Agathe, e Ben Whishaw, who instead plays Martin, partner of Tomas. Except that, precisely, Tomas falls in love with Agathe and, when they embark on a relationship, he instead returns to Martin’s doorstep. A push and pull that lasts the entire film, presented at the Sundance Film Festival before having a double Italian release: both in theaters and streaming on MUBI.
For the director, who wrote the film together with Mauricio Zacharias, the genesis was clear, with a clear quote: “I felt the need to make a film that I wanted to see at the time”he explains during our press briefing. “Passages is a film about intimacy, about actors, about risks. And a fundamental source of inspiration for me was a film, L’Innocente by Luchino Visconti. Seeing it again, I felt a strong sensation. Then everything was born under the lockdown . I was afraid that the cinema would stop”.
Passages and the skill of Franz Rogowski
Ira Sachs, very active in American independent cinema (Love is Strange e Little Men they are two jewels), he explained Passages was born from the electrocution had against Franz Rogowski, seen in Happy End by Michael Haneke. A shock similar to the one felt by Visconti against Laura Antonelli ne The Innocent: “As a man of cinema, my inspiration was Franz Rogowski, like Viscoti towards Laura Antonelli. An actress who shifted my attention. The theme of identity is not so defined in the film, and as a homosexual man I felt my desires as a man and cinema in a different way”_.
Without a doubt, Sachs’s is a generational film, in the strictest sense of the term: “The protagonists are younger than me, there is a generational difference, and this makes the film very timely”. Passages, shot in metropolitan Paris, immortalized in nooks and crannies far from the usual tourist conception, is actually built on the physicality of the protagonist, and on his involutionary path: “Franz is a physical actor, and can convey stories and feelings. The film is about a man of power who ends up on the ground. And the end of the film explains it. A sort of choreography. But a choreography must be understood and implemented. Franz works with the body in an exceptional way”.
Passages, the review: a “European” Ira Sachs gives Franz Rogowski the most intense role of his career
“A film about the pursuit of pleasure”
The mood, like the focus on the characters, changes all the time. Scene after scene, the film changes perspective, while remaining on Tomas’ ego, introduced in a masterful opening sequence, in which he is on the set, harassing the actors and extras of a film that should go to the Venice Film Festival. “The opening sequence is important, from a certain point of view I see myself. In many years of my career I have asked myself how I impact on other people, even if I work differently from the character of Tomas. I don’t rehearse, I don’t give orders. On the set, I place the actors so that they can discover each other. However, as a director, and therefore as a man of power, I always have doubts about my personality”.
According to Ira Saches, whom we met in Rome, “The film is coherent, the protagonist is coherent. There is a separation between what he has and what he would like to have. But Passages is a film dominated by the pursuit of pleasure. And for my part there is the attention to please the audience: the choice of actors, the lights, the scenes. The pursuit of pleasure is conceptual”.
Eroticism as a cinematic medium
The pleasure the director talks about, in fact, can be found both in Josée Deshaies’ photography and in the care of the interpretations. On the other hand, Passages is also a film with a strong impact, which doesn’t give up on staging eroticism in its most cinematic form. A position taken by Ira Sachs, who reflects on a concept: “We live with the belief that things can improve, and instead to portray the body I went back to the cinema of the seventies. I wanted to recreate transparent images, without shame or sin”. The work, however, does not want to send messages, leaving it to the public to find the best nuances: “After years as a director, I don’t want to send messages. But a story can be read by the audience differently, so there is no clear direction towards fluidity. However, the generational shift allows us to see the characters, and their relationships, differently”conclude Ira Sachs.