“Love is not a board that can be erased in peace to write a new story on it”

Again, i The other woman, the Roman writer and director explores the turbulence of love. In this story of manipulation in the age of social networks, she offers her subtle, romantic and political look at the contemporary couple.

In his new novel, The other woman, the filmmaker and author Cristina Comencini treats in a very personal way an eternal theme for literature as life: the rivalry between two women over a man. Elena, 25, is in a relationship with Pietro, who is twice her age, as well as an ex-wife, Maria, and three children. Nothing but very classic if Maria had not adopted an assumed identity to get in touch with Elena via Facebook and bring her into dialogue while confiding in her painful divorce and to the man she liked – Pietro, of course, if name she simply changed …

If this feat could prove fatal to the relationship between Elena and Pietro, it also revealed these two women to themselves, and their trust is in the author of Four loves the possibility of, through the novel, conducting a study of one of his favorite topics: love and family relationships, and what they say about our current society.

On video, Anais’ lovesteaser

Miss Figaro. – While you derive the figure of the love triangle, is your novel not also about the clash of generations?
Cristina Comencini.– Elena and Maria, who lived with the same man at different times and ages, actually belong to two generations. They criticize each other, confront each other, tease each other, but also learn from each other. Elena wants to be in strength, conquest, achievement. Maria had a completely different trajectory; she had children and went through a transition period where the female role, while evolving, was still very traditional. They also embody the way we construct ourselves in relation to parenting models. How we hope not to be like those who gave birth to you – Maria and Pietro wanted to raise their children very differently from the way they were raised – and how we are going to join them: Maria accuses as her mother could do that, Elena, who opposed everything her mother did and was, is going to understand her …

“The past is never dead, it is not even past,” Faulkner wrote. Is not that one of the main ideas in the book?
We can not ignore what has been. When we remarry or begin a new romantic relationship, we must be able to move on without clearing the table from the past. Love is not a board that can be erased in peace to write a new story. What we have experienced remains in us, in our flesh and our spirit; it cannot be denied without weakening the present relationship. Pietro will always start over, while Maria and eventually Elena understand that it is not possible. And if it slows them down in the beginning, it also gives them a depth that remains unknown to Pietro.

As in Four loves , you give voice to the different characters throughout the novel. What purpose?
It is a way of diverting the self to different personas. A bit like what is happening in our society. Everyone has a very strong individuality, sometimes too much, and we have lost the sense of community, of the collective. And at the same time we are looking for each other and we are trying to meet the other … The book is divided between Elena’s story and each other’s speeches. It realizes that there is no one who understands, sees and knows everything, only an juxtaposition of several selves that form a group.

Monica Bellucci, the cover story

You have often been called up chronicler of the intimate “. Do you agree with this idea?
I am a chronicler of the intimate, if the intimate is the social, if we think that it is the dough that society is kneaded from. I have always inscribed the intimate in the story. Four lovesis, for example, a book about nothing holding people back today, no ideal or no ideology, no great movement … But it is revealed through what happens in the private sphere. I tell society through the focal point of personal relationships.

Dear French cousins your letter about coronavirus and lockdown, went viral when it surfaced Release in March 2020 … Why did you write it?
Italy at the time lived a little ahead of what France was going through. My partner is French – we had recently moved together and had chosen to stay in Italy because the apartments are larger than in Paris, more habitable in times of confinement. He could not convey to his family and friends in France what was happening on the other side of the Alps, and I probably wrote partly because of that. I developed the idea that incarceration and Covid also represented a great private ordeal. In normal times it is possible to go out and purify the mind; there, stuck at home, the other person’s ubiquitous presence was an accelerator that sometimes made couples explode in a spectacular way. These three months together corresponded to three years … I would like to remind you that society is not built solely on trade, work, production. It is also built on our private relationships. The intimate is social and even political.

What did you think of MeToo, the daughter of director Luigi Comencini, who shot a dozen films and adapted two of your books for the cinema?
That it should happen. Everything that seemed normal to us, such as the seductive relationship between the actress and the director or the director, is no longer like this: being a great artist does not entitle you to use the body in your actress manipulative way, under the pretext that she is your muse. Women realized that it was not necessary to play this game to make a career, that one could say it and adopt other behaviors. There have been excesses, but each revolution has its excesses. And then so many things came out about what was going on in the church or in the family … That was what I talked about in my novel and my film The beast in the heart. Many people at the time claimed that it was rare, unique, that sexual predation, rape, incest took place in the countryside, within disadvantaged backgrounds … when this is clearly not the case.

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Is it not writing in the end to put into words what has passed in silence?
I actually think the scripture, the narrative comes to me from the need to mention what is hidden. All writers do it one way or another, but like all women who write, I travel with two suitcases: the one of men’s culture that I was taught during all my studies, from elementary school to university, and that of silence of women, mothers, grandmothers, ancestors, of all those who preceded us. Our art has two sources and we use one by transforming it to say the other …

The other woman, by Cristina Comencini, Stock Editions, 220 pp., € 20.50. Translated by Béatrice Robert-Boissier.

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