Taviani brothers give the world a taste of Italy

By Olga Verkhotina

Some jobs just don’t let you retire.

Brothers Paolo Taviani, 81, and Vittorio Taviani, 83, started their careers as journalists, but in 1954 they shifted to the film industry.

Nearly sixty years later, the Taviani brothers have produced twenty full-length movies, they still have an ambition to win an Oscar, and they still work in a collaborative style they’ve used their entire career.

In March, Filmworks will screen the latest movie by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Caesar Must Die, a drama that follows real-life convicts as they rehearse for a performance of Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar.

Trailer for La notte di San Lorenzo (The Night of the Shooting Stars), the Taviani brothers war drama that won best film at Cannes in 1983.

In every film, each of the brothers has an alternate scene he directs. Until the scene is finished, they can’t interrupt each other or make changes to it. The rest of the crew also knows this rule and won’t take any directions from the brother who isn’t in charge of the scene being worked on.

“We have a very acute nonverbal, telepathic communication,” Vittorio Taviani said in a recent interview with The New York Times. “If the one at the monitor starts to scratch his head, the other understands. So we have a silent meeting, we correct it, and then we go off again.”

That type of communication brought them worldwide recognition and prestigious awards, including prizes from the Cannes, Venice, and Berlin film festivals.

Trailer for Fiorile, the 1993 family drama that’s a famous example of the brothers’ Italian component.

The Taviani brothers set almost every film they make in Italy. The country has become deeply connected to their style, as its countryside and cities become parts of each story.

One of their most celebrated films, 1977’s Padre padrone (Father and Master), tells the true story of Gavino Ledda, a shepherd from Sardinia who escapes his oppressive home life to become an acclaimed linguist. It was the first film to win both the Palme d’Or and FIPRESCI prizes at Cannes in the same year, and it introduced the directors’ view of Italy to the world.

Caesar Must Die, which won the Golden Bear prize this past year in Berlin, is no different. Who else but the Taviani brothers could tell a story of a great Roman ruler better than Italian directors who emphasize Italy?

Olga Verkhotina studies journalism at Fresno City College. She is the Filmworks media relations and communication intern.