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Isthmus (Istmo)

original title:


directed by:


set design:

Anna Maria Cardillo

costume design:

Silvia Bergomi


Gianpio Notarangelo







film run:



DCP - colour

release date:


Orlando is a translator who works from home. His house is a maze, a cage he never leaves. He has set and organized his life in such a way to be selfsufficient and independent from the world outside.
He does everything through the Internet and his smartphone, therefore he gradually looses contact with the world. He is surrounded by colourful and mysterious characters, among them Amad, his roommate, an enigmatic figure with whom Orlando is in conflict and who will provide unexpected twists. Only Marina, a rider who regularly delivers him food and by whom Orlando is surprisingly attracted, will succeed in opening up new horizons towards the "outside", just when his life will be at a crossroads.

An isthmus (Istmo) is a narrow piece of land, washed on both sides by oceans, seas or lakes, connecting two larger areas, one of which is continental and the other one is generally insular or continental"; in meteorology it is "an area of high pressure between two cyclones".
It is difficult for a director who is also the author of both subject and script to conceive directing notes in their most literal definition, without inevitably considering the writing phase, for, in this specific case, writing and staging were developed simultaneously as in a creative continuum.
In this case the geographical definition of an isthmus represents a semantic/symbolic paradigm not only in relation to the contents of the film, but also to the adopted directing method. From a narrative point of view the symbolism of the isthmus is a locus of the soul which separates and unites, a subtle border with the infinite and the existence, the protagonist’s path, somewhere between the solitude of a society apparently uniting us through a network, but actually drawing us apart from reality, from life and from roots.
The discovery of roots as a salvation, is a thematic line/project I pursue in my filmography. However, an isthmus is also a runway which leads to authenticity, to the awareness of the existence of separate spaces, towards which a choice must be made.
These conceptual separating lines can also been found in the directing style, which is characterized by the fluidity of the dolly when dealing with existentially "settled" characters (or with the protagonist, only in shifting moments), in opposition to the hand-held camera, sometimes frantic, which tells the labyrinthine world of Orlando’s home and soul. A camera which is rarely static on tripods. A light from above in the dining room scenes, as if it was the sun light entering a cave, an unattainable light, a symbolic movement from the bottom up and vice versa. In the scenography and in the costumes, the vivid and clear colours (blue, red and green), the Caribbean patterns, the references to the external and varied world of journeys and discoveries, are opposed to the shadow and the melancholy of Orlando's faults and to the only, claustrophobic unit of space.
In opposition to the claustrophobia of the house, the sounds always refer to the world of nature, the scent of the sea, of the wind, of the lake coming to life in almost all the rooms of the house; water and sea, in particular, are a constant in the dialogues and in the iconographic aspect; they are visible in diegetic documentaries on starfish, in quotations to sharks and whales, in the Atlantic blue colour of the walls in Orlando’s room. Water more than air, amniotic fluid, a universe of mystery and danger, tension to the unknown and the unpredictable. Everything tends to underline carnality, a desire for contact that cannot be achieved, an imploded tension towards the outside, whose failed act has become chronic, either due to a difficult past (to which in an openly vague way we refer) or to a social, global trend, which tends towards a false idea of community, dividing us and making us lonely, in an unconscious vortex of individualism and narcissism.
The continuous evocations to the Hispanic and Iberian American language and culture (some characters, the language of translations, Argentinian cinema) represent a further contrast between Orlando’s being in force and his real state. The references to the linguistic and philological world (Orlando’s job as a translator), besides being part of my education, my interests and my activities, naturally represent a strong functional link to the story between Orlando and the world. The language, a primordial instrument of expression and communication of the self, becomes central because in it comes to light the feeling of an absence of relationship, the missing link, the sign of a lack of experience, the point of fragility, but also a urge that leads to the outside.