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The making of Ritorno

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Ritorno received a 4-star award at BIAFF 2008.

Ritorno  by Rolf Mandolesi

The origin for my film "RITORNO" probably lies in my innate love of aesthetics. My occupation - I was a dentist - had a lot to do with a sense of beauty. So I was bothered for quite some time that ever larger and more frequent architectural sins were occurring in Meran, the city where I have lived for 50 years. I would like to make it clear that I do not have anything against modern architecture, as long as it has a suitable ambience and is not mixed together with traditional classical styles.

Old building Old and new Traffic Red building

Another reason for criticism was the failure of the Meran council to stop or reroute the increasing traffic and its resulting pollution, particularly as Meran was originally developed as a Spa resort with healthy air. And finally there were not enough rubbish collections to cope with the volume caused by the increasing throughput of tourists.

Smell Rubbish

To begin with, more than a year ago I began collecting "infamous examples" that I kept discovering and captured them on video. When I had collected sufficient material, I realised that I could not simply string together these "scoops" to make them into a critical film. So I had the idea of filming a pair of tourists from the past, (who theoretically would have to be nearly 100 years old) returning to visit today's Meran. For this I also had to find older cinematic and photographic material so that I could make the necessary comparisons. For the acted scenes I wrote a small film script, and it became obvious to me that I should record the natural reaction of today's live tourists to the actors. Therefore I involved a friend, Guenther Haller, as an additional cameraman and gave him the task of recording the reactions of the spectators.

Bystanders 2 Historic couple arriving on train Couple walking through station Bystanders

As I rarely use dialogue in my films and never use spoken commentary (because I believe that the atmosphere in a film should not be disturbed), I put huge value on the design of the soundtrack, which is in my opinion a very important and additional component of communication. As an example I remember the deliberate clanging of bells as a comment on the "architectural sin" or the voice of a Muezzin calling prayers combined with the appearance of a Kaaba1-like structure. For the same reason I sometimes use noises, which do not fit with the original sound, e.g. the 'all-clear' siren after the demolition of the building. Concerning the worrisome search for music I would like to stress that I often trim or restructure certain scenes after the rough cut to reflect the rhythm of the chosen music.

Box Windows Transition into Crates

Now to the production of the film. The only problem was getting permission to film in the train and through the station. I had to ask for permission from the management of the railway company in Rome, and I had to indicate the date, time, railtrack and train for the shoot, as well as to attach a copy of the film script, with the additional promise to send a copy of the video after completion. I completed shooting the scenes with the actors in one day, while editing and sound took several weeks. I must admit that I was very happy with the result. I had additional confirmation after the first public performance, when I was asked in person six times by different associations, such as the Greens, the local preservation society, World Wildlife fund, the tourist board etc., to show this film again. After participation in different festivals and at UNICA I have, after feedback from different critics, decided to shorten this film by 3 minutes.

Rolf Mandolesi, April 2008

1 The Kaaba is the 40 feet high box-like structure in the courtyard of the Sacred Mosque in Mecca regearded as the holiest place in Islam.

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