Do you remember the summer vacations you spent as a teenager? Together with your friends, laying in the sun-drenched grass, floating on the water or carelessly laughing and joking around, knowing that soon you’d have to move on to the responsibilities of adulthood. Not(e) for a Dreamer, a fashion film we present you today, will make you nostalgic for those carefree summers. Award winning filmmaker Enrico Poli talks with us about the inspiration behind his film, his view on narrative in fashion and the moment he realised he became an adult.
How did you first get into filmmaking?
After a BA in Communication Design, I was very confused about what to do with my life and enrolled in a Master in Visual Arts. Consequently, I ended up being even more confused. During those years, I was lucky enough to meet someone that introduced me to the art of filmmaking and I graduated from the Master with a short film called La Salita (Italian for ‘the climb’). The shooting turned out to be such a nightmarish experience that I promised myself never to make another film in my life! But when I started editing the footage I fell in love with it. Ever since, filmmaking has given me a sense of order.
What makes a film captivating, according to you?
What captivates me in a film is honesty: the feeling that an author is putting himself on the line, to an extent. Therefore, I always try to be honest when working on a film. Of course, there are always techniques to make something captivating, but I believe devices are secondary when a story comes from a place of truth. We're captivated by what is atavistic in the arts. We're captivated when we recognise something about our inner self in the creation of a stranger.
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A lot of your films evoke a sense of nostalgia, how do you manage to capture this?
I think it's the film’s aesthetic experience that evokes this sense of nostalgia. Someone said that film is inherently nostalgic, for by the time we capture something with our cameras, it is already past. I don't know if I agree with this notion, but whenever I try to make something cinematic, I end up with something nostalgic. Maybe what's really nostalgic in my films is the sense of longing for a time that is lost – and that perhaps was never really there. But to an extent, I think my films are more nostalgic for a viewer than they are for me, because in the end, I'm simply capturing what I see. My search for beauty, aesthetics and pure intensity in film is only a means of translating my vision of the world into the cinematic language.
Not(e) for a Dreamer is a fashion film, yet the narrative is very important and executed in great detail. What is the difference for you between a fashion film and a short film?
This may sound a bit simplistic, but the main difference is that in a fashion film, there’s a designer involved. Thus, there is a need to comply with someone else's vision and artistic language. Unlike many fashion film directors, I don't originally come from art direction or fashion photography. It feels quite natural for me to try to push the narrative in this language. However, I regard the fact that fashion film isn't strictly linked to narrative as a positive thing, because it allows a great degree of experimentation over storytelling. Being able to leave things unexplained or unfinished is a great privilege for creative minds. If I'm honest, I tend to do the same also in drama. Perhaps I don't believe in certainties.
How did you come up with the idea for Not(e) for a Dreamer?
About one year ago, Antonio (the designer behind Mono-Y) and I were discussing the evolution of his work. For his latest collection, he took inspiration from the youth culture of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, reinventing it into something contemporary. I thought this concept could be very interesting to translate into film. The story actually came all at once. The narrative revolves around the idea of 'the end of playtime'.
Anaïs (the main character) reflects on her desire to extend playtime over the boundaries 'imposed' by age and society, while she starts to acknowledge the changes that have happened within her in the recent months. The places and situations that had livened up her summer are now deprived of their meaning, causing her to question also the reality of feelings. Anaïs is therefore faced with a dilemma: shall she linger in the nostalgic limbo provided by her teenage mind, or shall she cross the line and walk into adulthood once and for all? This storyline was my take on Antonio's exploration.
“There are always techniques to make something captivating, but I believe devices are secondary when a story comes from a place of truth. We're captivated when we recognise something about our inner self in the creation of a stranger.”
Why did you decide to film from the perspective of a woman, instead of a man?
Frankly, I made this decision because girls become women before boys become men. The idea was to show a young adult in the body of a teenager and it felt more appropriate to do this with a woman. I've always found women extremely mysterious, I'm convinced they have a completely different relationship with their instinct than men. So maybe, part of me also wanted to learn something more about this mystery, or simply linger a bit in its reality.
During the editing process, Oscar (the editor) and I were making fun of our work imagining how the whole account of this 'end-of-the-summer story' would have been different if seen from the perspective of the lead actor. We imagined a frustrated boy, unable to make sense of what's going on with his girlfriend. I know it's a bit silly, but perhaps it reveals more than we think about the unbridgeable inner worlds that a young man and a young woman inhabit.
Not(e) for a Dreamer is about a group of teenagers slowly turning into adults, like a coming of age film. Could you describe your own teenage years? Was there any moment you became aware of entering adulthood?
I think I understood I was becoming an adult only last year. If I'm completely honest, the whole idea of 'the end of playtime' was quite autobiographical. The reality of the creative industry involves a certain degree of 'gravity', for your career depends on your success and, the older you get, the stronger the fear of 'having to give up' becomes. Ironically, Antonio and I found ourselves facing this reality at the same time.
When I was a kid, I wanted to become a footballer. I played semi-professionally until I was nineteen, so to an extent, stop playing did mark the end of my teens. Yet I don't remember much about that aspect of my life. My teenage years were very carefree. I remember the springs a lot, and the summers as well. I used to travel to Sicily with my family, which was truly magical. When I speak about nostalgia, aesthetic memory or chasing lost time (which are more or less synonymous in my vocabulary), I often refer to the time in Sicily as a kid and as a teenager. And I'm sure a great deal of my artistic sensitivity comes from there too.
You created this film for Italian fashion brand Mono-Y. Can you tell us a little more about this collaboration? In which ways did the film compliment the values of the brand?
Antonio and I met in 2008 in London. What inspires us to work together is the feeling we are on a common pathway. Our first project together was a short film titled Closure, back in 2013. It wasn't strictly a fashion film, but there was already great attention to aesthetics. When he started to work as fashion designer, we started entertaining the idea of making a video for his brand. Since then, we've done two editorials, two fashion films and one music video together.
Antonio always says that nowadays designers are mood makers and I agree. They are no longer selling just the clothes or even designs, but the concept that accompanies them. Fashion film is a means of exploring brands' core values and translating them into another language. Therefore, it is a powerful medium for fashion designers, allowing them to enter the imagination of their users. With this fashion film (as well as the ones we’ve done before, and those we’ll do in the future), I aim to extend Antonio's narrative beyond the garments he designs. One of the key elements of Antonio's aesthetic is the idea of reinventing the past into something contemporary. Not(e) for a Dreamer translates this sense of discovery and search for identity into cinematic language.
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