Amanda is not your average 24-year-old girl. She’s obnoxious, narcissistic, aimless, and without a job, a boyfriend, or even a friend. After moving back to the town she was born in after years of moving around with her bourgeois family, Amanda's mother forces her to get in touch with Rebecca, an equally awkward girl her age. When she finds out Rebecca was her childhood friend, it becomes her mission to be her best friend. Having received rave reviews at the Venice International Film Festival with its mix of subversive humor and devastatingly relatable anxieties, it’s hard to believe that Amanda is Director Carolina Cavalli’s debut feature film. Cavalli, the innovative writer-director behind this Italian triumph sat down with Borrowing Tape to discuss loneliness, cinema, and the quarter-life crisis.
Amanda is currently showing in select theaters in the U.S.
Listen or read the transcript below — edited and condensed for clarity:
Hi, I'm Sofia Sheehan, I'm with Borrowing Tape here today with Carolina Cavalli. the director of the incredibly lonely, but also really funny Amanda. First, congratulations.
Thank you so much. Thanks. It makes me happy you liked it.
It was a treat to watch.
What themes and subject matters interest you most as a filmmaker?
For sure character-driven stories mean like really things that start from the character and I really like a theme of isolation, loneliness, and feeling — just feeling out of place because I think it's no matter which story you tell it's a universal and human feeling that we all share. And, and so yes and and and so for the moment I feel of course it's a very short career but for the moment I feel this is what what interests me the most. And, also the tone there is a very specific tone that I like, which is the one that I try to do with Amanda and I think I feel very comfortable there and it's very familiar to me so I'm happy to stay in that in that tone.
Yeah, it's definitely some sort of Ashby or Wes Anderson kind of tone that I get from your work. Are there any specific filmmakers or movies that inspire you or specifically Amanda?
It's amazing when they compare you to other people, other filmmakers because of course like they, you have to name people that are established so everybody knows, they compare you always to like super successful directors and amazing directors which is always pleasant. But, no, not really it's also I never studied filmmaking so I was very scared to be influenced a lot by what I watched, because I didn't really have time before to create my visual identity or I don't know so I was, I was always trying to take to keep influence far. But then, of course, I realized that they come in the picture of course like what you liked and what you watched. I really, As I said, starting from the screenwriting point of view, who I really like people good with dialogue and with humor.
I love Aki Kaurismäki, I love Roy Anderson. I love Jarmusch, Wong Kar-wai, all these people — (Paolo) Sorrentino, people that use humor in a very subtle way. And sometimes, you even like don't understand if it's humor is just awkward, or if it's just I don't know it's very mysterious humor to me how it works it's like music. You don't know really how it works but it works.
The deadpan comedy and the absurd non-sequiturs are done so well in this movie because I think on one hand, they're so hilarious but on another, they show that it's just a mask for Amanda's incredible insecurities it can be so sad. How does that balance between you know, hilarious, sad deadpan?
Well, I really feel that they start from the same origin, I think good humor always have sadness in it and it's the humor that I like the most. I'm discovering a little bit lately like how much I love physical comedy. I don't know if it's, sorry for my English, I don't know. Yeah, a physical comedy, and also there I see there is always this even if it's just body, there's not wording but there's this element of sadness or something that I don't know when you're weak or defeated or you don't have the power or you don't have... Yeah, there's something that it's, I feel, humor is always an important tool is not the tool that probably gonna solve things but is still, yeah, a weapon.
Yeah, definitely. I think you touched on loneliness. I thought there was a really interesting commentary on the relationship between wealth and alienation. How much do you think Amanda's loneliness is a product of her class?
Yes. I would say that I never told Amanda belonging to a different class but not because she couldn't it's just that this is the story of Amanda she belongs to that social class, and to me, at least in my personal experience and I think people are good to use like a lot of writers are very good to use humor in many different situations — for me, this is the thing that makes me laugh the most. This kind of social circle and setting because it's to me the farthest you go from our nature, which is like very even like we're animals in the end but there are there are so many rules and etiquette and like ambitions and frustrations and secrets and you know it's and it's so fun to see animals like I don't know. Why cannot think about an animal? You give me an animal. Like cats dressed in super nice deep blue perfume and going to parties and like having like leaving on very, very superficial like but superficial but then this is life so in the end like it's not superficial when you live in them.
Yeah, definitely and I thought a lot about this loneliness. A lot of films have touched on this kind of loneliness, a quarter-life crisis, but usually, they do it through a romance, and this is done through a friendship. Why was it important to center the friendship?
For the same reason for me because sometimes I look for friendship stories but then I find only French films related to childhood or teenage period. Amanda is older and even in adulthood, it's very difficult to make friends and she even says that like it's I don't go to school anymore I don't go to the scouts like how can I make friends. And it's true, and at the same time, I feel that friendship is a very important emotion than emotion and kind of relationship. First of all, is very intelligent is based on a mutual choice of a habit. And it's very nice to see friends from the outside sometimes you wonder like oh my god they don't, you know they would do these people have in common and from the outside maybe it's not clear, but they do feel there is something that make them belong together and this is so beautiful to see.
Yeah, it is something when you're an adult searching for romance is not so embarrassing, you're allowed.
Listen, when you're looking for friends for some reason it's very weird.
It's strange, right? There's a group of people make "Hi I'm Carolina, Can I be your friend?" You wouldn't do that.
And basically the other thing Amanda, Benedetta Porcaroli. Amazing performance I think a lot of people might recognize her from the Netflix series Baby — she was a very different character. How and when did you realize she would hit this out of the park?
Well, actually we had auditions we auditioned many actresses and there were like, I don't know 80, 90 auditions was always also the first time that I worked with the actors and actresses, so it was pretty cool. And I just felt when Benedetta arrived of course I was very lucky because she as you said she already had a many experiences, even if she's she's very young, but what really convinced me and made me feel very protected and relieved and safe as a first time director was that we understood the character in the same way, and I felt I could express — of course this is my opinion that maybe I couldn't communicate, but I could express this in words and she could express that the same thing, but embodying it which is something very peculiar if you're a writer to see they I don't know it was strange to see your words and the character you imagine because up to that point, I always imagine character they were not real people and then they become like they you have to let your character go in the real world, and so it has to have a specific body specific face a specific tone of voice and a way of moving and speaking that maybe it's not exactly how you imagine it but sometimes is a good surprise and it gets even better.
Yeah, it definitely was, she was fantastic!
Yeah, I loved her in it. Where was Amanda filmed, how long was the shoot?
23 days, which is not very long but at the same time. I loved it like it kept adrenaline very high and it was a nice like, like, yeah, it was a nice bubble and I think I really enjoyed the set.
I will always prefer writing. That's something I really, I really love to do. And, by the way, I hope also in Italy now. I hope here like in [the] US because right now I'm in New York things are going to change right quickly. I don't know and then Italy as well. I hope we're going to follow very soon.
Right. And what what city was it filmed in?
Turin. So interesting, really played into the story.
Yeah, the city.
Yeah, I try not to create a specific geographical space, but let's say more of a known place and Turin has this characteristic of being very suspended. I mean, it feels, like you don't understand very well where you are. Like sometimes it seems very Paris. Sometimes it seems like Midwest America. Sometimes it seems like I don't know, in my idea, Hong Kong, even if I've never been but like you imagine places as they are pictures and you're like, okay. And, so it was very strange but it's Italian at the same time there is something exact, there is something very weird. And so I really love that city. And, I was lucky that I asked to film there and we managed to film there. It was not a condition, like a mandatory condition, because I really wanted to work with a known place which is something that in, if I should do a new film I would like to do again because it makes me very happy to be far from time and space, at least in the in that moment. It's not something that I'm crazy about, time and space and reality in general. Well, of course, we have to deal with it, but at the same time, if I can take a break from that I'm really happy.
And the rural landscapes I thought it almost made Amanda feel like a Western cowboy anti-hero kind of added a level of intensity to her struggle.
Yeah, yeah. Also, Benedetta was very good at taking this cowboy anti-hero, like in her way of moving and walking and the face, and it's something like I really wanted, that and a bit of anime as well. Sometimes I think I had this to reference, sometimes in mind even if of course as I said it wasn't very conscious, and yeah.
Well, final question, what do you want audiences to take away from the film?
Yeah. I don't know why I care so much, but I hope they laugh through... they like the humor. I don't know why I'm so... I always have this hope that's the reason why I would love sometimes to stay in the screening rooms, but I'm so tense that people don't laugh and you hear when people laugh or not if the joke lands well. So, that's the main reason why I don't stay any like I never say at the screenings because I'm it's something that I really want. And then the other thing probably the most important thing is, I think the reason why I was so passionate about going to movies and going to cinema and, the reason why I'm doing this job is like to, because I get really get relief from staying in a dark and silent space watching the film and not feeling alone, that's the thing like a communication to not feel alone and the relief of okay I feel. Okay, I'm not, I'm not alone in feeling this or I understand exactly what's happening, I was there or in a completely different story maybe but I know what we're talking would like what they're talking about because we're all humans, so we understand each other and this is what I really like about films and cinema in general.
Well, I can say for me it definitely accomplished that.
Thank you so much!
Definitely laughed. It was uncomfortably relatable.
Thank you so much, it makes me very happy. And, yeah, I really hope that Amanda is going to go well in the US, then I never, you know, I never know what it means going well of course people are going to like it some people are going to hate it but you know you just hope that everyone is going to like it but that's not going to happen.