Ferdinando Cito Filomarino, Director of ‘Beckett’, Discusses Cinematic Influences, Detailed Locations, and Crafting a Confident Thriller

BECKETT (2021) Director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino, Vicky Krieps and John David Washington. Cr: Yannis Drakoulidis/NETFLIX
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Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller: Firstly, congratulations on the film!

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: Thank you! 

NBB: Thinking about the story of the film, I was struck by how very unlucky the main character is. He’s not a journalist, he’s not an investigator, he’s not really informed about the plot at all – he really just happens to encounter this gigantic scheme. How intentional was that? Did you set out to juxtapose your protagonist against something so unfamiliar to him?

FCF: That was central. I love so many movies, like the ones we referenced, from the 70s and also before then – there’s something always heightened about characters and plots where things kind of go ‘spectacular.’ I was interested in finding a way to relate to a character more, and decided on a tone that was more grounded, and a character that is figuring it out along with us. He’s not ahead of us like some genius spy. He’s a normal person, and we relate to what’s happening to him, and are equally terrified and clueless about what’s going on. We have to slowly piece it together as we go along, which honestly is how I’d imagine it would happen in the more realistic version of the story. You’d just have to pick up the pieces, when you have a second to breathe, and try to figure it out. I found that more interesting, and fun, to do today.

NBB: I’m a big fan of The Parallax View myself, and I’m intrigued to talk to you about these conspiracy thrillers you have listed as major influences. How did these shape your approach to shaping the film, and what is it about that style of film, no matter the time period, that captivates you?

FCF: There’s definitely something very efficient, in terms of storytelling, about placing a very large scope, and danger, and implications on the shoulders of a single character. If everything comes down to what happens to this one person, or at least is heavily influenced by it, that immediacy and drama excites me. Then to fuse that with a sense of place, and with how much circumstance and attitude can inform the outcome of an adventure like this – as in, if there’s a bridge between here and there, the whole outcome of the story is different – poses some very broad implications, and some very specific, more cinematic and visual clues, which inspired me when building up the bricks of this film.

BECKETT (2021) John David Washington as Beckett. Cr: NETFLIX

NBB: On that note regarding place, it’s fascinating how ground-level you are with the Greek locations. There are grand, beautiful places in the film, and much smaller ones as well, the corners in a train station for example. How did you approach this terrain? Were you familiar with it beforehand? And did your filmmaking style change as you got to know it better?

FCF: It was absolutely location-based. I didn’t really know the land of Greece very well before I started working on this. I took a very rich trip before even making the decision to set it there. I traveled all over the mainland, because I wanted to explore some lesser-known places to international cinema – which always seems to go to islands when they go to Greece. I had something in mind in terms of what we needed, but I completely let myself be influenced by the locations I was seeing, and then tailored both the writing and the staging to the locations that we found. So it absolutely worked that way, the place itself informed the outcome, and the character of the story.

NBB: I have to ask, was Costa Gavras’ Z on your mind during this process, considering the locations and kindred spirits the films share?

FCF: One hundred percent. Not just Z, more films as well. I think of Missing, for example, as another great influence.

NBB: I enjoyed how many moments in the film were quite still and quiet. Particularly when a little cat greets Beckett above a railway station. Talk me through how you incorporated these quieter, more detailed moments?

FCF: The film starts with, ends with, and is fueled by this very specific character. This dramatic character, who is undergoing a kind of personal crisis, while this thriller is happening to him. But it was important to me to keep track of what was going on with him, throughout the story. I wouldn’t imagine somebody who’s undergoing that crisis completely switching everything off until further notice. I would imagine it comes back to him often. There is a moment in the scene that you referred to, when for a moment everything is suspended, and then the uncanny, the unusual, the unexpected pollutes the moment. I was interested in what this character, and this actor, what his face says when all of this is happening to him and this further random thing happens. To me the movie’s core is in these kinds of questions. What does this mean for Beckett? How does he approach it? What does he do with it?

NBB: Finally, with such an impressive and clearly dedicated cast, how did you discuss your almost genre-less approach with everyone? Were you all on the same page?

FCF: The conversations were a little different depending on the actor, and depending on the character, mostly. With John David I had a specific tone in mind during our conversation, as his character is going through a specific type of crisis, and confronts a very unusual set of circumstances. So it was interesting to discuss with him, what is this crisis? What does it mean? How does he cope with it, or how does he not cope with it? So therefore, how will he act in these extreme circumstances? When talking to Vicky Krieps, the conversation was entirely different. For her character, asking what does she stand for? What is her baggage? What is her background? Those were more important questions for her scenes, and also Vicky’s is a different type of performance, so that brought us to different places. Same with Alicia, who had very different things to do than Beckett, and so we discussed different themes. As much as I like to share my material and my research with all of the actors I work with, or to watch films and comment on what’s relevant, it was different for each and every one of them, because their characters were so different. 

NBB: Mr. Filomarino, thank you very much for speaking with me today. Good luck with everything.

FCF: Thank you.

BECKETT (2021) John David Washington as Beckett and Alicia Vikander as April. Cr: NETFLIX
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