Luca Machnich

The director is a grandnephew of Anton Machnich, one of the movie
pioneers in Italy, who opened the first movie theaters in Italy, in Romania and in Ireland (the latter in partnership with the famous writer James Joyce) in the early 19th century. He studied film direction at the Los Angeles Film School after working as a production assistant in several screen and TV movies (also with Ettore Scola). He authored "Spaghetti Nightmares", one of the best books on Italian fantasy and thriller movies which was published in Italy (M&P edizioni) and in the United States (Fantasma books). The extended Italian version was very much appreciated by the fans of the genre and the film critics.
1. Your film THE EVE is one of the winners at our competition. Where did the inspiration for the film come from?

The film is based on a very ironic but straightforward story by the writer Nicola Lombardi, a
friend of mine. It tells of a child who meets Santa Claus and receives a gift. The ending is
the same as in the film, the problem being that what worked well in the story turned out to
be too predictable on film, so I added the subplot of the illegal adoption, and removed
some of the irony as well, in order to make space for the child's drama and keep the
audience from guessing how things were going to turn out. I had to change the poster too.
The original version showed the child's face reflected in a drop of blood shaped like a
Christmas-tree ornament, except that also gave away the ending. It was a shame,
because I liked the first poster better than the one we wound up using.

2. Tell us about your background and when you decided to become a filmmaker?

I began as an assistant on a number of productions, and then I wrote an encyclopaedia of
Italian fantasy and horror films entitled Spaghetti Nightmares. The unabridged Italian
edition, which I edited, presented the recollections of producers, actors, directors and crew
members who had taken part in the making of some of the key films in the history of the
horror genre in Italy. It was a great success, both commercially and with the critics, but the
publisher of the American edition deleted three-quarters of its content without my
permission, turning the book into something unsightly, that I no longer want to have
anything to do with. After that, I went to study directing and production at the Los Angeles
Film School, directing THE EVE as part of my training.

3. What films inspired you to become a filmmaker?

As I have said in other interviews, the horror films of Philip Ridley, such as The
Reflecting Skin, a masterpiece in a style similar to that of David Lynch, enriched with
exquisite references to the paintings of Edvard Munch, such as Vampire and The Scream,
all of which taught me how to delve into my characters' subconscious, reinforcing the
psychological depth of the film, an approach not fully taken advantage of in the horror
genre. It may be due to certain Nordic stirrings within me (my roots extend beyond Trieste,
in Istria, even further north), but I greatly admire the verve of English pop. Their theatrical
tradition is stronger than ours, and so I find Blue by Derek Jarman, or his Wittgenstein, to
be particularly interesting, though not being homosexual myself, I have trouble completely
identifying myself with his films on the subject. I am also intrigued with the directing of
Peter Greenaway, though the way he mixes theatre with video art throws me off a bit,
seeing that I have an entirely different conception of the cinema.  

4. Who is your biggest influence?

The masterpieces of George Romero, my filmmaking hero. In my eyes, he is probably the
all-time great director of horror films, for he not only revolutionised the genre, but
courageously depicted the distorted reality of America consumerism. When I see how
people all over the world, on Black Friday, take shopping centres by storm, in search of
bargains, it reminds me of the scene where the living dead attack the shopping centre in
Romero's Dawn of the Dead. I believe that, had he filmed Day of the Dead with a budget of seven million dollars,
rather than three and a half, based on his original script, he would have made the best
horror film of all time. The full-length feature films that I have scripted to date contain messages on social issues
that make people think. I only hope that I am allowed to address these thorny issues.

5. Do you have a favourite genre to work in? And why is it your favourite?

Any kind of visionary horror film, including those based on the surreal and the esoteric,
because they offer thrills you simply cannot find in other genres. In fact, once you
experience them, the other films, the ones you used to enjoy, no longer do it for you.

6. What's your all-time favourite movie and why?

I personally consider Fellini to be the greatest filmmaker of all time. His masterpieces are
sensorial experiences which arrive beyond the dimensions of time and space. There is no
describing them, you simply need to live through them, as in a collective dream. And while
8 ½ is definitely the best film ever done on the film industry itself, the first to give the figure
of the director its due, depicting the role with exceptional class, when it comes to flights of
fantasy, I myself prefer City of Women, an extravagant, vastly underrated blockbuster of
dreams, a fantastical   amusement park of the imagination where, if you enter with the right spirit, you never leave. At
least not until, like the lead character played by Marcello Mastroianni, you realise, at the
very end, that it was all a dream. I remember seeing the film in a theatre in London a few
years back. When I came out, I felt psychologically crushed by the overwhelming power of
the images, something I had never experienced before, a veritable Stendhal Syndrome
moment. I kept saying to myself that you would need thirty brains in the head of a single
person to write and film a fantasy of that magnitude.

7. If you could work with anyone in the world, who would that person be?

I would very much like to work with Tom Savini, the effects specialist who did Romero's
zombies, along with countless other American slasher films. I consider him to be the
greatest gore artist of all time.

8. The one person who has truly believed in you throughout your career?

My composer was the first to say that THE EVE was a masterpiece, and that it would win a
slew of awards. I myself was less certain.

9. What was the most important lesson you had to learn as a filmmaker?

To make films that are simple, but also inimitable, unique unto themselves, like Nicholas
Roeg's masterpiece Don't Look Now, based on a story by Daphne du Maurier, the
masterful but subtle English writer. The film was shot here in Italy, in Venice.

10. What keeps you motivated?

The numerous awards, the positive critical reception, my public.

11. How has your style evolved?

I broke away from the traditional school of Italian thriller films, which, though it had
presented the world with a number of masterpieces, had pretty much played itself out.
Maybe that explains why Italy's international festivals were willing to show my work, and
recognise it with awards, only after it had won no fewer than 300 of them elsewhere. A
misguided critic, someone who had failed to even grasp the film's story, wrote in a recent
review that, seen in this light, I must have made the film simply to show up everybody else
up. But that was the farthest thing from my mind. Our tradition in the genre has turned out
any number of thriller films better than my own, or that simply defy comparison, seeing that
they are way too different. So I have never seen myself as being in competition with
anybody.

12. On the set, the most important thing is...

That everybody be as professional as possible.

13. The project(s) you're most proud of...

For now, THE EVE, naturally.
 
14. The most challenging project you have worked on. And why?-

At present, that would have to be THE EVE. It was very difficult, involving 150 digital
effects that took years to complete. Plus I had to oversee everything by myself, because
my producer had other films to work on. At the time, 3D effects were less advanced than
today, so I was forced to do a number of things more than once. I think I worked with eight
different special effects artists. I can be quite a stickler for detail, and this led to tension
with some people, but in the end they did an excellent job, winning me a number of
awards.

15. What are your short-term and long-term career goals?

Long-term, I definitely want to make good films, but it takes years to think them through
and write them. It is not something that happens overnight.

16. Your next projects?  

I have written two full-length films. One is a story set in America and the other takes place
in northern Europe. I feel that both could turn out to be extremely personal, deep, intriguing
films with excellent prospects for the future.