Elisabetta Sgarbi, after years as Editor and Editorial Director of Bompiani Publishing House, has founded in November 2015, together with other authors and publishers, among which Umberto Eco, Mario Andreose and Eugenio Lio, La nave di Teseo Publishing House, of which is General and Editorial Director. Among the many foreign and Italian authors which she has worked with and she has published: Paulo Coelho, Michael Cunningham, José Saramago (Nobel Prize for Literature 2010), Wole Soyinka (Nobel Prize for Literature 1986), Tahar Ben Jelloun, Petros Markaris, Amin Maalouf, Jay McInerney, Michel Houellebecq, Rick Moody, Colm Tóibín, Joël Dicker, Richard Flanagan, Patrick White, Imre Kertész (Nobel Prize for Literature 2002), David Cronenberg, Gao Xingjang (Nobel Prize for Literature 2000), Wim Wenders, Svetlana Alexievich (Nobel Prize for Literature 2015), Guillaume Musso, James Ellroy, Erica Jong, Quentin Tarantino, Rabih Alameddine, Jonathan Lethem, Patrick McGrath, Thomas Piketty, Umberto Eco, Claudio Magris, Susanna Tamaro, Sandro Veronesi, Andrea De Carlo, Antonio Scurati, Alain Elkann, Vittorio Sgarbi, Giovanni Reale, Edoardo Nesi, Carmelo Bene, Antonio Rezza, Nuccio Ordine, Mauro Covacich.
In 1999, she wrote, with Momix's famous leader Moses Pendleton as co-writer, the volume of interviews Salto di gravità (Olivares), while, during the eighties, Elisabetta had already edited Ressurga de la tumba (1986), a work by Pietro Andrea de' Bassi, and Ennio Flaiano's Frasario esistenziale (per passare inosservati in società), with Vanni Scheiwiller, (1986).
“The Trembling Night– Gianfranco Ferroni” (2002). Presented at the 59° Mostra Internazionale d’Arte di Venezia, is a film aiming at taking the spectator through the reconstruction of the process of rarefaction of the glance, which is typical of the research of this artist: the empty rooms of his studio, the dust settled by the time, the views of light, the flashing of a hypothetical sense in the total absence, the break in the dark. A route along the seeming chaos that for Ferroni was a “perception of perfection.”
“Ghosts of Voice– Antonio Stagnoli” (2003). Commissioned by the art gallery manager Arialdo Ceribelli, a film that recreates the expressionist atmosphere of Stagnoli works, a deaf-mute painter from Bagolino: the sense of incurable labor and sufferance revealed by his Indian inks, his pencils, his pastels, his engravings is reintroduced by the camera, with an obsession about the metamorphosis of the substance. Stagnoli’s reign is dark, a darkness of the deep essence of things, and the painter seeks and finds this darkness in the limited horizons of the faces, gestures, positions of humble men and women, peasants of his homeland. Mythical peasants who, like the animals, belong to the Reign of the Mothers.
“The Light of Reason” (2004). The film, commissioned by the Istituto Regionale Ville Venete, is like a poetic transfiguration of the objective reality. The lethargic slowness of the camera brings back the deep mystery of the Palladian villas, and the object reflects itself in the lenses of a guide, Vittorio Sgarbi, to whom we owe the comment during the filmic experience itself, as if the image came out from his very voice. The red filter is dominant, and thanks to it the natural black and white of the villas emerge in its blinding power, like a new epiphany.
“Endless Night– Love Betrayal Incest” (2004). Featuring Anna Bonaiuto, Laura Morante, Galatea Ranzi, Toni Servillo, and distributed by Istituto Luce, is an example of “cinema/theater of words”. The words are taken from the texts by Tahar Ben Jelloun, Amin Maalouf and Hanif Kureishi. It is a work that through a system of calculated close-ups and a background in which the light is an emergence from a dark nearly primordial, let the voices/figures express the dramatic force of classical, infinite topics, like that of love facing death, obsessive jealousy, the relationship between a father and his daughter. An intentional filmic stillness leaves an opening for the thousand rivers of the human words.
“Tresigallo. Where the marble is Sugar” (2006). The film, based on a script by Diego Marani, is a rediscovery of the town where Marani spent his childhood. A masterpiece of the rationalistic architecture: straight roads, round squares, sunlit porticos, a geometry that seems unreal and maybe for this reason it welcomes the fascination of an ancient, folk sacredness reverberating on the faces of the inhabitants, as well as of the inanimate things. And riding a bicycle becomes full of mystery as well, immersed in the silence of a countryside which is too loud and maybe is losing its pure features.
“Appearances. Mathias Gruenewald” (2006). A film based on the famous altarpiece of Isenheim, currently in Unterlinden Museum in Colmar. The work, originally meant for stirring the faith and devotion of the monks and sufferers, re-emerges in its expressive splendor and aesthetic and conceptual force thanks to the flickering of a torch that gradually unveils the details and the composition of this masterpiece like it was the first time: the tortured Christ, the Madonna with closed eyes, protected by her very superhuman grief, the monsters tempting Saint Anthony. A polyptych of the faith and its paths for a total visual experience.
“The Hidden Marriage or the Spring by Sandro Botticelli” (2007). Inspired by an essay by Professor Giovanni Reale and enveloped in the lights by Elio Bisignani and the music by Roberto Cacciapaglia, the film is a lyrical-evocative reading of the symbols unveiled and at the same time concealed by the figures: Wisdom, Eloquence. A veil is laid over the painting, livening it up, and a whirl of white, yellow and red petals completes the vision, transforming it into an allegorical vision which goes so far as to create a painting, new forms within the starting painting, in fact: to tell the unyielding multiplicity of the levels of interpretation.
“The Weeping Statue” (2007). Commissioned by the region Emilia Romagna, the film, dedicated to the Pietas, sculptural masterpieces of the Renaissance art that gives voice and substance to the cinema based on the idea of metamorphosis, in which the statues by Niccolò dell'Arca, Guido Mazzoni and Antonio Begarelli, lit up by the camera, turn into water statues, living statues, actors of a night cinema, where the sacred grief is expressed by their liquidity, their changing and flowing like water, primordial symbol of tears and thus of grief itself. The texts of the film, resulted from the ability of identification of world-famous directors like Michael Cimino and George Romero, and various writers like Vittorio Sgarbi, Antonio Scurati, Diego Marani, Pino Roveredo and Lucrezia Lerro, establish the link between art, cinema and literature that the nervous, nearly broken voices of Anna Bonaiuto and Toni Servillo then retranslate and reconvert to pure living theatre.
“Belle di notte” (2008). A shower causes a suspension of electric light during a visit of Vittorio Sgarbi and director Luciano Emmer to the collection in Via dell’Anima, Rome. The film revolves entirely around the torch lighting up parts of the masterpieces of the collection, and around the voices of the couple of “pilgrims” penetrating the mysteries of the works by Jacopo da Valenza, Pietro Liberi, Ignazio Stern, Alessandro Tiarini. A night trip, a daydream, in the dark, which becomes an precious occasion to truly “see” art.
Don’t ask us for the word – The Great mountain Theatre of the Sacred Mount of Varallo (2008).
It is a very human sacred story the one that the Sacred Mount of Varallo - in the masterpieces by Gaudenzio Ferrari, Tanzio from Varallo, Gherardini, Morazzone, Ceranino – delivers us, and that the cinematic gaze endeavours to grasp. We are taken to places precluded to the visitor’s eyes, beyond the grids, the glasses, the boundaries which protect, and distance from the viewer, these statues/paintings/people; we are lost between them, living in their houses/chapels and meeting, one by one, all the characters of this petrified crowd.
Every one of the 44 chapels represents, with frescos (about 4000 figures) and groups of statues (around 400), scenes from the life of Jesus and Mary.
The texts of this second chapter of the Trilogy on sacred art, by Edward Carey, Giovanni Testori, Juan de la Cruz, Vittorio Sgarbi, Umberto Eco, Sebastiano Vassalli, with the voiceover by Toni Servillo, shed the light of words upon the magic of sculpted bodies, and send it back to us, dense with all the history and allegory they contain.
The last ascent. Beniamino Simoni's Via Crucis (2009)
The third episode of the Trilogy on sacred art, “The last ascent”, takes us into the heart of the XVIII century, in Camonica Valley, where the parson Gualeni commissions to the artist from Fresine 14 chapels of wood and chalk statues on the Calvary of Christ. Once again, we follow the way shown by Giovanni Testori, among the first - if not the very first - to enter the mysterious world of the artist of Valsaviore and to interpret the paradox of this great masterpiece of Italian sculpture, the Via Crucis, suddenly abandoned and completed, later, in loco, by the Fantoni brothers.
The film renders, for the first time, the whole of the “Sacred Stairs” of the Via Crucis, as it was intended in Simoni’s original project. In fact, not only does it show all the sidereal distance between Simoni’s manufactures – dramatic, tragic, revolutionary, disruptive – and those by the Fantonis’, always defused into the forms of the grotesque; but the film also relocates Simoni’s “Lamentation” into the place where it was meant to be: chapel 14 (now inhabited by a XIX century sculpture). The music by Franco Battiato is intertwined with the texts by Giovanni Testori, Vittorio Sgarbi, Erri De Luca, Remo Bodei, Emanuele Severino, Tahar Ben Jelloun, and the voiceover by Toni Servillo.
Raffaello. The Stanza della Segnatura (2010)
For the first time, after more than forty years, an integral shot of the Stanza della Segnatura, in the Vatican, has been accorded. A ten day work, an eye pointed at Raffaello’s most famous frescos, which sign the mature phase of the humanistic-Renaissance age.
The Truth is one only, one that we reach through art, philosophy and religion. Art is the way to beauty: here is the Parnassus; philosophy is the hard and winding path of reason: here is the School of Athens; religion is the sanctuary of faith: here is the Disputation.
The logic of the vision coincides here with the indulgence on details, realised through a mosaic of narrow close ups that renders the perfect geometry of Raffaello’s original design. Averroes, the marvellous Arab; the construction of a cathedral that would serve as a lever in the endeavour to represent the semblance of God; the correspondence of poetic genres in the interplay of gazes between epic, lyric and tragic poets: everything is kept in the frescos, where myth and history sustain the artist’s intuition reflected by the filmic retrieval. Accompanied by the music by Matteo Ramon Arevalos, we discover the texts by Giovanni Reale and Elisabetta Sgarbi, with the voiceover by Andrea Renzi.
Se hai una montagna di neve tienila all'ombra - A Journey through Italian Culture (2010)
Which is the place of culture in Italian people's feelings, in their real life?
Should we make the best of a formal definition of culture - that is a shared value system, lying behind the behaviour of a given community - or can we go further?
For instance, can we ask to people living, working, reading or not reading, loving or not loving, what does the word culture means for them?
We chose this second way, looking at askance at that formal definition, and attempting to surprise the passer-by, to catch in him any hesitation, any thought, any certitude, any value, any flick.
During this journey - which has actually been a real journey, a Grand Tour - we have passed through several Italian regions, trying to make both places and people talk.
We never ventured out by ourselves, though. In every place we visited, we asked for the help of influential persons, directly working in culture, who possibly know those places.
As a second Dante, we needed a series of different Virgilio: Franco Battiato, Remo Bodei, Pietrangelo Buttafuoco, Maurizio Ferraris, Lucio Dalla, Massimo Donà, Umberto Eco, Enrico Ghezzi, Antonio Gnoli, Piero Guccione, Guacomo Marramao, Francesco Merlo, Laura Morante, Giovanni Reale, Antonio Rezza, Manlio Sgalambro, Vittorio Sgarbi, Sandro Veronesi and many, many others…
Quiproquo. What is Avant-garde? (2011)
Who can still use the phrase "avant-garde" or describe something as "being avant-garde" without a smirk?
Is Avant-garde a phrase that belongs to the archaeology of culture, as if referring to the Phoenicians who gave us the letters of the alphabet, or the Egyptians who brought us numerals? Or is it a phrase that, existing as it does in our everyday vocabulary, designates something that is still alive and relevant, albeit on a purely utopian or somewhat wistful level?
And the Avant-gardes that really deserve that title, those that took on the twentieth century with all guns blazing, what do they have in common with the latest avant-garde movements, the neo avant-garde, Gruppo '63 or Transavanguardia? And with Giotto?
And, even more importantly, what do they have in common with a heart surgeon who is patenting a new system with which to operate on the mitral valve (edge to edge), or a young person studying new forms of polymers in order to build houses in space?
Umberto Eco, Rossana Rossanda, Ludovico Corrao, Vittorio Sgarbi, Achille Bonito Oliva, Angelo Guglielmi, Nanni Balestrini, enrico ghezzi, Nicoletta Braschi, Pino Roveredo, il cardiochirurgo Ottavio Alfieri and many others: all of them, inspired by the questions posed by Eugenio Lio, try to guide us through this happily exploded world of the avant-garde.
Miss Vila’s Journey (2012)
Miss Vila’s Journey is a love story between a man and a woman from another time, who find themselves in today’s Trieste. It’s also the love story of an intellectual, who exchanges and mirrors himself in his past, both real and literary, and with the past of his city. It’s the story of the pains, abuses and self-deceits that have marked Trieste. It’s the story of a prophecy and of a future that erases, embraces, honours and overtakes memory; it’s a story of literature, art and enterprise, of assurances and challenges. It’s a story of different languages that speak to each other even when they pretend not to. It’s a story of poets and madness. It’s a story of generations to come. It’s a story of religions in a laic city. It’s the story of people who wait for their future, and of people who simply are that future. It’s the story of a blooming, bright, obscene and overflowing nature that embraces Trieste, grasps it and explodes inside it. It’s a story of sea – painted, read, told, listened to – and winds; of mountains and springs. “Miss Vila and other stories” tries to stand where the doors of this extraordinary city open and close, not here, not there, not inside, not outside, not in the past, not in the future, but where something can vanish or grow.
Miss Vila’s Journey it’s a journey in Trieste with Claudio Magris, Luciana Castellina, Mauro Covacich, Giuseppe Dell'Acqua, Gillo Dorfles, Igo Gruden, Srečko Kosovel, Alice Psacaropulo, Boris Pahor, Gorgio Pressburger, Raul Pupo, Primo Rovis, Giorgio Rossetti, Pino Roveredo, Andrea Segré, Scipio Slataper, Vittorio Sgarbi, Susanna Tamaro, Livio Vasieri, and many others
When the Germans Didn't Know How To Swim (2013)
Racconti di resistenza durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale (Tales of The Resistance during WWII)
Despite the final episode of Paisá, the 1946 film by Roberto Rossellini, and the stories by Giorgio Bassani, the Resistance was not very strong in the Province of Ferrara and the area known as the Polesine. One of the many reasons was that it was considered impossible on the plain and even more so in the area of the delta. But on the contrary, the plain and the canals generated a particular Resistance that, even here, was to have its martyrs and heroes; and here, too, it generated wounds and memories. By gathering episodes and first-hand testimonies from those who took part, historians have tried to reconstruct the traces of a Resistance that was perhaps less organized and coordinated but, in terms of quality and quantity, was unequivocal.
The liberation of the Municipality of Bondeno entirely by women; the cowardly assassination of Ludovico Ticchioni, a seventeen-year-old boy from Ferrara; Walter Feggi who hands over the details of the bed of the delta to the Allies; evidence from those who witnessed the Germans drowning thousands of people in the waters of the River Po: these are just a few of the facts brought back to memory through cinema and presented anew by historians who for years have been trying to reconstruct the events of those decisive months.