INTERVISTA CON PATRICIA MACCORMACK
Ben Eshmade: We move from the battle to expose corruption to a dark fantasy tale of greed or consumerism in 1970s Italy. Director Corrado Farina's film They Have Changed Their Face tells the tale of a lowly automotive employee, Alberto Valli, whose presence is requested at his employer's remote mountain villa.
BE: With a boss whose name happens to be 'Nosferatu', we know something sinister is in store for Alberto. Academic Patricia MacCormack joined me to explore consumerism, fear, and the fantastical themes of this unusual film.
Patricia MacCormack: It's truly a stunning film. It's not really a horror film; it's a really really political film, and in that sense it's much more aligned to my interest in things like anti-capitalism, and I know that this is a bit of a cliché, but it seems more timely than ever, particularly in the sense of making consumable every single item in the world. I know of course it was made in the wake of the May 1968 revolution, and it would have been timely then, but it's one of those films that sort of got lost and came back, and it couldn't be more timely now. And it's also a really bonkers film.
BE: There's something quite nice about the fact that it's against consumerism and capitalism, but it's a hard to find film.
PM: One of the interesting things when we discover what happens in the film is that we realise that capitalism controls everything, that there is no church/state separation, that there is no licit and illicit. And in a lot of ways, this is a thinking film; it does really make you think, and it does make you question your own relationship with consumption. Particularly what I find interesting is the notion - because it's a horror film, so horror is all about transgression, and the bloody, the illicit, the naughty, the perverse - but this film shows that anything can be OK; as long as it's marketable, it has no inherent quality anymore.
BE: I think the nice thing about this film is that it's hung around the myth of Dracula.
PM: It starts off actually in quite a traditional sense, as Dracula; and the director set it in Turin, which is very otherworldy, in the Piedmont mountains; you know, it's a misty place. Really, when you think about it, the way that consumerism has drained the fun out of everything by basing everything on labels and cost and prestige, it does have a lot of relevance in terms of this notion of being sucked dry, so anything that we buy, or anything we enjoy, has been sucked dry by its marketability being privileged over its essence. And so, we get the sort of Jonathan Harker character going to the villa, and what is lovely is that the villa on the outside has this proper visage of the decrepit bourgeoisie, but the inside is super super hygienic-modern, and that shows the adaptability of the Dracula myth for a socio-economic metaphor.
BE: As a viewer, I started off watching the film thinking it was going to be one kind of film, and then by the end, it was something completely different.
PM: From my perspective, when it opened I thought it was a very traditional giallo, which is an Italian murder mystery. Usually gialli are set in the present, so it wasn't like an Italian neo-gothic horror film or a supernatural film, and it's also very clinical, and a lot of gialli are very clinical because they deal with detectives who always have snappy suits and stuff like that, and then the sort of wandering into the little regional town; I mean, we've all been lost in a dodgy regional town, it's the backbone of most horror films! So I was automatically shifting my genre familiarity, because I thought OK, this is going to be a mystery, and then I thought this is going to be a couple lost in the woods, and you certainly don't expect some patriarchal , snappy guy to come out and say, hi, my name's Nosferatu! So it follows many traditional horror trajectories as it goes along; it's very self-referential, which I think reflects the director's love of cinema itself.
BE: I wanted to sum up: we've definitely made the case that this is certainly a unique bit of cinema. And maybe this is against what it's about, but it is entertaining! And it's something that at least for now, you're only going to get the chance to see for this one evening.
PM: I think that we should never underestimate the power of ambiguity. The thing that's really bad about bad cinema is that it has singular affects; you know, it either seeks to make you laugh or to make you cry, or be scared, or whatever. You know exac tly where it's going. Bad cinema is that cinema where you sit down and go, oh my God, again? And that kind of repetition is absolutely crucial for the development of false consciousness in audiences. This film is great, because it has the power of humour; it has a really serious message, and especially, a lot of the dialogue is really dense philosophical political criticism.
BE: Talking about one of the lines, one that I picked up: "Alive in Consumerland", which I particularly enjoyed, which again was another way of summing up the film.
PM: When Alice goes through the mirror, she's confounded but she has to adapt. And capitalism pretends it gives us what we need, but actually, it immerses us in a world where we think 'what the hell?' And we have to adapt to it - so the false consciousness is we think we're getting what we need, but it's actually imposing on us magical bizarre things that we don't understand. You know, so that scene in the film where you think, 'what are these cars doing here?, and then you get the revelation that they're not cars, they're wolves - or, what is this guy doing selling LSD to families, and then well, it's not, it's just the selling. So it's really like Alice in Wonderland, it does have that myth, but it also shows that absolute madness - we're treading water in a world where we're bombarded with too much choice, and we don't really want the choice, we don't need the choice, but it stops us thinking about the important stuff.