“Sworn Virgin” will premiere at the 2015 BFI London Film Festival on October 13.
W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.
LB: This movie is a story of a trip, a real journey between two countries, since our protagonist leaves his homeland, Albania’s mountains, to reach Italy. However, above all, it is a journey into the character of Hana/Mark. The film not only alternates between the two physical locations, showing the story from both narrative and emotional points of view, but also moves from past to present throughout.
All of this enables the viewer to slip into the past of the character and accompany her/him throughout the present. In Albania, the journey is toward achieving a male identity, while the Italian journey is to recover the female identity. The intersection of these two paths is gradual and overlapping; it stratifies and exalts the character in all her/his complexity, making her/him unique.
The whole film is, in effect, a peregrination inside the soul of the character, with the constant surprise of small and large metamorphoses. Like in all travel, the viewer alternates between various feelings and emotions: surprise, anticipation, misunderstanding, understanding, curiosity. It is as if all the pieces of a puzzle fit together harmoniously to tell a great story and reveal a great character. You accompany her/him on a trip that unfolds to discover an identity that is being freed.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
LB: I chose this story because I felt a deep attachment to Hana/Mark, with whom I fell in love. I felt a strong sympathy between the story, the character and my inner world. But it was not only about this. I believe that every director should have a sense of responsibility when choosing a story, and I think that this story contains important and contemporary reflections about femininity and, in general, about the meaning of human freedom. I think this is an original story and it takes the viewer into a little known story, then invites the viewer to consider universal questions.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
LB: This movie was absolutely a great challenge. For me, it is very important to feel this adrenaline; I would say that’s what puts me in a position to bring out the best.
A challenge was to be able to film in a very isolated place, logistically difficult and chauvinistic, and convincing everyone that it had to be done there. Another challenge was to film almost the entire movie in a language that is not mine. It was a challenge to choose an Italian actress to do a role in Albanian, filming a screenplay that had a complex and nonlinear structure and filming the entire movie in plan-sequence [long takes] with no possible covers. It’s like playing roulette and betting everything on a single number — you go big, or lose everything. But I was sure that filming in sequence shots would give the film the language I wanted. However, everything was very tied to the concept of challenge, especially because the filming time was extremely short.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
LB: I’d like people to stay with Mark. The end of the movie is a new beginning for the protagonist. I would like to leave the audience with the desire to know where Hana/Mark will be tomorrow, who she is going to be with, will she meet Bernard again? And I wish this desire to still stay with Mark, to accompany him again, was combined with the knowledge that this character now is so empowered through the freedom he earned, and has strength and harmony, a body in which he finally feels comfortable and a new and irresistible smile.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
LB: The advice I give to directors is to never hear the gender difference with a sense of victimhood. On the contrary, I advise sincerity when you choose a story, a personal adherence to the project — but this applies to all directors. I also advise trying to deepen the female characters because for too many years, they have been relegated to the margins of the story.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
LB: The film was produced and financed under the European system. The film is a co-production between Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Albania and has received the support of some of the leading European public institutions, national and international, as well as some broadcasters.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why?
LB: My favorite director is perhaps Jane Campion. I think she created the female universe with force, poetry and depth, enabling us to emotionally relate to unforgettable scenes.