The Eve is a short horror film about Simon, an eight-year-old boy who seems to have everything from life. He’s a handsome child, he’s rich yet unhappy. He senses that there’s something wrong with his life and this leads him to wander off thanks to his fervid imagination. His greatest wish is to leave the materialistic world behind since he isn’t fond of it. That’s why the only present he wants for Christmas is for Santa Claus to take him away to live in his fairyland toy factory. At the same time, a secret that his family has been keeping for a long time suddenly comes to the surface and it is feared that the worst might happen soon. The expectation for the stroke of midnight on the night before Christmas is transformed into reality for everyone on the eve of something truly different. Something terrible that might happen.
The Eve has won numerous awards in various film festivals. The director of The Eve, Luca Machnich, 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.
It is our pleasure to interview Luca Machnich, an award winning filmmaker.
What draws you to filmmaking and the language of film?
As a child, I would shoot fragments of super-8 films. Then I worked as a production
assistant on a number of films and TV movies. I wrote an encyclopaedia on Italian horror
films called Spaghetti Nightmares. It was a great success with both readers and critics.
Next, I moved to California to study directing and producing at the Los Angeles Film
School, where I decided to direct this short film as my thesis project. I came back to Italy,
where I had more resources at my disposal, to do so. In the 90’s, I had discovered the
films of Philip Ridley, such as The Reflecting Skin, which taught me how to dig deep down
into the characters, in order to give a film a strong, incisive soul.
Do you believe in film schools or does making a film teach you more than any film school could? Schools can teach you the basics, but I believe that directors are born, not made. To cite the great director Sergei Parajanov: "The best film school is your mother’s womb". In your eyes, what makes cinema stand out more than the other arts? The fact that it includes all the other arts: photography, painting, sculpture etc.. For me,that makes it the most stimulating of them all. Did you choose a certain directing style for making "The eve";, based on the script? All I can say is that I wanted to move beyond the tradition of Italian horror films, taking a new approach that combines the classic elements of the haunted house, the locks that close shut, the unbearable tension with experimentation addressing the theory of colours of the Swiss psychotherapist Max Luscher, who matches emotions to the colours through which they are expressed, seeing that, when we are sad, we dress in grey or we paint in muted colours, whereas when we are all fired up, we favour red, and so on. I used that approach to depict the dreams of the lead characters, the same way that advertisements have always used colours to reinforce positive emotions and attract customers to their products.
How did you choose the cast and the crew of your film? I saw Mary Wall in an Italian music video, and I liked her eighteenth-century style beauty, as well as her red hair, which for me denotes wickedness, whereas a blond leading lady, at least as Hitchcock saw it, is typically a damsel in distress. I cast Valerio Santosuosso, the boy, because he was the only child we found with a timid expression and, again based on the idea of the fair-haired victim, blond hair. Maurizio Rapotec was cast as the father because he has a very un-Italian appearance, a bit unruly and hedonistic, perfect for the role. Ulf Kustas, who plays Santa Claus, was chosen for his Nordic looks, being an Austrian, which fits in with the Nordic tone of the story, and then there was his baritone voice, because he is also an accomplished opera singer. The only problem was the Austrian accent, which I tried to dub using an American voice, but in the end that normal tone came off flat on the screen, ruining the effect of the character, so I left his original voice. As my American dialogue coach jokingly pointed out, Santa Claus comes from the north, so what’s the problem with a Nordic accent? (laughs). How did you fund your film and what were some of the challenges in making it? The biggest challenge was handling the entire post-production phase on my own, which meant 150 different digital effects, as if it were a science-fiction film. That took three years of additional work, seeing that, at the time, 3D effects were still not very advanced, so I had to a lot of things over and over again. Plus there are a limited number of effects specialists here in Italy, and they naturally gravitate towards large-scale productions that pay better, so I had to keep finding new ones, which only added to the delays. Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker, and what is the most difficult thing about being an independent artist? Undoubtedly striking a balance between commercial appeal and auteur approach, the way Lars Von Trier manages to do. I was very impressed, most recently, with his film The House That Jack Built. As I see it, films should be more than just a way of making money, like certain holiday pictures targeted strictly for a younger audience. Then there is the other extreme, films fit only for the rarefied art-house crowd, like certain works of Peter Greenaway’s that wind up being a melange of theatre and video art. The cinema should be something else altogether, but that’s just my opinion. What is the distribution plan for your film? There is no plan yet, because the film is still being shown on the festival circuit, so it can’t come out in theatres. What is your cinematic goal in life, and what would you like to achieve as a filmmaker? To be someone who stands out from the crowd, using horror, the genre I favour, to send messages underlining social concerns. In literature, as early as the late nineteenth century, there were authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to throw light on the hypocrisy of Victorian morality by describing the dual nature of humanity. Too little attention has been paid to such topics by horror films, despite the efforts of a handful of courageous directors, such as Zulawski and Kubrick, and especially George Romero, in my opinion possibly the greatest horror director of all time. What kind of impact would your film have on the world, and who is your audience? It received a lot of praise in Russia, Canada and Australia, and especially in America, where they have a visceral attachment to the horror genre, especially when it includes a touch of humour. In fact, they labelled my film a "dramedy". It also had an impact in Indonesia and India, despite the distance from the western outlook, possibly because the heightened spirituality of these nations makes them more receptive to films of psychological depth. In Europe it won awards in England, Romania, Spain, France and Germany, and in my home country of Italy, it was invited and given awards at events in Milan, Florence and Venice, but only after it had already picked up some 300 awards elsewhere. I am afraid horror films are still looked down on in Italy as a minor genre, unless the underlying story is extremely realistic, or the director is already known for other types of films. I have not had the pleasure of meeting my public in person because of my fear of flying, which has kept me from taking part in international festivals, and then Covid came along, at which point all the festivals went on-line anyway, but I hope to reach out to a public of more than just hard-core horror fans.