Director Luciano Onetti granted DarkVeins an interview to chat about his interesting Sonno Profondo, his feature film which is a tribute to Italy. Sonno profondo is a fascinating homage to 1970s Italian giallo films, it was filmed in Argentina and the screenplay is written in italian. The movie won the Tabloid Witch Awards for “Best Music Soundtrack”.
Luciano Onetti thanks his friend Bautista Massolo for the english translation.
L: Hello Luciano, thanks for taking the time to talk with me! Tell us something about you.
L.O.: Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about my film. I’m very happy. This is my first interview for the country where giallo was born, la Bella Italia!
Some critics have said that I am an Italian director living in Argentina or that I am an Argentinian living in Italy and that I filmed my movie there. The truth is that I am Argentinian and Sonno Profondo was filmed here in Argentina too.
I am currently employed in the Judicial System, which is the opposite of my true passions: films, music and also prestidigitation and magic tricks with cards, which I abandoned some time ago. My passion for filmmaking awoke in 2010, and since then, I dedicate most of the day to filming and editing. I wish the days were a little longer to play a little more with these hobbies.
L: How did you get into filmmaking and more specifically, what draws you to the giallo genre?
L.O.: Initially, I never thought I would be able to make a movie some day. One reason is that living from one’s art is somewhat complicated. These days, they teach you that you need a college degree to work in large companies and very few people choose to continue with their passion and devote full time to what I consider a hobby art. Until recently, I thought it was possible to work in an office and have time to make a movie, but sometimes there is so much passion and creative energy that time is not enough.
I began with this creative process at the time I didn’t have a job. I had full time availability, so I got more time to enjoy what I was creating, without pressures or distress. In 2010 a family situation forced me emotionally to get back to my city and, not knowing how to face the pain and fear, I decided to buy a camera.
Nicolás (my brother) collected horror movies in VHS. It was an amazing time, where we watched many movies and, I even though I didn’t know the giallo genre, I remember there were many Dario Argento movies in that collection. The art of these films caught my attention. Between 2010 and 2011, my brother invited me to watch movies of this genre. And from that moment, my interest grew. I fell for this genre because of its lack of ambition in production and its high creativity in all of its contents: the beautiful locations in Italy, the amazing music, the cliches of the genre, and the hidden hands in leather gloves used by criminals. Though, among so many films of this genre, I must say that I particularly loved the latex gloves used in “La tarantola dal ventre nero” (The Black Belly of the Tarantula). This genre surprised me at once because it was the opposite of what American cinema usually offered.
L: Sonno Profondo is your first feature film, it’s a homage to 1970s Italian giallo films and it reflects your cinematic influences in this genre. How would you describe your movie?
L.O.: I consider Sonno Profondo as an experiment within the genre, but it doesn’t cross the limits that sometimes result in a movie that only has influences from another movie. If a movie only shows influences from other works, it couldn’t belong to that same genre.
Sonno Profondo is a traditional giallo, but it is shown from another perspective. Many people think that some of the latest movies being produced are “neo-giallos”, but, in my opinion, they only show influences from other movies. And it is only natural that a director wants to use elements from such a beautiful genre. I don’t believe a film showing a killer with leather gloves belongs to the giallo genre. There is an artistic group that has achieved creating this genre and the elements that make up this set should be applied. Sometimes the ambition of wanting to create something different makes you use that combination of elements to create something beyond the limits of the giallo genre. But it all depends on one’s interpretation of the genre. Many people think that by using red and blue lights then it’s giallo. I choose the ambience in its entirety: I want the air of the genre to be breathed in each second.
L: The story is depicted from the killer’s POV. I think it’s a way to understand the mentality of the two killers and to involve the viewer emotionally. Can you talk about this interesting choice?
L.O.: It is very difficult to make a low budget movie narrated in POV. But giallo allows it because it is not commercial. If you want to reach all audiences, then it is better to engage in comedy or animated movies.
Sonno Profondo and the use of POV is the perfect reality of what is shown in each scene. The lack of dialogues, loneliness and mental confusion… that void you feel is the same emptiness and confusion that a person should feel in the same situation that is shown at the end of the movie. In principle, the POV in Sonno Profondo justifies the state of deep sleep.
Other aspects, such as displaying only personal experiences without showing the policial side, the motivation to make a different film within the genre and, finally, the lack of resources are then justified.
L: In this movie you’re not only the director but also the writer (together with Daiana Garcia), the actor, the composer and the photographer. What was most challenging for you?
L.O.: Honestly, I had no other choice, so I set out so I do all these things. I never met anyone (let alone in my city) who was dedicated to filming, acting and editing. So I had to learn everything alone, with patience and dedication. I spent many hours learning how to edit videos before i finally bought the camera. Then, I had to learn how to use the camera, because I ignored all its functions too.
With respect to music, I had no problems at all, since I had been recording for some time.
The most difficult part was filming some scenes due to lack of resources. In my mind, I could imagine a scene with thousands of points of view, but the reality was that I had to adapt to what I had. I had a hard time with the use of lights, as I only had one reflector, which held with one hand while filming. That lack of resources obliged me to adjust to that reality and leave aside many things that I had imagined before filming.
L: Was it difficult or amusing for you to play the serial killer?
L.O.: I really loved wearing the leather gloves. Maybe because I dedicated to card prestidigitation for many years, when I learnt how to move my hands gently and misteriously.
The movie, being a POV, made it easier for me to wear the gloves, since it eased the camera movements. In some scenes, the killer was Daiana García. For example, in the scene shot in the woods, she played both the murderer and the victim.
L: You’re the composer of the soundtrack list in Sonno Profondo. The movie won the Tabloid Witch Awards for “Best Music Soundtrack”. Talk to us about your fascinating music and your musical influences.
L.O.: I’m really grateful for that award because there were over 400 films in that contest, and recognition is always welcomed. The idea was not to use music from other films of the genre, since all creativity is lost. Maybe, sometimes this can be favourable, but the feeling is not the same, and of course the copyright costs are high.
I think that, in some aspects, my mayor influences are Ennio Morricone and Goblin, although I believe that in all giallo movies, music was very similar. This can be seen in great musicians, like Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai, Frizzi and Alessandroni. Goblin was more related to progressive rock, but they gave antoher dimension to soundtracks from the 80’s. But during the 70’s, music was done in the style of the composers mentioned above.
L: The film’s screenplay is written in italian. Why?
L.O.: My idea was to respect the genre that was born in Italy. I do not consider Sonno Profondo was a homage to the genre, but a tribute to Italy. In Japan, Argentine Tango is higly regarded, and there are even Japanese tango dance champions, yet they never changed our Tango with their different styles of Japanese dance. It is a demonstration of respect for something innate that can be imitated, but never equaled. So it must be done with great respect. Same thing happened to me with giallo.
Sonno Profondo could have been done in any language because of the screenplay. Personally, I think that art does not speak; it does not have a specific language. Art is pure material demonstration. And though today English is the universal language, I chose Italian.
L: In Sonno Profondo everything reminds the giallo genre: the killer attitude, the colour of blood, the title, cars, the music, the cinematography with an authentic seventies style… how long did it take to make it a perfect giallo movie?
L.O.: As I was saying earlier, my intention was to recreate giallo’s atmosphere in its golden days. And sometimes it is not easy, much less in 2014. You can build a scene well set at the time, but sometimes it is not enough to convey the same feeling I got when I watched these movies. These films of the 70’s transferred me a special atmosphere: the sounds, the music, the way of filming… giallo seduced me completely. And I think I could portray this in Sonno Profondo thouroughly and, sincerely, unintentionally, because I didn’t do it meticulously. Everything happened without a reason. That’s why I always say: “the simpler, the better”. I filmed the movie in 5 months, but only on weekends, or when there was a chance.
Sometimes, when I’m walking, I see something that catches my attention. I find myself saying: “that is giallo!” . Well, that is what the genre conveys.
L: What were the most difficult shoots? And what’s your favorite moment in the movie?
L.O.: The idea I had conceived for the scene at the hospital seemed great to me. I must admit that it didn’t turn out as I had imagined. This scene was really very difficult due to hospital security. It was filmed in minutes, dodging security guards. And all the material I could recover and edit was included in Sonno Profondo. In turn, it was one of the highlights, because of the adrenaline I felt filming in this way. This scene turned into a great anecdote.
L: Can you talk about the production (Guante Negro Films) of your debut film?
L.O.: Guante Negro films is a fancy name, since such a production company does not exist. We don’t have an office and there we don’t have an editing room with large equipment. Let’s say that Guante Negro is like a brotherhood, literally speaking, between Nicolás and me.
In Sonno Profondo there were no big expenses; it is a film with a very low budget, so that inventiveness was greater than economic value to get the elements we needed for the film. Everything was a matter of seeking and finding, and so the movie was filmed. In Sonno Profondo, my brother Nicolás had the role of counselor, and he was the one who gave life to the movie by sending it to film festivals. Then, he started making contact with people in the film industry, which gave weight and seriousness to the movie.
L: The film was screened at many film festivals (Sitges, Móbido Fest…). Can you talk about this experience?
L.O.: It was something unexpected, and as it usually happens with a nice surprise, it will always remain among our best memories. To have been chosen for over 26 international festivals motivated us to continue in the world of cinema, always trying to improve or at least get to know a little more about it. It’s a matter of time, after all.
Sitges was a unique experience, we did not know those kinds of festivals and their traditions. We had a great reception and I could present my film the day of my birthday, October 11th. And thanks to these festivals, we could meet people from all over the world who have sent us their appreciation for Sonno Profondo.
L: What are your favorite giallo movies and directors?
L.O.: Honestly, I still have many giallo films to see. I did not want to soak up in the genre before filming because sometimes many influences can lead to imitation. Anyway, I ended up seeing many scenes that had occurred to me in some movies. It is very difficult to make a close-up scene look different to something that has been done before, since options are very limited in this type of genre.
Among the films that I liked most, I choose: “L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo” (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), “Profondo Rosso” (Deep Red), Tenebre, “I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale” (Torso) and “Lo squartatore di New York” (The New York Ripper), and their respective directors.
L: What are your favorite horror movies of all time?
L.O.: It is very difficult to choose among so many movies, but I can stay with George Romero’s “The night of the living dead” and Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”.
L: What are your future plans? Is there a possibility of another giallo movie?
L.O.: Our plan is already in its middle stage of development and is a new giallo we wrote with my brother. This is a true giallo film: it is more elaborated and very different from Sonno Profondo. Let’s say that it is a more classic, suspense-thriller giallo.
It will surely catch the attention of fans of the genre and of those who are not fans too, and you can tell there is a higher level of experience in this movie.
L: Leave a message for the DarkVeins community!
L.O.: I want to send my greetings to all Darkveins followers and express my gratitude to all readers, critics and interviewers: thanks to them movies are kept alive for ever.
Special greetings and thanks to you, Barbara.
L: You’re welcome Luciano, thank you!