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Behind the camera of Marco Mario de Notaris

A deeper look into the world of an unconventional actor, writer and director – By N. Yakova

Un giorno credi di essere giusto e di essere un grande uomo, in un altro ti svegli e devi cominciare da zero” (One day you believe you are right and that you are a great man, another day you wake up and have to start from scratch) These are words by Patrizio Trampetti, on music and voice by Edoardo Bennato from “Un giorno credi” (One day you believe), a song that accompanied Marco Mario de Notaris during his childhood.

Life and Career

Raised in a serene family, Marco spends his time watching movies and going to the theater. He grew up with a passion for Totò, Eduardo De Filippo, Massimo Troisi and Alberto Sordi, and for everything that is good entertainment. Since his childhood he cultivated a passion for comics so much so that, at the age of 12, he enrolled in a comics school in the Vomero district of Naples. The missed meeting of his life is with the cartoonist Andrea Pazienza, a friend of his uncle, who he never managed to meet.

When in 1987 Andrea Pazienza went to the Mostra D’ Oltremare in Naples to draw the famous mural, today an integral part of the exhibition (a seven meters by two and a half representation of a fabulous battle with warriors, vultures, horses and antelopes) he couldn’t meet him because he had homeworks to do. Unfortunately, the talented cartoonist died the following year and that meeting remained a dream.
Marco attended classical high school and continued to draw comics for the school magazines until he started acting.

He describes his adolescence as a period in which he felt the discomfort of not being able to fully express himself only through words.

M.M.D.N.: “I felt that something was missing in communication in my daily life. Despite having many friends and being very popular, always at the center of attention, even in high school, I felt that something was missing, something I couldn’t express. There was a need in me to go further in communication, which I managed to do through writing, acting, drawing.”

In a vital city like Naples, full of passion and colors as well as fears and infinite indifference Marco lived listening to Napul’è (Naples is) by Pino Daniele. However, he wanted to overcome horizons, he wanted to go beyond his own cultural limits and open up to new visions.

M.M.D.N.: “From art to music I have always looked at the world, in general, without cultural limits.
I think that Naples is the best in Italy, due to its profound cultural stratification (popular, avant-garde…) Naples is a city that resists, even if most of the time economic resources are lacking, so it is more difficult to build also profitable experiences and we need to look further. However, if there is still a bit of culture in Italy it is because there is Naples. I was influenced by all the people I met in Naples. It seems like the usual cliché but this is a fact.”

Marco Mario De Notaris portrait

At 18 Marco enrolled in a workshop at the Bardefé Theater Collective in Naples, directed by Umberto Serra.
He followed and became passionate about the cinema of Nanni Moretti, Woody Allen, Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman. Meanwhile the city was experiencing a moment of experimentation and cultural agitation, these were the years of the birth of the social centers and the music of 99 Posse and Almamegretta. Marco felt an inner restlessness, a stimulus that pushed him more and more to look elsewhere.

In 1996 he left Naples for Rome, Turin, Milan and Bologna. In Rome he entered the experimental cinematography center.
From there his acting career began.

Not coming from a family of artists, Marco experienced a rather complicated professional path. However among other things, as a playwright, he staged “Ripeness is all” together with Armando Pirozzi, “Con tutti i panni” (with all the clothes), together with Luciano Saltarelli, Giampiero Schiano and Manuela Schiano. He also translated, directed and adapted the work “Abide with Me” (stay with me) written by Barrie Keeffe for Theaters of legality. He has written and performed “Tagli” (cuts) and “Gentil Sorella rimanda lo voler tuo” (dear sister, postpone your desire). It seems that Marco has the “guilt” of being a hard worker. To support himself and be independent he traveled and worked between Rome and Naples, he was satisfied with small roles, worked in soap operas, continued to work in the theater losing the credibility of the elitist environment of cinema without considering that the great success is that of those who always work.

Marco returned permanently to Naples in 2013 with his wife, Francesca Amitrano, director of photography of the successful TV series “Mare Fuori” (Sea Outside), who worked on his first film shot in Naples, entitled “La Tristezza ha il Sonno Leggero”(Sadness is a light sleeper).
Today they are both serious and esteemed professionals who work constantly while many famous actors compete to make soaps and TV series!

The Movie

La Tristezza ha il Sono Leggero”, released in 2021, with two nominations for the Nastri D’Argento film awards, is Marco’s first film as director, in which he is the protagonist, and also a screenwriter together with Tiziana Martini. The story is freely inspired by the novel of the same name written by the Neapolitan author Lorenzo Marone.

La Tristezza ha il sonno leggero movie scene2

The film moves the setting to 1989, precisely on the night of the fall of the Berlin Wall, to make more visible the evolution of the protagonist and the fact that the fall of the wall was also the fall of his emotional wall. A known and beloved story that one of Marone, given the success of the novel, perhaps a bold choice to make it into a movie, as a first work, without taking into account the usual expectations of an audience dazed by standardization and perhaps also by the post-pandemic effects.
In our country we no longer dare. It is easier to accept predictable proposals, and it is almost rare for new directors to give a realistic and personal imprint to their works. The purity and poetic imprint of Marco’s direction may have been misinterpreted by someone in Italy, perhaps they were not appreciated enough and his work was not valued as much as it deserves. Not bad, even the greatest geniuses had to suffer a thousand criticisms before being understood and considered as such!

The Philosophy

After a pleasant chat with Marco, we explored some nuances of his creative path with more precise questions.

What is the approach to the roles you play as an actor?

M.M.D.N.: “For the most challenging roles I always try to follow the method questions: where does the character come from and where does he want to go. Then I rely a lot on the script and the director.
If I am the author then I start from myself, trying to face the same trials as the character and imagining how he would react in those situations. As for the smaller characters, I follow the story, I rely on what happens, always being at the service of the product.”

How much of you is there in the characters you play?

M.M.D.N.: “I haven’t yet played characters in which I can find something of myself or in which I can enter by giving an experience. I still do supporting roles, I’m a character actor. Externally, certainly many things, due to my physicality. Internally I don’t think I had enough space within the films or plays in which I have acted. I would very much like to face Anton Pavlovich Chekhov.”

In your opinion, can the work of an actor be associated with that of a psychotherapist?

M.M.D.N.: “I don’t know the profession of a psychotherapist. I have always thought that the actor must move magical and mysterious forces. Going beyond the Western bourgeois concept of the 1900s, probably I would saya shaman more than a psychotherapist. I believe that the actor can relate to strange, strong, mysterious energies, which speak to your unconscious, to your emotions, yes, or rather perhaps the actor is the domain of the unconscious and therefore, in this sense, the audience is empathizes. So the magician, the shaman.”

Would you describe yourself as someone who loves risk as a director?

M.M.D.N.: “Making a movie is always a risk and the risk is greater when you have a lot to lose.
Yes, I made a film and I took a risk, perhaps because I played it. I probably need to go back to writing for others, then start directing others again and then I can resume this great comedy of my life to stage. Maybe get back on stage directed by myself. I understand that it was a big risk. Some people liked it a little less but it’s part of life.”

How much has your theatrical and cinematographic training enriched you?

M.M.D.N.: “Theatre gives you the opportunity to perfect the gesture through performances and, if you are lucky enough to work with good actors, you can also learn.
I studied cinema and television. The experimental center also gave me a very in-depth understanding of film acting. I returned to the theater after years of soap operas as a boy. At the beginning of 2000 the soap opera was seen as a disqualifying thing for an actor, so in the cinematographic field I was sometimes considered as someone who didn’t believe in it enough. This is because I signed a contract with a soap opera, which at the time allowed me to be independent because I lived alone in Rome.”

Do you dream of your future as a theater play, a film or a TV series?

M.M.D.N.: “I like to see my future as a theater piece, that continues as a movie and arrives at the TV series that never ends. I dream my life as all three of these things, one alternating with the other, until the end of life!”

And Napulitanamente wishes you endless reruns!

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