«Diabolik, who are you?» A beloved antihero! A conversation with director Antonio Manetti


By John

I want to be honest. I am a devourer of the King of Terror on the page, black and white, balloon and all. Including that mixed smell of paperback glue and printing on the first page. And, in general, I never know if I’m happy about being on the big screen. Of nothing I’ve read. Because I fear seeing the sacredness of history and characters violated. And of my imagination. But Diabolik was taken over by Marco and Antonio ManettiAnd then there are the two previous episodes to act as guarantors. And this third chapter, «Diabolik, who are you?», in cinemas from Thursday, it’s exactly the closing with a bang we were waiting for. «Diabolik: Who are you?», born from the prodigal pen of Angela and Luciana Giussani – released on 4 March 1968 – to delude the readers’ curiosity to see its origins and its past revealed, but which proved to be a clever and intriguing way to increase the aura of mystery that made the character great. Needless to say, the Manetti bros. they hit the mark again. And it wasn’t easy.

As always, the difference lies in the stylistic signature of the Roman filmmakers, in the in-depth study that is – and is perceived – behind the screenplay. In the construction of the plot, the film, the characters, the settings, the camera movements… And it makes you want to flaunt it from the rooftops. We’re talking about a author’s comic book film, proudly all Italian. No comparison, please, to Marvel’s blockbusters: on the one hand authorial entertainment, on the other pure entertainment, without being too subtle, even compared to the books written by the late Stan! The Manettis want more. They are attentive and scrupulous. Free in their interpretations of the narrative, but faithful to Giussanian comics. With grace and originality. Without special effects.

With a cast in a state of grace (Luca Marinelli, Miriam Leone, Valerio Mastandrea, Monica Bellucci). With the authentic and genuine desire to create an intriguing and unique story. With a soundtrack marked by funky and rhythm & blues tones and signed by Pivio and Aldo De Scalzi, in which the warm and scratchy voice of Mario Biondi also appears. And all this makes it border on perfection. We heard from Antonio Manetti before the screening of «Diabolik, chi sei?» at the Citrigno cinema in Cosenza, organized in great style, as always, by Pino Citrigno, and with the presence of Antonio Manetti who spoke with the large audience in the room. In an evening of authentic entertainment, a note of immense merit also goes to the Calabria Film Commission and to the extraordinary commissioner Anton Giulio Grande who contributed to the production of the film. And then, there is a bit of Calabria also because some scenes were filmed in the region.

How did you manage to transpose the dose of expanded charm that Diabolik’s tables bring with them?
«Diabolik is a story written very well by the Giussani sisters with characters on a razor’s edge. They may seem like negative beings, or heroes. But also positive for readers and viewers, it’s a complicated balance. Luckily, when writing our screenplay we were aware of these dangers and Diabolik, who in real life would be a scoundrel, in films and in fantasy is instead a hero, a person like us, also because he is free! And he has a purer soul than many others in Clearville.”

How free did you feel to use poetic license in telling Diabolik?
«We set out to be faithful to the comic, but we realized that faithfulness doesn’t exist because it’s all subjective. I read one way, a person reads another. We have been faithful to our vision of Diabolik and little by little in this third, above all, we have taken a little freedom…”.

So is it true that arthouse cinema can be created?
“Yes, absolutely. Cinecomic means film based on the comic story. Comics are a very beautiful art, there are many and different of them, as novels are different and as films are different. There are also author’s comics… When you make a film, a comic book, it’s one thing to do it from the Marvel universe of superheroes, with big budgets and everything inflated, and another to do it from Diabolik, a European story, a story Italian. And it’s not a superhero story, it’s a noir and we can handle it differently.”

The celluloid trilogy ends with the most read, famous and reprinted episode of the comic book pages. A challenge within the challenge?
«Well yes, this issue 107 came out many years after the start of Diabolik, and on newsstands it is perhaps the most loved because it tells the origins, and everyone wanted to know where it came from. And we thought of bringing this number back into a film. And it’s a challenge, as always, but we are very happy with the success and are anxious to see how the public will react.”

After “Diabolik: Who are you?”, the Milanese sisters certainly didn’t stop… and the Manetti brothers?
«No, no, the Manetti brothers continue to work and make films (he smiles) because it is our passion as well as work and it is difficult to stop us. We have already shot another film, we are editing, and it is completely different because we also want to tell different stories after these Diabolik, beautiful, but very dark. We did it all in Calabria, it’s called US Palmese, the football team from Palmi, in the province of Reggio Calabria, and we tell an invented story about a player, a Serie A champion who comes to play in Palmi.”

The last one is a guiltily off topic question… Will Inspector Coliandro return or not?
«Maybe at the cinema… It’s never off topic! We are among Coliandro’s first fans. We hope so. At the moment, work and commitments have taken us away from the TV series and also away from Coliandro. Just like Giampaolo Morelli, but we always hope to do it again. Coliandro is our great love and he will never end.”