The Hand of God, Paolo Sorrentino’s intimate, personal tale of growing up in Naples in the 1980s, reminds us that cinema comes in as many variations as there are filmmakers. And while the film’s humane, handmade vibe could have been made with tools from almost any era, the latest technologies were applied in service of his poetic vision, including PIX to facilitate secure communication, and RED Monstro 8K VV cameras delivering large format images. The resulting film, produced by Netflix, was recognized with Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations, and box office success.
The semiautobiographical story follows Fabietto, an awkward Italian kid whose existence is seriously rocked when he is suddenly orphaned at 17.
Together with Sorrentino, director of photography Daria D’Antonio developed a visual approach built with “simplicity and affection.” Sorrentino told her that the images needed to “leave space for the emotions.”
“Our goal was to support the characters and environments in their true and profound nature, without excessive spectacularization,” says D’Antonio. “We chose the RED Monstro and used large format because it seemed to me the best way to give the image sharpness, and at the same time softness. That reminded me of how we lived and looked to the future when we were young. It was important to work with natural light in order to leave the actors the freedom to feel at ease, and to grasp the natural beauty of the locations. The camera’s versatility allowed me to obtain results very close to my ideas, even in complicated situations.”
"...PIX MEANS YOU CAN HAVE EVERYTHING IN YOUR POCKET, FROM CASTING TO CUTTING. YOU CAN WATCH WHEREVER YOU ARE..."
Postproduction supervisor Franco Casellato is also a long-time collaborator of Sorrentino’s.
“Paolo’s approach is very personal and not tech-focused,” says Casellato. “He needs to be at the center of things, and to interact with people in person. He needs to work, to think, to feel, to share with the people he trusts. That’s the way to create a great movie, and we all need to keep that in mind. He doesn’t want to limit the creative process to technology. Technology is a support, a tool. You have to be careful and use it judiciously.”
For example, Sorrentino doesn’t generally watch dailies, because he knows exactly what he has captured. Still, even on a set like Sorrentino’s, technologies like PIX are improving the overall efficiency of filmmaking significantly in recent years, according to Casellato.
“In our case, PIX probably helps the producers more than the DoP or the director,” he says. “The producers need to be close to the shooting process and the cutting process. We don’t generally have dailies screenings anymore, and PIX means you can have everything in your pocket, from casting to cutting. You can watch wherever you are, when it’s convenient, and that is very important for the rest of the people around the director. And with people spread out in different countries, it would be impossible to stay so well informed and in touch without a platform like PIX. It’s very fast and comfortable to make comments or give feedback.”
"IN THE BEGINNING, IT WAS NOT EASY TO CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT A TOOL LIKE PIX WAS A HUGE IMPROVEMENT IN CONTROL. AND NOW, IT’S THE FIRST QUESTION THEY ASK – ARE WE SET UP WITH PIX?"
Casellato’s contributions began in prep, when workflows were being developed. “It’s never a matter of replicating the previous approach, and that’s why it’s interesting,” he says. “I feel that I’m a bridge between the creativity and the technology. I like to give the directors and the DoPs access to these amazing tools. I want to make things simple. In the beginning, it was not easy to convince people that a tool like PIX was a huge improvement in control. And now, it’s the first question they ask – are we set up with PIX? It’s good when people are learning together to use the technology. The creative people don’t want to think about the tech, understandably. But once they see how helpful it can be, and that they can still spend their time and energy thinking about the shots and the characters and the story, it’s an opportunity to make a dramatic impact on the way they think and work.”
D’Antonio agrees. “PIX is a useful tool for sharing and memory, and for the aspects linked to continuity,” she says. “It’s important for all phases of the creative path, and the people involved.
“For each film, you learn new things, being faced with the unexpected,” she says. “Approaching the possibilities offered to you with the right attitude is always an achievement. I have known and worked with Paolo for many years, so we didn’t need to tell each other much, and maybe this was important to him.”
"PIX IS A USEFUL TOOL FOR SHARING AND MEMORY, AND FOR THE ASPECTS LINKED TO CONTINUITY"
D’Antonio and Sorrentino went on to shoot Mob Girl, starring Jennifer Lawrence. Casellato is currently working on an Amazon series and looking forward to a Disney+ project. Both will benefit from PIX.
“In some ways, a TV series can be even more complex,” says Casellato. “You often have more people who are entitled to comment, more producers. And there is often more actual content. PIX is used on a daily basis to share content, at all stages. When used judiciously, technology is wonderful. I love it. I couldn’t live without technology and all the improvements that we see every day.”
The Hand of God Through the eyes of Sorrentino