It is one of the most recurring characteristics of cinema that it deals with itself. Films about filmmaking are particularly popular with movie buffs, and film fans like references in films that refer to other films. Like this year, however, no film has yet dealt with cinema – after all, the documentary “Il cinema al tempo del Covid” (“The cinema in times of Covid”) by Andrea Segre documents an unprecedented time. The film, which brought the projectors to operating temperature in Venice on the eve of the opening, documents how the Venice Film Festival took place last year: At that time, festival director Alberto Barbera was the only one of his colleagues to pull off the major event and create the blueprint for others with a unique security concept , similar festivals were presented: Where earlier the Lido was examined for explosives from top to bottom, last year the temperature measurement and masking requirements in the cinema and on the entire site were added. Every second seat in the cinema was empty. The online booking system for the tickets worked – contrary to what you might expect from the Italians – technically flawless.
The new normal state
The film shows all of this; but it also shows that this is the new normal situation at a festival of this size. Also this year the audience remains locked out of the red carpet by a wall, this year the same security measures apply as in the previous year. It is even more rigorous, because a large rush of guests is expected again, unlike last year, when most of them stayed at home because there was still no vaccination. But in the midst of the beginning of the fourth corona wave, a green passport is mandatory for all accredited persons this year; at the beginning of the festival it is “booked” on the festival ID, so that this plastic card, which dangles around the neck, is upgraded to a reliable identification instrument and proof of the state of health.
Twelve tents were set up along the access roads to the Lido. Those who do not have a green pass can take a quick test here, which is free for accredited visitors. The test can also be booked online. All accredited persons are asked to carry copies of the Green Pass certificate with them at all times. There are also stricter security measures: helicopters have been flying over the city for days, underwater bomb defusers, drones, dog squadrons, civil officers, micro cameras and metal detectors are being used. Motto: Better safe than sorry.
Venice is entering its 78th edition with a lot of confidence and optimism, the festival director should in any case be noted that he has been the previous triumphant among the competitors: the program is crammed with fresh autumn film products from all over the world, including, as has been customary in recent years, also the expected Oscar favorites. Cannes was left behind, there was still very unsettled both programmatically and with regard to the pandemic. In Venice, on the other hand, it is shown that the cinema is by no means in crisis – and that of all places that, thanks to Barbera, has opened the door to the “cinema heretics” of Netflix & Co. It was a win-win situation for streamers and Barbera: Many Netflix Oscar films first ran here, in the magical Sala Grande of the Palazzo del Cinema, which was built on the Lido under Mussolini. Competitor Cannes has so far refused any contact with Netflix as long as the films do not get a guaranteed theatrical release. In Venice, people are less squeamish and give the streaming providers big world premieres. They come in droves.
This year, after successes such as “Marriage Story”, “Roma” or “The Other Side of the Wind”, Paolo Sorrentino’s new film “The Hand of God” can be seen as a world premiere in the competition. In addition, Venice is showing “The Power of the Dog” (with Kirsten Dunst and Benedict Cumberbatch), the new work by Jane Campion, the woman who was the first to win the Golden Palm for “Das Piano” in 1992. So Netflix deliberately invests in film art.
In general, the great filmmakers are lined up close together: Pedro Almodovar kicks off with “Madres Paralelas” with Penelope Cruz and opens the film show on Wednesday evening. “The Card Counter” with Oscar Isaac is Paul Schrader’s new film, which is shown in the competition here as well as Mario Martone’s “Qui rido io”, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut “The Lost Daughter” with Dakota Johnson and Olivia Colman or Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer”, the story of Lady Diana, played by Kristen Stewart in this biopic. “Spencer” is one of the most hyped titles on the Lido because Larrain already presented his acclaimed biopic about Jackie Kennedy with Natalie Portman here in 2016; his Diana portrait is likely to be set beyond the well-trodden royal clichés.
The big US studios are also returning to the Lido after the Corona break last year: Warner shows “Dune” with Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya, Ridley Scott comes with “The Last Duel”, in which Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are not only play the main roles, but also take responsibility for the script, just like in the Oscar-winning times of “Good Will Hunting”.
And everything starts all over again
So there will be a lot going on at the Lido of Venice, despite the increasing corona numbers. Alberto Barbera recently compared the situation with the film “Groundhog Day” – once you believe the pandemic has been overcome, and then everything starts all over again. However, they made a conscious decision to hold the festival under strict security precautions, as in the previous year: “We will do this again with calculated caution and” slowly hurry up “, as the great Emperor Augustus put it,” says Barbera. “That means without hesitation, but with caution. And without losing courage. We are aware of the responsibility that awaits us.”
Alberto Barbera hopes that the optimism that will be the defining feeling among visitors to Venice Lido for the next eleven days. “We want to look to the future of cinema with renewed confidence.”