Close collaborator and friend of Federico Fellini, screenwriter with particular signature – his vivid sense of poetry that coloured numerous motion picture masterpieces by prominent authors Antonioni, Rosi, Tarkovsky, Angelopoulos. Guerra widely contributed to European cinema through his post-neo-realistic style of storytelling as well as developing particular sub-genre, ‘cinema of alienation’.
Tonino Guerra – Poet of the big screen
Antonio Guerra was born near Ravenna, Italy 1920, the same county where Fellini was born. He began to write poetry and short novels as a young boy, before starting career as a screenwriter. Guerra is still among the most acclaimed living poets in Italy. However, in 1956 his first play for the film screen called Men and Wolves (Uomini e Lupi) Guerra co-wrote with Elio Petri – Guiseppe De Santis directed the film.
But more significant was his work (at the time) on three contemporary stories which later became famous film trilogy about human alienation; together with director Michelangelo Antonioni, Guerra wrote L’Avventura (The Adventure,1960), La Notte (Night,1961) and third film, L’eclisse (Eclipse,1962). This brilliant work established young Tonino Guerra a reputation as a succesful screenwriter. It also connected him with one of the greatest European directors, Antonioni, for several outstanding film projects in coming decades. The first film, L’Avventura (Monica Vitti played leading role in all three films), is known for distinguished character development, as well as unusual narrative structure; the same goes for the next two films, especially final one, Eclipse – American filmmaker Martin Scorsese noted this film was “step forward in storytelling” and “felt less like a story and more like a poem.”
In 60’s Tonino Guerra, beside his collaboration with Michelangelo Antonioni, worked with many film directors worldwide – from Federico Fellini to Andy Warhol. At the time he was nominated twice for Academy Award (best screenplay), for Fellini’s Casanova (1965) and Blow Up (1966) directed by Antonioni.
Vanessa Redgrave and David Hemmings – Blow Up (1966)
In the next decade Tonino Guerra has worked with filmmakers who have different aesthetic, political, cinematic and social identities – Guerra collaborated with Francesco Rosi, writing scripts for The Mattei Affair (1972), Lucky Luciano (1973). Together with the director, he wrote Fellini’s Amarcord (1973) – in making the screenplay for Amarcord Guerra shared a deeply personal autobiographical approach with Federico Fellini. For this masterpiece Guerra received his third Oscar nomination for best screenplay. With Antonioni, he worked on Zabriskie Point (1970). In 1976 Guerra wrote a comedy Caro Michele directed by Mario Monicelli who won Silver Bear at Berlin Film Festival.
Childhood memories – scene from Amarcord (1973)
In 1983 Guerra wrote a screenplay for Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia. At Cannes Film Festival Tonino Guerra won Best screenplay award for Voyage to Cythera (1984) directed by Theo Angelopoulos. This partnership with acclaimed Greek filmmaker resulted with distinguished films: Landscapes in the Mist (1988) and Eternity and a Day (1998), winner of Golden Palm at Cannes Film Festival.
In more recent years Tonino Guerra has been recruited as a screenwriter to bring his particular poetic touch to the story. Guerra himself has asserted that his writer’s signature is traced from its deep sense of poetry, whether quality of story structure or just poetic images are considered – “In everything I do, I’m always diluting a little poetry.”
Undisputedly recognized as a master of developing cinematic storytelling, Tonino Guerra is an original author, his signature stands in more then hundred films worldwide. The Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies acknowledged Guerra as the greatest screenplay writer in Italian cinema.