Design on Film: An Interview with Ruth Borgobello.

Northeastern Italy’s Landscape and Design In The Space Between.

"The film's story is, a little bit, his story," Ruth Borgobello told the Australian, describing her debut film The Space Between and the man who would become her husband, Davide Giusto. Now a producer of the film, Giusto, like the character Marco (played by Flavio Parenti), was a one-time chef returning to his childhood home at a moment of crisis. "We first met in very similar circumstances," Borgobello said. "That moment stayed with me."

Borgobello is an Australian with Italian heritage and The Space Between represents the first co-production between the two countries. The story of its making, which lasted eight years, is also a kind of conversation between the two nationalities: "as an Australian you sort of want to do things quickly," Borgobello said. "But with Italy you just have to take a deep breath, have a glass of wine and slow down." The relationship that develops between Marco and Olivia – two idiosyncratic and very different personalities – is a study of polarities, with an underlying charge of attraction.

Borgobello's father is from Friuli Venezia Giulia, a region in northeast Italy that contains the city of Udine, where Marco returns at the beginning of the film to care for his ailing father. "There's something about the contrast within the regions, the mountains, sea, vineyards," Borgobello said of the dramatic coastline. "There's an incredible energy there."

Borgobello talked to A/D/O about the making of the film.

From what I've read this is a bit autobiographical, is that fair?

The narrative itself is not autobiographical but let’s just say the film was inspired by a real moment in my life. On the same day I first met my husband, Davide [Giusto], in Italy, he lost someone very close to him in a tragic accident. In spite of this, we spent two weeks together and it deeply transformed us both, forging a connection in this strange space of loss and grief.

I understand your film was an Aussie-Italo coproduction. Can you tell me how that came about and what it meant for its making.

A treaty was signed between Italy and Australia in 1996 but we were the first to actually make it work. Many people have asked us how we did it and why it hadn’t happened before. It’s a combination of will and drive from both Italy and our side as producers to make it work. It was extremely challenging due to the differences in financing, the approaches of the two governments (Italy being a little more flexible!) and of course cultural and language barriers.

But I think the fact that Davide is Italian born and bred really got us across the line. He could bring the best out of both cultures and working methods to achieve a real hybrid film. The treaty was very helpful but it was still a complex puzzle to get it to all fit together. Now we have done it, we’re hopeful it will be the first of many more.  It was always a dream and passion of mine to create a bridge between the two film industries.

The setting of Udine seems really important to the film. What was your experience of the setting and how did that affect how you approached shooting the film?

Udine was a huge inspiration for me and a key reason I chose to set the film there. I had spent many summers there and always felt as if I were walking through a set. The city is very cinematic – the light, the architecture, and colours are so evocative. There is also this kind of underground world of creativity in Udine that I really wanted to tap into – so many incredible designers, architects, musicians, and artists. I tried to weave the characters and places I had fallen in love with into the story and setting to support the emotional arc of Marco and underscore Olivia’s sense of discovery. My art director, Scilla Mantovani was key in helping me reveal the creative soul of Udine – this wonderful contrast that exists between a kind of rustic, ancient world and cutting edge design and style bursting from within it.

The character Olivia is very design-conscious and specifically furniture by Moroso has a role, if I am right. Can you tell me a little about their involvement, and how furniture and design connects with the perspective and feeling of the movie?

Yes. Olivia’s secret mission in the film is to secure a design internship at Moroso. I discovered Moroso furniture whilst I was developing the screenplay in Melbourne and felt it really echoed Olivia’s whimsical nature. The fact that Moroso was based in Udine was also a real bonus. When it came to involving Moroso with the film, it all sort of fell into place. My art director, Scilla has a great relationship with them and sourced and styled all the furniture in the film. Davide and I also had the great fortune to get know Patrizia [Moroso] on personal level and experience the incredible world she has created. In terms of the perspective and feeling of the movie – I tried to connect the furniture to the journey of Olivia – using it to give insight into her creative talents and desires and bringing colour to Marco’s otherwise muted world. I also matched it up with an Australian fashion designer; Gorman whom I felt had a kindred spirit in terms of colour and shapes to Moroso. Coincidently the two ended up making a chair together for Hub Furniture, Moroso’s Australian distributor after the film!

I think it's very au courant, so to speak, that a chef (or ex-chef) and a design aficionado should complement each other. This seems even more appropriate now, given their ascendency in the common consciousness... Did the rise of the design world and foodie culture play any part in conceiving (or perhaps promoting) this film?

Both are about passion and creative expression so in a way yes, they are the two important forces for both the characters that connect them at a deep level. I think both are also very reflective of the Italian flair for creativity – bringing out the best from ingredients or materials. In a way, both characters have this desire to enrich their lives and others through food and design. I didn’t want to be too indulgent however with spotlighting the rise of the design world and foodie culture. I wanted both to be organic to the storytelling and characters rather than something the audience is overly conscious of. Both are so beautifully expressive of the lust for life and so really serve the story in this regard.

RSVP for the screening. 

The Space Between screens on August 17, at 7pm, as the third installment of our summer screening series. The film will be introduced by the director, along with Mirko van den Winkel of Moroso.