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Talking With The Dead: 11 Questions with Luciano Onetti, Director of Sonno Profondo

10151354_608096479282495_1815321278730754271_n“After murdering a woman, a killer that is traumatized from his childhood memories, gets a mysterious envelope slipped under his door. The hunter becomes the prey when he finds out that the envelope contains photos that show him killing the young woman” is the basis for the amazing modern day giallo film director Luciano Onetti. Not since the earlier days of Argento, Bava, Fulci and Lenzi have we seen such a rich tapestry of vivid color and organized chaos. Lock the doors, take off your black leather gloves, grab your bottle of J & B and let’s take a peek into the mind and film by Luciano Onetti…

1. The giallo is a lost art form in today’s cinema, but that was not always the case. Legendary directors such as Dario Argento (The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970), Deep Red (1975), Opera (1987), Suspiria (1977)), Mario Bava (Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971), Blood and Black Lace (1964), The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)) and Lucio Fulci (Don’t Torture A Duckling (1972), A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin (1971) are among the list of elite directors that have helped define and shape the genre. What was is about their styles do you think made them perfect for this hard to nail sub genre and how did their styles help you craft Sonno Profondo?

I think thereʼs a big difference between American & European films. American films have always been more commercial while European ones tend to be more artistic. The movies you mentioned were perfect for those times in the sense that they offered something new and helped the giallo sub-genre to submerge. I say that those movies were perfect for that time because I doubt that today, if they had shot any of those movies, would have had the success they had because they were not commercial movies.

Also, the movies were long in time, some lasted almost two hours, and they could be considered ʻslow moviesʼ for the spectator in 2014. I really do not know if they were so successful. I think what happened to them was the same as with some artwork. I think the value increased in the same way that happens with many works of art with passing time, or with postmortem painters whose works gained value even 100 years later. Nowadays, it is nostalgia the element that influences the value of horror movies. Almost any new movie is automatically compared with a classic of the 70ʼs, or remakes are created. In our times itʼs more difficult to create something new that hasnʼt been created before. We can innovate, yes, but this sub-genre has always offered simple & artistic movies made with very low budgets such as “The bird with the Crystal Plumage.”

Having seen this before, I knew I could play artistic scenes and elements with freedom and without having to invest much money to it. The giallo genre revolutionized because of the way of being filmed, they were simple and artistic films, in earlier films there was not much gore, but they were so strong for that time! This sub-genre has its pros & cons. I knew that a movie set in the 70ʻs would not be that commercial for our times. Some people think that Sonno Profondo represents a parody of the giallo film. What is being misunderstood is that making a movie of a specific genre does not represent a parody of anything. Itʼs a movie within a genre. Itʼs witty when a film from the exorcism genre comes up, nobody says it is a parody of the Exorcist. There are more than 50 excorcism films per year. I don’t know which one is which. Same happens with the found footage. Can we say they represent parodies of the Blair Witch Project? The same thing should have happened in that time if we would think like this. In all giallo films they used leather gloves and were similar in terms of stories. Were there parodies in the same genre? I believe Giallo is the most restrictive genre nowadays. There are many barriers that donʼt exist in other genres.

2. As a first time film maker, you wore so many hats in this production. Not only did you write and direct Sonno Profondo, you also were an actor, cinematographer, editor and composer for the film. With this being your first feature film, do you ever feel like you were in over your head by taking on so many tasks at once and out of everything you did on the film, which task did you find to be the most challenging and which did you find to be the most rewarding/fun?

The fact that I played all those roles you mentioned, it doesnʼt mean my ʻegoʼ has grown to the size of King Kong. Itʼs not the best way to do all by yourself. Itʼs easier to get lost and find yourself in a labyrinth. I had to play all those roles because I had no other option. (In the city where I live, there are no other people dedicated to film-making.) I tried contacting editors, photographers but having no answer from them, I had to go “solo.” I took the project more like a hobby having to watch tons of tutorials before film-making. It ended up being a fun process, and the part I enjoyed the most was composing my own music where I found myself with more freedom to create than when creating a scene. The most difficult scene to film was the hospital scene due to time and security. I could hardly convey the idea that I wanted, but finally decided to
include it in the movie.

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3. One of the trademark elements of the giallo film is an eclectic soundtrack. Sonne Profondo is certainly influenced by famed composer Ennio Morricone and you can hear subtle influences from other great composers and musical talent such as Fabio Frizzi and Goblin. Was there any particular work from any of them that was your inspiration for the soundtrack to Sonno Profondo, what did you find to be the most difficult aspect of scoring your own film and was there ever any consideration to hiring an outside person to do it?

I fell in love with the music very fast noticing a big difference between this type of music & the ones played in most American films. I wouldʼve liked to use music from Ennio Morricone, Frizzi or Goblin, but once I became more familiar with copyrights and what it entails, I pushed myself to create my own music and songs. I wasnʼt going to use songs played in previous movies killing creativity and magic. All these years, I have played music by ear, and mostly instinctively. Never studied music. Simonetti was in my mind, but without a known-name or belonging to the big leagues, it is hard to be heard by those above you. I wonder how many “hidden treasures” are out there without being able to be discovered. To sum it up, I find similarities in the music created by Ennio, Gablin, Frizzi and in those similarities I tried to build my own music for the movie.

4. The film is set in the 1970’s, and one of the most striking things about the film is the amazing amount of detail paid to the continuity and the time frame of the film. It is the little things like the leather gloves, the shiny butcher knife, a bottle of J&B, proper time period magazines and television shows, and even the bedsheets are of the correct period (!) that give the film an air of credibility. How much research did you do into the time period and what did you find to be the most difficult aspect of keeping the props and locals in that period?

Being a film set in the 70ʼs, the idea was to do something credible, not only in image, music & sound quality, but also in objects. Choosing the right objects was important. I always assumed that it was going to give it favorable character to my low budget movie, and being a movie filmed almost entirely in POV then I had to focus in small objects. Everything flowed naturally. I didnʼt run to rent old cars, they were there, available, on hand. We took advantage of everything as if things were there to be taken advantage of, adding to the beauty of simple. When talking about time, I tried to avoid falling into the 60ʼs or film noir. I focused on lighting and most of the scenes in Sonno Profondo are interior scenes. We did not have a problem since we did not film on the street with 30 vintage cars or 50 actors.

Sonno_Profondo-620544825-large5. While Sonno Profondo has all of the trademarks that are staples of the genre (the gloves, shiny murder weapon, gratuitous sexual situations and the almost claustrophobic and frenetic pace), there is not as much blood and grue as your typical giallo. Was it always a conscious decision to tone down the ultra violence in favor of ratcheting up the suspense and mystery and can you tell us how you were able to so successfully replicate that incredible looking blood from that time period?

I think the fact of not having budget and actors were the reason for the creation of Sonno Profondo. It is an adaptation of reality. If my ambition was to make a big movie project was to forget before having the idea of ​​making one, because frustration can lead to want, to leave any personal project. I think one has to learn to adapt to what you have and with that to achieve something. You can have lots of money and big machines and end up doing nothing, or something very bad. So does the skill or creativity. They are things that are priceless and can not be bought. In the movie “Psychosis” or “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage,” thereʼs hardly a scene where blood is shown or if it appears there will be very little, almost nothing. There was no need to show gore. It also prompted me to film without ultraviolence. There is a story in Sonno Profondo that I think is quite interesting that many pass overhead. Regarding blood, when one tries to explain how something is created, beyond that everyone should have a way of working, is ordinary to the tale. I did like an x-ray of the blood I saw or that I thought to see in those movies of the time. Itʼs funny to think I first created blood by mixing wine with milk, but it didnʼt work out! I felt like a chemist in an old lab!

6. Your producer Nicolás Onetti is quoted as saying that “Sonno Profondo was shot on a Nikon D3100 with different lenses of the 1980s. The film was filmed in HD and edited by Luciano using Sony Vegas 10 and After Effects.” When you first decided to shoot the film, was there ever any consideration to shooting on actual cameras and film stock from that time period, and while modern technology has allowed film makers to “retro style” the look of their projects, do you ever find any difficulty in getting the film to look the way it turned out?

It wouldʼve been impossible to film with a different camera because of the price. I couldnʼt afford it. It wouldʼve been ideal to use a 35 mm (or at least a RED cam). I donʼt like HD much, only for action movies. Recently, I watched a Friday 13th from the 80s on HD, and let me tell you it was not the same. New tech canʼt create that retro style that a 35mm can. To make a movie look old, adding dust or changing colors wonʼt be enough. Definition has to be changed and special attention has to be given to lighting, locations, music & sounds. It all works as a “whole.” Itʼs not necessary to add a damage film to make it look from the 70ʼs.

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7. Giallo films are know to be very surreal and throw lots of little bits of information into the plot to try and swerve to viewers to the very end. You used only two primary characters in the film and even managed to keep the majority of the film in their viewing perspective (even more so than typical films of the genre). By not showing faces and never really knowing what perspective you are seeing things from until you see what gloves are being worn, were you ever concerned that the casual fan might become lost in the narrative and as the film continued along, was there ever any consideration to adding more dialogue or a character reveal to help sort the story out?

I believe imagination tends to fade with time, and commercial films lack imagination in big doses. Usually it goes like this: they show a movie which is explained from the beginning to the end, and the audience leaves the movie theatre liking the movie or not. They hardly think of what happened in the movie, or why. The viewer reneges when he does not understand a film and says that its a bad film. Rather, it is satisfied when thinking the story reaches its own conclusion. The beauty of reading a book is that the reader imagines all, both the characters and the locations. This often happens after seeing a movie based on a book, reader expectations fade instantly. Sonno Profondo is an invitation to that process of imagination. My movie is an “experiment” that for many is difficult to grasp, to get, or even to assimilate. It represents a noncommercial giallo from the 70ʼs with a lack of dialogue and actors. Sometimes you don’t have to feel identified only by what you see, although it is always easier to identify with a main character. It is always going to be harder to assimilate a reaction to what you can not see. The idea behind was it was to show the life of a murderer and how he may feel or think. I wanted it to be different. If I wanted to have another reception in the world of cinema I would have done maybe another genre and something commercial.

My brother Nicolas & I have very interesting ideas (other horror films projects) that one day we wish to capture in reality. We know itʼs a process that takes time. Itʼs a project which tends to be more in the commercial side but we may need a hand in that. My idea was to create suspense and lead the audience into imagining possible scenarios (especially when we only used two characters with gloves)! Itʼs not until the end of the movie that the audience can put two and two together. Even the name of the movie gives some sense to it. Sonno Profondo means deep sleep. I think the name of the movie (which many say is a tribute to the name Profondo Rosso and is not) gives meaning to the movie and much of his explanation.

8. You are an Argentinean director, yet you have masterfully crafted a film in a genre that has been primarily an Italian staple. In crossing over to another nationalities “type” of film, many times the meaning and feel of the film gets lost in translation and viewpoint (for example, many American remakes of J-Horror films turn out quite dreadful). What was it about the giallo style of film that initially drew you to it and did you find any cultural roadblocks along the way that you had to hurdle to make film true to not only giallo genre, but also true to your artistic vision?

It’s an interesting question. Sonno Profondo does not look like the typical Argentinean movie. It shows different close-ups, backgrounds, photography, lighting, etc. My country had an important Italian immigration. As a matter of fact, my ancestors were Italian and I have dual citizenship. There’s an Italian thing in almost every aspect of our culture. It’s in our personality, our attitude. It’s also showed in our architecture and so on. The movie was made in Italian, but if you ask me, I think when we talk of art, I think art is universal, it has no barriers, neither race nor religion. In Sonno Profondo, I tried to pass on what I learned in other movies like “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage”, “Deep Red”, “Torso” or “Black Belly of the Tarantula.” The quality of image, music, sound, details, zooms are all typical aspects of the movies of those times. I am aware that I made a movie with a lot of humility, but I feel very happy to have been able to capture what I felt after watching a giallo film. The beauty of the simple is being lost in the new giallo. Today, directors focus more on artistic techniques and details or the use of high-end cameras losing track of the basics of giallo genre. Such is the case with “Amer” where I felt only identified with its music-which has been used before, in others real giallo films. French cinema has a different shape and narrative. France was the only country who made timid critics of Sonno Profondo. Maybe they think they revived the genre as the “new giallo”, with all the coloured filters and super closeups edited scenes trying to show a crazy-art film used in their only two “giallos”…

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9. The film has had a fantastic run on the Indie film circuit and has scooped up numerous awards and praise, including Best Film, Hemoglozine 2013 (Spain), Best Music Soundtrack, Tabloid Witch Awards 2013 (United States), Special Mention, Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre 2013 (Argentina), SITGES 2013 International Film Festival (Spain), Festival Internacional de Cine de Mar del Plata 2013 (Argentina), Móbido Fest 2013 (México), Puerto Rico Horror Film Festival 2013 (Puerto Rico) Horror-On-Sea 2014 (United Kingdom) and HorrorQuest 2013 (United States). With all of the coverage that spans the globe, how do you feel about all of the incredible coverage and love the film has been getting at festivals and were you surprised by how much praise the film has received from new and old giallo fans alike?

It was an amazing feeling. I still remember the day the movie got selected for Sitges. The surprise was BIG. We had no expectations whatsoever. I never said letʼs make a movie to present it in festivals. It was thought more like a hobby or a personal thing. Thanks to Sonno Profondo, I was able to enter in the world of movies, festivals, critics and my brother Nicolas learned about distribution and marketing, among others. We entered in a complex world offering a movie made with love, not thought of for commercial use. That perspective changed thanks to my brother, who with his optimism and a vision of a bright future, decided to send the movie to festivals. He has that incredible quality of believing and trusting in a positive future and the perfect boost that every artist should have at his side, in my case as a producer. I can firmly assure that, if it were not for his determination, Sonno Profondo would still be hidden in a box!

10. The film has been released on DVD through BrinkVision on a Limited Edition pressing and has been spreading across the U.S. at a slow but steady pace. The interview segment, deleted scene, trailer and teaser complete the package quite nicely and help to round out the release. With the film being shot digitally and made to look old in post production, has/is there any discussion on putting the film out on Blu-Ray, are there thoughts of releasing a more “definitive” version of the film on DVD and what were your thoughts on the rollout and release?

The DVD sale gives us more publicity than money. Itʼs gratifying to present our movie in other countries. This encourages us, to whoever laid eyes on my work and that at some future time can continue my projects. And so too, now that I could make a movie, get some response that I was not was receiving, or someone invite me to participate in another project. We want to offer a product that can include better quality, better everything. Going into Blue-Ray format is a project we contemplated because I would like to make comments on some scenes or show out-of-screen stuff I find interesting as well.

11. Sonno Profondo is an amazing piece of film making from any film maker, much less a first time director. Now that you have completed the film and are enjoying the fruits of your labor, are there any thoughts on you continuing on in the giallo tradition, will you be looking to do any work in the horror genre and what is next for you?

We are in the process of making a new giallo, a story written by the two of us. This new project does include dialogue, different characters and interesting locations. Itʼs a new movie that will be liked not only by the giallo audience but also from a more general audience. Itʼs an ultra violent movie with a charming story and well-defined characters, plus, my music at its maximum splendor. I think these are some elements that any giallo movie MUST have.

Written by Dedman13

Owner of Slit of the Wrist FX and producer, actor, FX artist and writer.