Interview with Stefano Zait Oliva, in competion at Indiecinema Film Festival 2022

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The multiple interests of the author of Metamorphosis, a short film at the crossroads between the visionary nature of filmic language and the reverberations of a peculiar musical research

In the rich and so varied Short Film Competition of the Indiecinema Film Festival, movies with an experimental imprint could certainly not be missing, aimed at exploring the most hidden and secluded frontiers of the imaginary. Such is undoubtedly the short film directed by Stefano Zait Oliva. Introduced by a quote from Strindberg, paced by hypnotic music, studded with symbols, Metamorphosis seduces the eye by illustrating, in rhapsodic form, the possible liberation of some characters kept segregated in a physical and mental cage. But let’s talk directly with the author!

Between musical passions and Surrealism

In Metamorphosis, Stefano, seems to converge both your interest in experimental cinema and both your passion, even as a composer according to what we have been able to observe, for music. How did the inspiration for your work come about and how did it develop?

I started as a musician exploring many musical genres, from teenage noise punk through metal, songwriting and electronica. I’m currently working on some noir singles. I made the official videoclip of the song “Porta Inferi” by Dianadea, an interesting one man band project that mixes doom and pagan themes.

For the musical score of Metamorphosis I was inspired by the German composer Hermann Kopp. I love his soundtracks in the underground films “Der Todensking” and “Nekromantik” by Jörg Buttegereit, where minimalistic but refined melodies are combined with raw and dark images.

Commenting on the short film, one of the festival selectors found “some echoes of early Dreyer and Maya Deren”. You too explicitly refer to Surrealism in your presentation. So what are your main points of reference in the cinematographic field and more generally in terms of aesthetics?

Surely from Maya Deren I could mention the short “Witch’s Cradle” that she made with the artist Duchamp. I love Surrealism very much for having opened a portal in Arts to the unexplored unconscious. A sort of beyond the looking glass where humanity is not subjugated by the rules of normality and reality. Alice in her wonderland. Everything can be created and destroyed at the same time. This is how magic is allowed. An artistic current that I love was Viennese actionism, the videos of Günter Brus‘ performances in his simulated (and not) attempt to self-destruct in order to regenerate are cathartic. I would say that I feel much more attracted by the concept of video art, but from a cinematographic point of view I would like to mention Jan Svankmajer, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Derek Jarman (Wittgenstein was fundamental for me). For the scene of the apple falling in the snow I instead wanted to pay homage to the Soviet animation masterpiece “Tale of Tales” by Yuriy Norstein.





Hunting for symbols and archetypes

Religious symbologies, tarot cards, other elements of possible esoteric or initiatory derivation, iconography of various kinds and allegorical references worthy of a Flemish painting, seem to appear in “Metamorphosis”, suggesting at times a pre-existing study of these subjects. What can you tell us about it?

For me the purpose of making art is to get in touch with the subconscious, with the “magical” part of the human being. Enter the Alchemical Furnace and Transformed. That’s why Metamorphosis is almost completely dark. They are not real characters, they are archetypes that live in everyone’s mind. The metamorphosis is always taking place, it is always possible. I took the use of tarot cards as a form of communication from the aforementioned Jodorowsky, religious symbols are part of our cultural fabric, they are footprints on which our collective unconscious moves.

From Strindberg to the Greek myths, the film’s literary, mythological and theatrical substratum is of a certain thickness. Why this kind of counterpoint, well highlighted by the content of the captions?

I wanted to dare Metamorphosis a theatrical dimension. Not only for the black aesthetics, but also for the fact that theater is one of the oldest forms of esoteric and transformative ritual. Attending a theatrical performance of change is a ritual. From Greek myths I wanted to take the sense of rebellion against tyrants, the protagonist Alice is a sort of Antigone who finds the strength to come out of her captivity and kill her tyrant father, inspired by the deeds of Jupiter/Zeus who kills the titan despot Saturn/ Chrono.

The choice of symbols and the path taken by the main characters

How did you choose the performers of the short film instead?

The tyrant father is played by Sergio Danzi, an actor and acting teacher of great charisma. With his company “L’Arcoscenico Casa del Teatro 3” in Asti he helped me a lot for the realization of the project.
Martina Colombo, Simone Marchisio and little Syria Colombo are theater actors in the company while Alexia D’Onofrio is a visual artist with whom I have collaborated numerous times.

What do you feel like adding, in relation to the inner transformation sought and at least in one case achieved by the younger characters, subject at least initially to a strict form of control?

Probably the character of Alice’s brother is the one that remains the most cryptic. He desperately tries to absorb Godzilla‘s destructive energy, he wants to become a monster to forget the monstrosities he suffered. He will find in his sister a pathetic fetish of emulation. I must admit that the first draft of Metamorphosis was entirely dedicated to him.
It will most likely have its own sequel and will appear in future works because it still has something to say, it still has to change.

Back to work, the search continues

Finally, could you tell us a little more about your training path and which jobs are your research now focusing on?

After two essays on esotericism (“Creatori si nasce” and “Magia Freestyle) I am now working on a first fiction novel. I’m currently collecting ideas for a next film, I’d like to tell something ancient but timeless, inspired by the sacred texts of both the Gospels and Eastern traditions. One aspect I would like to investigate is finding forms of communication, languages. I would like to experiment on the absence of dialogue in the next work, to make sure that the atmosphere speaks instead of the characters.

Thank you for the interview and for the opportunity to participate.

Stefano Coccia

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