The Tale of the King Crab – story of a 19th century wandering outcast
The Tale of The King Crab tells the story of Luciano (Gabriele Silli). a wandering outcast in a remote, late 19th-century Italian village. His life becomes undone by alcohol, forbidden love, and a bitter conflict with the prince of the region over the right of passage through an ancient gateway. When the quarrel escalates, Luciano is exiled to the distant Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego where, with the help of ruthless gold-diggers, he searches for a mythical treasure, paving his way toward redemption. However, in these barren lands, only greed and insanity can prevail.
THE STORY BEHIND THE TALE
Every new story told by the hunters was even broader than the previous one, but also far less detailed. Luciano’s story started in Vejano and ended in South America, in Tierra del Fuego. Besides, we had very little information on his character, the exact timeframe of the events. Even less did we know about what happened to him in South America. We had to make it all up. This may be how we progressively moved from a documentary to fiction. We did a lot of research: we looked through archives for traces of the travel Luciano—per our hunter friends—went on between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. We found several people by that name among Italian immigrants to Argentina: one of them could have been our Luciano. So, we too travelled to Tierra del Fuego to check on locations. And we found a place full of stories and unbelievable adventures of Italian immigrants. We wanted Luciano’s story in Argentina to reflect all those myths drawn from this culture of immigration. The hunters have been here since our very first movie. But our relationship considerably changed in between, both personally and professionally. At first, they were cautious, suspicious even. Yet over time, they significantly opened up to us. They became actual stakeholders and started suggesting ideas. Today, they are much more at ease in front of a camera than seven years ago. This is now an actual cooperation.
LUCIANO, EMMA & THE VILLAGERS
It was pretty easy to find supporting actors. We dressed up the hunters and villagers in period costumes, and they were ready to act. For Luciano, however, we decided right from the beginning that he had to be a stranger. We wanted his exteriority to be echoed throughout his acting by nourishing Luciano’s character as an outcast. We quickly thought of a long-time friend, Gabriele Silli. He’s not a professional actor, he’s a plastic artist and lives in Rome. Gabriele’s features are close to that of our character, that’s why we thought of him. And he gave so much for the role. He spent two months in Buenos Aires to learn Spanish. He kind of created Luciano, and physically, too, like he would have of a piece of plastic art. He became his character. Ever since the shooting, people have been calling him Luciano in real life, too. For Emma’s character—Luciano’s lover—we found Maria Alexandra Lungu during a regular casting. To us, she had to have a strong personality. We needed someone who could stand up to Luciano, and in a way tame his own savagery. This really is a key role. She might even be the film’s actual protagonist. Luciano’s the hero, no doubt, but the whole movie is kind of about her, in the end. As opposed to all other characters, Maria Alexandra Lungu was an experienced actress, she’d worked with Alice Rohrwacher on THE WONDERS (2014). She did several tries with Gabriele and she was exactly what we were looking for.
FROM ITALY TO ARGENTINA’S TIERRA DEL FUEGO
We started in September with the Italian part, in Vejano. We wanted to avoid the typical scorched landscapes of an Italian summer and on the contrary show lush nature. We managed to finish this shooting session before the second wave of Covid hit—we were pretty lucky. While shooting our previous movie, IL SOLENGO, we only had a reduced team, sometimes down to just ten people, sometimes just us two. THE TALE OF KING CRAB however required a larger team. But it wasn’t the typical shooting either. The main challenge was to find a suiting method for the villagers, who are not professional actors. We couldn’t expect them to play a scene twenty times in a row, wide shot, reverse angle, low angle, etc. We needed to avoid chopping up the action. Together with the director of photography, Simone D’Arcangelo, we found a pretty heterodox arrangement that enabled us to work with much flexibility. The part in Argentina was much more traditional, though not without its own challenges. It was tough preparation. We had to plan a shooting schedule with our main base in Ushuaia, but with a traveling span of 400 kilometres, as far as the Atlantic coast of Tierra del Fuego, on Isla Grande. Most of our days were thus dedicated to travelling. There was always one to two hours of travel there and back again. It took us two months in the end. And Covid posed an additional challenge as well.
MUSIC OF ALL KINDS
You can hear different kinds of music in THE TALE OF KING CRAB, and each has a specific role to play. First of all, there’s vocal music that conveys the narrative content. We chose popular folk songs. And folk songs mostly consist of a melody, often very similar to one another, and of a text that can on the contrary vary very much, depending on the region or even the village. References to characters of popular folk tales are very common in these texts. Some villagers for instance remembered a song or part of a song about Luciano. Was it true? Maybe it told of another person who’d had a similar story? Maybe it had been adapted? Who knows? Just like legends, we all have our own version, and all versions have common elements and variations. And that’s clearly what fascinates us in our work as filmmakers: catching these arborescences. And what’s even more important to us is to maintain and transmit them. Cultural tradition is not something that is fixed, nor completed. Same goes for music—we didn’t stop at simply recording what exists, we wanted to engage in a dialogue with tradition, to contribute to its evolution. Then there is instrumental music, that engages into a dialogue with the images. The composer, Vittorio Giampietro, has been with us ever since BELVA NERA. This musician is just an inexhaustible source of ideas. He really is part of the team from the start. He’s always been in Vejano with us. It’s hard to give you a general idea, because the final results from such minute, precise, and scene-by-scene work. We usually avoid the Hollywood-style that consists in highlighting or amplifying the scene’s emotion through music. On the contrary, we seek a counterpoint to the narrative.
We kind of split tasks while shooting. But it’s not a rigid nor definitive organization. There are very specific skills to master, and most of the time, we learn and we grow together. THE TALE OF KING CRAB was our first fiction movie and we had to face ever new challenges. We share similar tastes, we both like Monte Hellman’s movies, Mikhaïl Kalatozov, Akira Kurosawa… And it’s easy to find inspiration from them in THE TALE OF KING CRAB. We probably share the same idea of what an auteur film is. Or rather, let’s say we share the idea that auteur cinema is not a film genre per se. What we’re interested in, as authors, is to explore genre filmmaking. In the Italian part as well as in the Argentinian part, we had fun revisiting western figures and scenes. What we like in western movies is for example the idea that a very isolated location, a village, can become the scenery of a mystical story. This makes the strength of the narrative. THE TALE OF KING CRAB starts in a tiny place, an inn where hunters meet. But to get to the bottom of the story, you need to travel to the other end of the world, to Tierra del Fuego.
In all our movies, there’s an animal. A panther in BELVA NERA, a boar in IL SOLENGO. And there’s always been a crab in this one. The idea appeared with the movie. We made it up. There’s no real explanation to the choice of a crab. We heard a great many stories with animals while we were in Argentina, but the crab Luciano uses to get around Tierra del Fuego was not one of them. To us, it’s nothing more than a surreal, magical element.
Available from Oscilloscope Films
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.