by Christopher Roberts
Each month sound recordist and film buff Christopher Roberts talks to one of our members about ‘Their Favourite Film’
CHRIS: Hi Members of the Collective, it is finally spring and I am here to once again to introduce our latest
member for the blog, Flavia Ferretti. Flavia is an actress who trained in Musical Theatre and moved from
Italy to our lovely country, she is now based in Colchester. Flavia is a member of Women In Film and
TV and also trained in Stage Combat and Sword fighter, using these badass skills in the
upcoming short film Valhalla Calling, which is currently in post-production. So please enjoy as we talk about this film, art, passion and love.
Flavia Ferretti – The Best Offer
FLAVIA: As an Italian actor living in the UK, one of the first questions I always get asked is: “Why did you
move to England?”; to which I reply: “To do the job that I can’t do in my home country”. The second
question they ask me is: “What is the film industry like in Italy?” I reply: “Nonexistent”. Okay, that’s a
lie. What I mean with “nonexistent” is that our industry rarely produces anything worth watching
(unless you enjoy cringy, barely-comedy Christmas movies, as we’ve got a million of those).
However, I could not be prouder of my country for producing the stunning psychological thriller “La
Migliore Offerta” (“The Best Offer”), starring Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks and Donald
I remember distinctly the first time I watched it, as I couldn’t get it out of my head for
days; I had never thought it was possible to feel such strong emotions by watching a movie. I have
always been a sensitive person (once my mother had to walk a sobbing little me out of the cinema,
as the thought of the farmers killing the hens in “Chicken Run” was just too much for me to handle).
Still, I have always felt the emotions as an audience member: I’ve felt compassion, pity, enjoyment,
gratification. For the very first time, “The Best Offer” made me feel how the characters felt,
loneliness, love, acceptance, rejection, betrayal. The characters were real because my emotions
Geoffrey Rush’s performance and arch throughout the film are impeccable. There is great value in
the story of a man who has everything but has no one, and all he can do is cling to hundreds of
paintings of women that he can see but not hear and one woman’s voice that he can hear but not
see. Visually, everything from locations to props tells a story. Virgil’s spotless, unlived house (Rush)
shows no sign of a warm personality, except for the well-secured, inaccessible room where he keeps
his precious collection of portraits, which perfectly represents his loving, caring, romantic soul
buried under an unfulfilling assortment of leather gloves. On the other hand, Claire’s house is
intriguing, mysterious, and full of dark rooms that are easy to get lost in and beautifully decorated
only to hide where the walls might lead. The construction and completion of a historic automaton by
Robert (Sturgess) accompanies the story from start to finish, watching from backstage as the puzzle
pieces come together. I believe the older generation (and the personal issues that come with old
age) is often forgotten or not well represented in films. Is there anything sadder than a person who
has spent his whole life building a remarkable career and then finds himself eating alone at his
kitchen table in a quiet, empty house? (Except for “Chicken Run”, of course). My point is, loneliness,
love, acceptance, rejection, betrayal – and hope. These are timeless feelings experienced at any age.
But when they all come together and change a person’s life who thought it was too late to be
changed, that’s when you get a brilliant thriller.
CHRIS: I have got to be honest; I don’t think I have ever watched an Italian film before; there haven’t been
many films that have drawn me to watch them. One of the perks of doing this blog though, is that it
forces me to get out of my comfort one and watch something I wouldn’t think of watching.
After watching The Best Offer and reading Flavia’s thoughts on it, I got curious and decided to research on
Italian cinema. While it’s true Italian cinema isn’t as big as it is here in England or America, it still had
a massive impact on the Film industry, especially with Italian Neo-realism. Neo-realism was a
cinematic movement that took place in the 40s and 50s after WWII, where during the fascist regime
of Benito Mussolini, he strictly censored the film industry leading to new artistic freedom such as
Neo-realism. It made a big impact, especially in art-house cinema and mainstream, with some of its
characteristics even being shown in The Best Offer.
One of the main ones was filming on location instead of at a studio, showing us some stunning
places across Europe like Italy, Austria and Prague. Another critical characteristic of Italian Neo-
realism was the story structure, preferring instead to have the story be less formulaic and usually
have an ambiguous or unsatisfying ending, which you’ll see in this film. Starting off with a fairy-tale
like storyline, I watched as the story grew to something more complex and with one scene jumping
to another, almost feeling a little disjointed but still making me intrigued to see where it all goes.
Figuring out how it’ll end for our character and only to have it do so with a twist that I did not see
coming but also leave me with questions that I need to answer. The last bit about neo-realism is
about the characters and actors themselves, generally the director would go for first time untrained
new actors, which is clearly not the case for this film with a cast like Geoffrey Rush and Donald
Sutherland in it, to play characters who represented the underclass or other marginalised members
of society and while he doesn’t fit in the underclass or in a clear marginalised group, does not make
him any less of an intriguing character.
Geoffrey Rush’s character Virgil Oldman is complicated; despite his reputation, career as an
auctioneer and antique dealer, and apparent wealth, he is alone. Isolating himself from the world
and never comfortable enough to relax and feeling constricted, all due to his OCD. You feel sorry for
him, yet he is also not truly a good man either. At the same time as seeing all of this, you watch as he
cons people out of paintings, even during his own auctions, just so he can have the artwork himself,
either for profit or to add to his collection for his eyes only to battle this loneliness.
When he meets Claire and learns about her agoraphobia and wishes no one sees her, he chooses not to respect her wishes and instead spies on her for his own curiosity. He’s a complex character with layers, and I
can’t say whether you will like him or not. I would say that after watching the film, you might feel
some empathy for him. So, while he isn’t part of the underclass, I can’t help but see him and Claire
being fitted in the marginalized group for their obvious phobia and mental illnesses, but that is
something I’ll leave you to decide when you watch it.
So as you can see, despite not making headway like mainstream cinema in the UK, Italy has made a
significant impact with film styles like Neo-realism still been using today. Overall, I found the film to
be engaging and thrilling to watch. While it’s not something I would usually watch, it led me down a
path that showed me the impact Italian cinema has made and made me curious to find out what
more there have done and check out other Italian films. It shows once again that sometimes it is a
good thing to get out of your comfort and never know what you’ll discover next.
MY FAVOURITE FACT
CHRIS: Giuseppe Tornatore, the brilliant director behind this film started his career at a very early age of 16
as a stage director and is the only director that Italian Oscar Winner Composer Ennio Morricone said
would consider coming out of retirement for.