Tonio Guerra and Federico Fellini
Stories & Ideas

Tue 03 Jan 2023

“The art is very jealous”: Tonino Guerra, Writing Images

Film Melbourne Cinémathèque Retrospective
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Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society

Notes for the 8–22 February 2022 Melbourne Cinémathèque program.

Screenwriting professor Howard Rodman described Tonino Guerra's work as “the brave and moral thread that runs through the fabric of modernist cinema” but Guerra’s preferred categorisation of his contribution was simply to claim, “I added some structure”. Yet not even the most dogged auteurist could deny that Antonio “Tonino” Guerra (1920–2012) was essential to the creation of a number of European cinema’s most influential masterpieces. A poet who professed to have taken up screenwriting merely to pay the bills, Guerra initially trained as a schoolteacher and wrote poetry – in his native Romagnolo dialect – during wartime internment by the Nazis. Not until the age of 32 did he move to Rome and, through a friendship with future director Elio Petri, begin to work in cinema, collaborating on scripts for Giuseppe De Santis.

His breakthrough came with Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960). The legendary auteur described his collaborative process with Guerra as one of “long and violent arguments”, which he found “very helpful”. Such close collaborations would become characteristic of Guerra’s screenwriting career – of his 96 credited features, ten were directed by Antonioni, 11 by Francesco Rosi and eight by Theo Angelopoulos, while he shared further multi-film collaborations with such giants as Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica, Petri, the Taviani brothers and Mario Monicelli. Guerra once claimed that, in reference to his partnerships with such a variety of directors, “I’ve a different face for each of them”. But for Guerra, poetry was a medium of images just as much as cinema, and his gifts for metaphor and symbolism were to prove essential in his most acclaimed films – slow, reflective works by the likes of Antonioni, Angelopoulos and Andrei Tarkovsky, directors who, in Guerra’s words, “always leave spaces open”.


“The art is very jealous”: Tonino Guerra, Writing Images

Amarcord (1973) – Wed 8 Feb, 7pm
Blow Up (1966) – Wed 8 Feb, 9.20pm
Nostalghia (1983) – Wed 15 Feb, 7pm
The Mattei Affair (1972) – Wed 15 Feb, 9.20pm
The Assassin (1961) – Wed 22 Feb, 7pm
The Beekeeper (1986) – Wed 22 Feb, 8.50pm

Person laying on sand, with their face reflected in a puddle

Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.

Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven. 

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