A story about ZEUS MACHINE
The central theme of ZEUS MACHINE. L’INVINCIBILE is myth. To talk about it we chose Hercules, one of the most popular characters of classical antiquity and the only hero who is remembered for his labours.
Adopting Hercules as a symbol for life itself and the struggle to face it, this film proposes an interpretation of society based on an absolute value, not a transient truth – an invincible image of the world that doesn’t relate to the dogma of linear time: myth, a circular element of unknown origin, with no beginning or ending. Myth has always determined events and guided all human actions, and because of its nature it is a perfect tool for exploring the very essence of cinema.
ZEUS MACHINE. L’INVINCIBILE is divided into twelve “cases”, recalling Hercules’ labours, that bring to the surface what remains of myth nowadays. In our work, we divide time between our domestic library and the sets of our projects. The two influence each other and they inevitably intertwine with the environment where we live: a small village with two bars, two churches, two banks, and a thousand inhabitants, mostly workers and farmers. In this place, every single event produces un unbridled mythology, from bar to bar, from church to church, without constraint. An example dates back to the preproduction of ZEUS MACHINE. L’INVINCIBLE, when we found out that some local youths were convinced that our job was shooting porn. One night, at the bar, we approached them and after a few drinks they brazenly volunteered as actors for “one of our films”. We recruited them on the spot. That same bar, run by twin sisters, located in an area that curiously abounds with twins, became a key location in the film. We couldn't but follow the mythological rule of the world as a revelation, since Hercules himself had a twin.
Other stories about ZEUS MACHINE. L’INVINCIBLE
The search for Hercules’ traces resulted in at least twelve different sets, spread over three years of travels and encounters. Some of those encounters go even further back in time, as in the case of the little snake handler girl, whom we first met when she was seven years old. We were in Cocullo, on the eve of the San Domenico celebrations, and she was sitting on the floor holding a snake in her hands. We talked with her a bit and she almost convinced us to take the beast in our hands, but we weren't ready for that yet. Two years later we went back to Abruzzi to film her face and to follow her into the woods in search of “her” snakes. Today Francesca should be about thirteen years old.
Even the animation episode involves a series of encounters. We wanted to meet one of the actors of sword-and-sandal cinema who had played the role of Hercules, or that of his fiend, or friend. For this purpose, we met in Rome with Marco Giusti, a film critic and author fond of genre films, together with Steve della Casa, of “Il grande libro di Ercole. Il cinema mitologico in Italia” (“The Great Book of Hercules”, a volume dedicated to mythological cinema in Italy). With him we surveyed the still-existing Herculeses (few) and those we could involve in our project (even fewer). We left with the idea of meeting again soon to see what was left of Cinecittà's golden age costumes. In the meantime, a friend of ours remembered that a close family friend of his was a famous actor who had starred in Cinecittà and Hollywood productions when he was young, and later turned to dubbing and theatre: Sergio Fantoni.
Incredible destiny had linked all of us without any of us knowing it: in fact, Sergio had already taken part in our first film, SPRING ROLL (2001), as he was the voice of APOCALYPSE NOW’s Colonel Kurtz. What’s more, he had also been Hercules' antagonist in HERCULES AND THE QUEEN OF LYDIA! We went to Milan to meet him in person and asked him to tell us his stories of cinema and theatre. He then got tired of talking and left us standing. More than twenty years ago, Sergio Fantoni had a laryngectomy and it was only thanks to his work as an actor that he was able to come up with a technique that would allow him to speak without using devices. It was exactly what we would never have imagined to find, namely, the perfect voice for our spaceship shaped like Ercole Farnese's statue, as well as a dear friendship.
The quality of time
In ZEUS MACHINE. L’INVINCIBLE we had sets of various kinds. Sometimes they were intimate and placed in a protected space where we could measure everything and repeat scenes, while others were exactly the opposite: arranged in the presence of an audience, disguised as a live performance, and we only had one take to shoot the scene – a situation very similar to filming the demolition of a bridge or a building.
Something anomalous happens with this type of sequence in the film; we're not talking about potential editing or photography problems, we are talking about time, or more precisely, about the quality of time.
This is a crucial topic in our movie. In fact, in ZEUS MACHINE. L’INVINCIBLE we show two different times running side by side and mutually fuelling each other: the concrete, historical time of mythology, and the motionless, out-of-history time of myth.
From here, a purely cinematographic equation is born: myth : set = mythology : editing.
Every once in a while, in the twelve cases featured in our movie, we experience these different typologies of time, which combined compose a narrative machine with a very tight inner structure. (Nadia Ranocchi, David Zamagni)
“The battle, as long as it lasts, just because it lasts, constitutes a sort of victory… the darkest moment would be that in which, at the end of the battle, one would have to say ‘an hour has passed’”. (Furio Jesi)
Who is Zapruder
David Zamagni and Nadia Ranocchi, collectively referred to as Zapruder, write and produce films, video installations, and live performances together. The name Zapruder refers to the amateur filmmaker Abraham Zapruder, who captured the famous images of John F. Kennedy’s assassination and thus became, by chance, a narrator in the century of the decline of all historical narratives.
The work of Zapruder is based on the research of new visual and linguistic codes for non-linear narrative structures. In their films, Ranocchi and Zamagni experiment with what they call “editing by sums”, in which short sequences with no apparent reciprocal relation are juxtaposed one after the other. This structure recalls the free association of ideas that is used in psychoanalytic practice to explore the depth of the patient’s character and promote catharsis. At the same time, this type of editing evokes the bombardment of indiscriminate information and images that overwhelm and condition everyone's daily life.