There’s been quite a stir about the new Italian film Me, Myself and Her (Io e Lei) because of the big name actresses at its center and the controversial crisis their relationship faces. But it’s also an undeniably good film that highlights middle-aged queer women, bi-erasure and internalized homophobia. We recently got the chance to speak with the film’s director, Maria Sole Tognazzi, about these themes and more.
Warning: Slight spoilers ahead
AfterEllen.com: It’s not too often we get to see two middle-aged main characters in a lesbian relationship on film. Why was that important to you?
Maria Sole Tognazzi: The choice to have two principal characters in their middle age is the first thing because in Italy no one has done a film about a relationship with two women. And so that’s the reason why I thought to write this story. You know, there was a very important film with my father [Ugo Tognazzi] and Michel Serrault, probably you know, with the title of La Cage aux Folles that was the first film here in Italy–it was a French film but it was a very important success here in Italy. It was the first film in Italy with a gay couple. My film is the first film with two female gay women here. It’s strange, but this is the reason why I thought of the film. And I think that the particular thing is the age of these actresses. Sometimes when you tell a story about a homosexual couple, it’s with the exploration of sexuality. In this film, we have a couple that are together for six years and there is a crisis. So the film doesn’t explore the sexual relationship and discovery. Other films I saw, for example Carol, there is a discovery of a woman about a young woman. Another film that I saw with my screenwriters was The Kids Are All Right.
In Italy this year, finally it’s arrived–a law for gay couples. Because until two months ago, there wasn’t a law for gay couples here in Italy. It was one of the last countries in Europe in which gay couples were not protetti–regular for the law and other things. When you make a film, you think about the society, about the country where you live.
AE: You talked about your movie being the first of its kind in Italy. Did you ever hear of Viola di Mare in 2009?
MST: Yes, I know Viola di Mare, but Viola di Mare was a film that we have two young women and not two middle-aged women and it’s a film not in this time. It’s a film in another period. It’s not a contemporary story. This is the first film with a contemporary story. That’s the difference.
AE: There’s a controversial element in your movie, especially for lesbian women. Whenever a woman in a relationship with another woman cheats with a man, it makes a lot of lesbian viewers mad. Were you tempted to take that part of the story in another direction? Either no cheating or have Federica cheat with another woman? Or were you not thinking about what audiences think at that point?
MST: I think it’s a very stupid consideration because we have a story in this film with two very different women. There is a lesbian woman and there is an ex-heterosexual woman with another past, with a marriage in the past, with a son. And this is the first time this woman had a story with another woman. So the crisis in the story we tell is a crisis between a particular period for these two women.
In this crisis, born with the exposition of Marina’s interview and other little things, there is a moment in which Margherita Buy, the character of Federica, starts to be in crisis with herself and starts to think her life is no good. Her old life was with men. She prefers and she loves life and she loves Marina and she comes back to say “sorry.” So I don’t know the problem. It’s a problem about internalized homophobia. It’s a woman who has at 50-years-old, this is not a young woman, the first relationship with another woman. She is so different. She’s different because it’s her first time, she’s different because they have two different personalities and two different backgrounds. Marina is popular and she’s a lesbian. She’s very sure about her life. And Federica, she’s a borghese with another kind of life. So she has a problem to declare to other people she has this relationship. It wasn’t realistic [to cheat] with a woman.