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“To style Freaks Out I was also inspired by Slash from Guns N’ Roses”

"It’s not like so many years have passed since costume designers earned their name on the opening credits!". That’ s how our chat with Mary Montalto, costume designer for Freaks Out, Gabriele Mainetti’s second feature, begins in a bistro in Trastevere.

Freaks Out is the story of four friends: Matilde, the ‘electric girl’, Cencio, the insect-controlling albino, Fulvio, the ‘wolf man’, and Mario, the dwarf who can control metal objects. We are in Rome in 1943, when the capital is undergoing bombings and deportations. The four work in a circus run by the Jew Israel, who is like a father to them. As the war deepens, the Freaks’ path crosses with Franz’s, the Nazi pianist who runs the Zirkus Berlin and has powers of clairvoyance.

Mary Montaldo is nominated for Best Costumes at the David di Donatello Award 2022 and Freaks Out has received a total of 16 nominations.

In Freaks Out each of the main characters has a unique style. What was your inspiration?

Gabriele Mainetti is very keen to start with the reconstruction of a real world and then introduce his fantasy themes. We started with a faithful documentation of the period: from the deportation of the Jews, to the war, to devastated Rome. Each character already had a precise theme and the costume in these cases becomes a sort of sub-writing, an added value that strengthens the identity. For the character of Matilde [played by Aurora Giovinazzo], for example, the request was very precise: cold colours because her warmth is internal and not superficial. That’s why I chose a blue coat for her in contrast with the red gloves that are her energy point. As for the bowler hat she wears, the first reference was to the pillars of cinema such as Charlie Chaplin and Giulietta Masina. For Cencio [Pietro Castellitto], on the other hand, the director wanted a character who was a little bullying and dusty: "I’d like him to be like Terence Hill in the film Lo chiamavano Trinità," he told me. And so, he did. The character of Mario [Giancarlo Martini] also had to be made more childlike, in the film he has a magical, enchanted character, but in reality, he is played by a grown-up, elegant man. That’s why we chose big shoes, breeches, a checked jacket and a schoolboy’s bow to give him an almost clownish appearance. For Fulvio [Claudio Santamaria], we wanted to create a character of great elegance, exemplified by the cigarette with the mouthpiece and the well-groomed hair. For him, I was inspired by Clark Gable, in my opinion one of the most elegant actors in cinema over the years! Fulvio’s 19th century coat was an intuition. I found this old-fashioned coat in the tailor’s shop and thought it would be in line with his retro look: a cultured man who had read books and had been locked in a tower for a long time. The most complex character to dress, however, was Franz [Franz Rogowski], a showman with an obsession with the army. The research for him was twofold: on the one hand there was a historical study of Nazi uniforms and on the other I was inspired by the great frontmen of the stage such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson. The choice of the top hat he wears was also influenced partly by Marvel’s Ringmaster and partly by Slash, the guitarist from Guns N’ Roses.

How long did this research work take you?

The preliminary study took about 4 weeks, with an outline of the project and an initial estimate. The actual preparation took about 3 months, followed by 3 months of filming. Not to mention that when you’re working on a project like this, even when you’re at home you’re thinking about it all the time, but it was worth it!


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