Fifteen years ago, Paolo Cognetti (44) rediscovered the mountains of his youth. Get involved with the locals and describe their world in it The eight mountains. But the success of the book, and now the movie, has greatly weakened its integrity.
It’s cold in Antwerp. But Paolo Cognetti is used to the cold. After all, the Milanese author spends a good portion of his time 2,000 meters high in the northern Italian Alps, where his novel The eight mountainsNow showing the film adaptation by Felix van Groningen and Charlotte VanderMeersch.
The book has sold 1.2 million times worldwide, and suddenly made Cognetti—who until then had worked in cafés and restaurants—a star author. A striving role as a lover of simple and pure things. “Of course it is nice when someone recognizes you on the street and thanks you for the book you wrote. But on the other hand, this familiarity makes it almost impossible to make new friends. There was an imbalance from the very beginning.”
Since he wrote a bestseller, Cognetti also feels a lot of pressure on his shoulders. “Writing is not that easy since I’ve been successful. For me, writing is always experimenting and playing. In addition to novels, I also like to write a travel story, a short story, or who knows, I might even delve into a graphic novel. But today I have 25 publishers.” State. They expect more from me than a small experiment … ”
Any The eight mountains Now that he’s starting a second life as a movie, Cognetti has found a pleasant consequence to his success. “I never read my books again after I finished them. But thanks to this movie I was able to see the story of Pietro and Bruno with new eyes.”
The most famous magic
The story of Pietro and Bruno is the lifelong friendship between a city boy and a mountain boy. Sometimes they miss each other for years, but in the end they always meet at a high altitude. “When I wrote about Pietro and Bruno, I couldn’t see their faces,” Cognetti says. “They were just ideas. But when I saw them embodied on film by actors, they suddenly became real, physical people. It moved me. So much so that I really struggled when actor Alessandro Borghi shaved, who plays Bruno, his beard after filming. I said: “Here’s my Bruno …”. (Laugh)
Cognetti has watched the movie 25 times so far. He says that this way he always brings back his great recording period. “It was a magical six months, from June to December 2021. Six months for Pietro and Bruno. When the recordings were over, I almost felt so sad.”
He also cherishes warm memories of working with directors Felix van Groningen and Charlotte VanderMeersch. Although it came as a shock to Cognetti when Van Groeningen announced he was bringing his partner to the Alps. “When we started this project, Felix was going to direct the movie on his own. But while writing the script, he and Charlotte went through a crisis. After that, Felix told me he was going to co-direct the movie with Charlotte. Then I freaked out for a moment, because when a couple gets into a project, you don’t know Exactly what happens. But in the end it was very natural to see them work together and Charlotte really added something to the movie. So my fear quickly faded.”
face the mirror
The eight mountains It had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, but even more exclusive is the special that was organized last summer in Champoluc Church, the village where the team was The eight mountains During filming, he settled near Cognetti’s hometown of Bruson. A hundred or so mountain dwellers, all of whom were involved in the film in one way or another, got to see the end result for the first time.
“A very special moment, but also difficult,” says Cognetti. “On the one hand, the mountain people are proud that such a large film production has chosen their region and that they have been able to participate in it. But on the other hand, they also feel a little judged. This was the case Already when my book came out they also saw themselves reflected in the movie. Especially in the character of Bruno, Pietro’s mountain friend. Most of them have eyes only for him. They wonder: “Am I?” They feel misunderstood by the movie at the same time. This is what my friend Remigio told me He was silent for four days after the premiere. Then he came to explain to me that the film had touched him a lot: he thought it was both beautiful and difficult. Like a mirror of confrontation that also shows the less attractive aspects of mountain life.”
Cognetti arrived in the mountains around the age of 30 as an expatriate in search of peace and freedom. He started working in the kitchen of a local restaurant and was gradually embraced by the locals. But since success The eight mountains He says his attitude has changed. “I don’t have a lot of friends in the mountains anymore. Now I’m the ‘well-known writer who lives in Bruson’, but I liked it more when I was still ‘Chef of Babbitt’s.’ That fits my personality better.”
“Maybe that’s why I’ve been traveling to Nepal so much in recent years. Because in the Himalayas, nobody knows I’m a writer. There I can stand with both feet in reality. And that’s what I’m always looking for in my life and work: reality.”
The eight mountains Playing in theaters now.
“Friendly communicator. Music trailblazer. Internet maven. Twitter buff. Social mediaholic.”