DANIEL BERINI The Promised one

Premiering at the Lavazza Italian Film Festival, Promised is a romantic drama featuring a spectacular Italian-Australian cast, including Paul Mercurio and the feature film debut of Tina Arena. DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to Perth born actor Daniel Berini about his starring role in Promised, and what it was like to get into the spirit of the 70s.

Talk to us about “the promise” at the heart of this film…

The film starts in 1953 where two people, Robert (who I play) and Angela (Antoniette Iesue) are promised by their fathers in marriage. We jump to 20 years later, to the mid 1970s, in Melbourne Australia, and Robert gets back from studying abroad. Suddenly there’s this expectation that these two are going to get married. It’s almost forced upon them, with all these external pressures.

Obviously one of the main themes of Promised is looking at how communities keep their traditions while changing others?

Absolutely. I mean the arranged marriage notion in the Italian community was not something I was particularly familiar with, to be honest, not to modern Australians. And it does explore how these two navigate that, while being respectful to the tradition, but acknowledging that times have changed.

Was that something you found difficult… getting into the mindset of that era? The 70s were a time of big social change, and it’s something that’s explored, not just in the Italian community, but wider, with the feminist movement coming through from Angela’s university…

The feminist movement, in particular, is something that was touched upon. Angela is very much meant to represent that modern woman, and she particularly rebels against this notion (arranged marriage) more-so than my character. I think the film depicts the 1970s quite well. It helps with superficial things, such as amazing costumes and design, but particularly happy that we do very genuinely depict that time period – there’s that balanced perspective of the modern woman, and the traditional Italian values.

How would you describe Robert?

I think Robert is a traditional Italian boy… well… man. Brought up in a very Catholic traditional Italian family. He’s a first generation Italian-Australian. His parents came over, and established themselves a very substantial import export business. So he does come from money and privilege, and that comes with a degree of entitlement, but Robert is a considerate and generous man, and there’s a big part of him that wants to go off and create something of his own.

And unlike you he does play backyard cricket…

(laughs) I’m not the sportiest of people. There was a scene where we’re playing cricket, and I got into a bit of a tiff with someone on set, as they try to explain how to hold the bat…which felt totally wrong to me. Anyway I think we got away with it.

All good. I only found out about it during research…

(laughs) I was thinking, how did you know this? If it was common knowledge I’m that bad at cricket?

Daniel Berini and Antoniette Iesue in Promised

What drew you to Promised?

I think it was a striking simplicity, the simplicity of how the story is executed, that I really appreciated. At the core of its story, really, it’s a love story about two people, their relationship, and their families. As an Italian myself, a second generation Italian, I really like how Italians were depicted in this. So often film makers have a tendency to lean towards the caricature. It can be exaggerated for humour’s sake. Nothing wrong with that, totally cool, but I really like how straightforward and classy this film is, in it’s attempt to represent my culture. It’s really about people, doesn’t try to make an ethnic point. It’s a love story about two Italians living in Australia.

You’ve mentioned the importance of costume and design elements in capturing the period. How did you manage to look good in 70s fashion?

Thank you very much. I had a suit fitting. Pretty easy to look OK, when you got these beautiful fitted jackets made especially for you. Cracking suits. I just don’t know how convincing I looked in flared pants. Not a lot of wriggle room.

However, fabulous costumes. I think costume designers really look forward to this type of work – going to the op shops, and sourcing this great material. It’s always a lot of fun when you get to be in a period piece.

You started with a solid background in theatre…

I started at WAAPA over here, obviously that was theatre based. So my training is theatre, and I did dabble in that. But film & TV are very much what I wanted to do, and that’s been my predominant focus.

Is there much difference in the skill set, or is it totally transferable?

I don’t know. Obviously there’s different skills attached to theatre and film, but I think at the core of it… it is story driven, and you’ve got to relate to the character. I research the character in the same way for stage or TV.

What I do like about film and TV, is the pressure of getting it right consistently, is not necessarily there. You can make a mistake, and explore and change things up at work, but you can just cut, and try it again. It can all be pieced together again in the editing suite. (laughs) There’s kind of a degree of play, which I really appreciate.

Theatre is exhilarating in its own unique way, which I don’t think any other art form can achieve.

What’s next for you?

Well I’ve been attached to a film over in the states called Dissonance on Earth. I’ve recently earned my US working visa, which is really exciting as it opens up opportunities for me. So I’ll be heading over there early next year, to film my part.

Other than that, I am open to possibilities.

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