‘I want to show how excited I am’

The hyperactive actor Roberto Benigni, who has a dedicated fan base though there are those who consider him to be over the top, will be in Athens tomorrow and on Wednesday to present his own take on Dante’s «Divine Comedy» at the Athens Concert Hall. While still in Italy, Benigni talked to Kathimerini about Dante’s work, which he finds very contemporary, and about the comic aspects of contemporary reality. «The Divine Comedy» has been an ongoing project for you for a long time. What do you change every time? It is something I started doing in Greece, in Patras, and I have kept changing it over the past three years. I met with such love and positive reaction that first time, that I decided to keep doing it. Each time I add new elements that have to do with the world around us. When I am in Italy, I say a lot of things about Berlusconi of course. But I also talk about many other things like relationships, love, sex, all that is important. Especially sex. It is not us reading Dante, he is the one reading us. All great writers, like Dante or Homer, are so contemporary that they are always ahead of us. I am not a professor, I am an entertainer and what I try to do is transmit Dante in the simplest and most comprehensible way. Are people today closer to comedy or drama? I would say they are closer to comedy. The boundaries are always controversial. To be precise, I would say we are experiencing a terrifying comedy on the borders of the abyss. How different is it for you to perform live on stage? It is entirely different; when on stage you are there, with your body. I can touch the audience, which is something I sometimes do. I can’t help myself, I want to show how excited I am, as happened at the Academy Awards ceremony. I wanted to fly out of joy and that is what I tried to do. Four years have passed since «The Tiger and the Snow,» your last movie. Why did you take such a long break? At times I take breaks from my film career – I hate this word – and focus on my performances. This time the break lasted a bit longer, because I didn’t expect to have such success. I am preparing a new movie for next year, a pure comedy, that is my goal. How have success and awards changed your life? They have changed it a lot and only in a positive way; I feel people’s love. But deep down my life hasn’t changed; I still do the things I want to. I have been asked many times to go to the United States to work, I have been given homes in which to stay and I avoid it, because I haven’t found things that I like. It may sound banal, but my roots are in Italy and that is where I do the things that I like. And if something nice comes up, be it in Italy or the United States or in Greece, I can do it. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333.

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