Happy as Lazzaro

The story of Lazzaro, a peasant still shy of 20 and so good he appears stupid, and Tancredi, a young man of the same age but spoilt by his own imagination, is the story of a friendship. It's a friendship that begins genuinely amid a flurry of secret schemes and lies. Full of light and youthful enthusiasm, it's the first friendship Lazzaro has ever had. And it subsequently survives the passing of time and the disruptive consequences of a Big Swindle to bring the one, Lazzaro, to a huge, empty city in search of the other, Tancredi.

Film Credits

Original Title: LAZZARO FELICE
Countries: Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland
Language: Italian
Duration: 125 min.
Directed by: Alice Rohrwacher
Written by: Alice Rohrwacher
Produced by: Carlo Cresto-Dina, Tiziana Soudani, Alexandra Henochsberg, Grégory Gajos, Arthur Hallereau, Pierre-François Piet, Michel Merkt, Michael Weber, Viola Fügen
Director of Photography: Hélène Louvart
Main Cast: Adriano Tardiolo, Agnese Graziani, Alba Rohrwacher, Luca Chikovani, Tommaso Ragno, Nicoletta Braschi, Sergi Lopez as Ultimo

Director's statement

When travelling through my country I have often met people like Lazzaro. People I would call good people, but who most of the time do not dedicate themselves to doing good, because they do not know what it is to do good. They simply are, and that which they are means they forever remain in the shadows, because, whenever possible, they relinquish their own selves in order to leave space for others. They are not able to emerge from these shadows. They don't even know that it is possible to "emerge". After reflecting at length on the origins of stories, which are often about people who, unlike these Lazzaros, impose their own destiny, I felt a strong desire to recount the journey of someone whose actions are overwhelmed by events: actions that are perhaps mistaken, but which nonetheless arise from a sort of unconscious and limitless goodness.
Lazzaro cannot change the world: his saintliness is not recognised. The saints, as we imagine them, must have strength and charisma, and be able to impose themselves. However, I don't think saintliness is linked to charisma. Instead, I believe that if a saint, with their unlikely martyrdom, were to appear in our modern lives, we may not even recognise them as such. They are someone who is empty, who does not know what it means to triumph as an individual. Someone who is surprised but keeps going when the road ends, if they are told that the road doesn't end. Someone who believes fully in those around them.
This is how the character of Lazzaro was created. From the desire to recount to the world in the lightest way possible, with love and with humour, the tragedy that has devastated my country: the abandonment of the countryside, the migration of thousands of people who knew nothing of modernity to the fringes of cities, and of how they renounced what little they had to have even less. A tragedy that today is being repeated, in the same way, elsewhere.

About the director

Born in 1981 in Fiesole, Alice Rohwacher studied in Turin and Lisbon. She was involved in music and documentaries, working primarily as an editor and composer for theatre. Le Meraviglie/The Wonders, written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher, won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival 2014.