The hardcore punk rock scene and a sleepy provincial town may seem like unlikely — and distinctly unfriendly — bedfellows. But the combination seems primed for a few comic movie moments, and it’s this that provides the satirical backbone behind Marginsthe charming debut feature from writer/director Niccolò Falsetti.
Playing in Venice’s Critics’ Week (the only Italian title in the competition), the film follows three young members of an amateur streetpunk band in 2008 as they battle to achieve that classic music drama objective: to put on the biggest concert of their lives. Sadly for them, their lives are in Grosseto, a small city in Tuscany not known for creating much of a noise. In fact, according to Falsetti, who grew up there (like many, he’s since decamped to Rome), it’s just not known at all.
“You have to understand, nobody in the world, let alone Italy, knows that Grosseto exists,” he says. Even the online tourism guide describes it as somewhere without any “major sights” that is “overlooked by the majority of tourists.”
The origins of Margins came directly from the experiences of Falsetti and Francesco Turbanti (who alongside Falsetti and Tommaso Renzoni co-wrote the film and also stars as the band’s drummer). The two “besties” met in Grosseto over two decades ago when they were about 10 years old. Their friendship was forged over their discovery of punk rock. They later formed a band — PEGS (still going, and an acronym for the Pinks Elephants Gangs, “The pink elephants from Dumbo… I dunno why… we were 15!” says Falsetti) — and would perform at events rarely wilder than friends’ birthday parties.
Early on in Margins There’s a scene in which the film’s central band, called Wait for Nothing, play to a mostly deserted open air community event, screaming a song about punk being more than just a passing fad to a small selection of bored onlookers “It’s quite loud, but … well… it’s cool!” notes the graying councilor as he takes to the stage before they can play anything else, presenting the group with some bingo tickets for the raffle as payment.
Films such as This Is Spinal Tap (particularly the scene in the Themeland Amusement Park) spring to mind, but overall Margins has a softer comedic vibe and spends time focusing on strains the concert — or lack of — puts on the trio’s relationships (including lead guitarist Edoardo and his mom, who still diligently irons his black punk T-shirts).
Falsetti claims his reference points were actually Shane Meadows’ acclaimed film series This is Englandparticularly the moments mixing punk aesthetics with the more mundane aspects of life (“like when you’ve got the main skinhead guy cooking, I loved situations like that”) and the Brit smash hit The Full Monty, who he admits even his mother — a conservative Catholic — hugely enjoyed (he also admits that she also used to iron his black punk T-shirts). “We loved how they made the struggle of the characters into such a funny story,” he notes.
Margins may see its three young punks come up against bureaucracy, bemusement and a town simply ill-equipped to host the sort of show they’re looking for (in one hilarious scene, a cheesy nightclub complete with light-up dancefloor and bubble machine is considered ). But Falsetti does admit that his experience growing up wasn’t exactly the same. “We are actually luckier than our protagonists, as we had a few punk bands in town,” he notes. “There were five or six bands, and we’d regularly organize concerts.”
And, for all the fun being poked at his place of birth (where all of Marginsbar the nightclub, was shot), Falsetti claims the town welcomed the film with open arms.
“They loved the fact that we were making a movie in Grosseto,” he says. “But they didn’t really know what the movie was about.”
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