“Lampo, il cane viaggiatore” by Elvio Barlettani, is a true account of the author’s relationship and friendship with a stray dog. The book was published by Garzanti, and we own the rights.
Between 1953 and 1961, a very special stray dog that went by the name of “Lampo” played a big part in the lives of railwayman Elvio and his daughter Mirna. Lampo was a free spirit who arrived to the Tuscan town of Campiglia Marittima via a cargo train, and quickly became known to the community for his incredibly sharp intelligence and sense of orientation. Not only did Lampo learn all of the train times, the connections and the different types of convoys; he also travelled to and from Elvio’s town, Piombino, twice a day to walk little Mirna to and from school. Although Lampo chose to live his life affectionately by the side of Elvio and his family, he retained his freedom and did not deprive himself of the typical adventures of a wandering dog. His vagrant nature mixed with the sweetness and faithfulness that only a dog can offer. Lampo’s adventures riding trains soon became legendary, and as a beloved member of the community, a monument was erected in his honour when he passed away. The story of Lampo quickly made headlines at the time; numerous articles about him came out on major local newspapers, as well as in American and French ones. Even the Italian television channel ran a service about Lampo in 1958. In 1973, the Walt Disney company asked for the story’s rights, with the intent to create an animation picture based on Lampo’s extraordinary life. The story of Lampo is spontaneous and lovely, and its message comes across naturally: loving a dog is as important as loving a human being. It is a story about the friendship between a man and a dog that chose to live its life travelling and discovering a bit more about “our” world. It is a feel-good story whose main target is children, whether they be physically young, or whether they be the inner child that all of us “older” people carry. It is a perfect story to be told through the cinematic medium, and now more than ever do we need an uplifting story such as this one, to get us back in touch with our inner child.
LAMPO, THE TRAVELING DOG Treatment for feature film by Jessica Giaconi and Erika Pascucci
A long row of processionary pines is crawling on the road. A dog’s face gets close to one of the red worms, and just as the poisonous insect is about to sting it, a man’s hand grabs the dog and pulls it away. It is Elvio, a 35-year-old railwayman, and his dog Tigre. Elvio scolds the dog much like a mother does when teaching a child to cross the road. The relationship between Elvio and Tigre seems to be one between man and man, rather than one between a man and a dog; the two even exchange what seem to be dialogues. The cars are racing across the road, and to save the processionaries from being run over, Elvio picks them up and sets them aside, despite the allergic reaction their touch causes. Elvio has a stronger affinity with animals than he does to people. He lives in the town of Piombino with his wife Giacomina, who does not share his passion for these furry creatures, and their daughter Mirna, who has recently started preschool and who has inherited her father’s love for animals. Every day, Elvio and Giacomina take their daughter to school and then go to the train station, where Giacomina works with her parents at the coffee shop, whilst Elvio takes the train to go to Campiglia Marittima (a town 15km away) where he works in the station’s ticket office. The first thing Elvio does is rip off a page from the calendar to update it to the current day: the year is 1953. From his office window he sees a dog getting off from a cargo train. He cannot make out what kind of dog it is, nor does he see any owners around. Elvio goes towards the dog and, much like with Tigre, starts talking to it, explaining that it simply cannot stay at the station. But as soon as Elvio starts walking away, the dog follows him. The two begin a sort of “stop-and-stare” game: when Elvio turns to look at the dog, it stops, only to follow him again as soon as the man starts walking. Elvio tries to send the dog away but his efforts are lost, seeing as the dog seems to have “chosen” him. Elvio talks to it again, explaining why he cannot keep it. Elvio’s colleagues make fun of him for speaking to the dog the way he does. Some even tease him about the “lovely couple” the man and dog make. Elvio walks to his office and the dog, sure enough, continues to follow him, stopping just outside the door. Once home, Elvio tells Tigre all about his encounter with the mutt (exaggerating a few aspects for the sake of story-telling). Mirna, who has been secretly listening all along, is outraged with her father for leaving the poor dog behind, forcing it to spend the night all alone. Tempted to go back to get the dog, Elvio is stopped by his wife, and tries to console his daughter. Exhausted from comforting her, Elvio eventually falls asleep in Mirna’s bed. 3
The next morning, Elvio opens the door to his office and is (pleasantly) surprised by the dog who jumps up and down with joy upon seeing the man. Elvio is puzzled: he cannot understand how the dog was able to get in to his office, or why it got off at Campiglia the day before. Elvio’s colleagues nickname the dog “Lampo”, for making its way into the station so quickly. Elvio can only accept the love the dog is showing him and take it in, aware however, that Tigre won’t be too pleased about this new family addition. After work, Elvio fashions a cot for Lampo in his office, and makes sure he has water and food. ‘Goodnight, see you in the morning!’. And Elvio jumps on the train back home to Piombino. The landscape flashes by outside the train windows. Like every evening, the train’s ticket inspector says hello to Elvio as he walks by. All of a sudden, an enthusiastic Lampo pops out from under Elvio’s seat. A surprised and slightly worried Elvio hides the dog and pretends not to see him to avoid getting into trouble. Once they arrive to Piombino, Elvio tries to discourage Lampo from following him, but he eventually gives up and allows Lampo to go home with him. Whilst Mirna is overjoyed upon seeing the new dog, Giacomina is not as pleased, much like Tigre who quickly gets into a brawl with Lampo, forcing Elvio to intervene and separate them. The man, however, does not succeed, and is wounded in the process. Upon seeing their owner exhausted and injured, the two dogs eventually stop fighting and both lick Elvio’s wound in an attempt to make it better. Mirna hides Lampo in her room, in the middle of her pile of dolls and stuffed animals. He blends in so well that Giacomina does not even notice him. She does, however, walk into her husband and Tigre having one of their usual “chats”, with Elvio asking Tigre to talk to Lampo in “dog talk” and convince him to stop following him. Mirna falls asleep with a smile on her face, and even Lampo is about to doze off, when he suddenly hears the sound of a train in the distance. The next morning the alarm clock goes off and, like every day, everyone in the house gets ready to face the day. But Mirna bursts into a desperate outcry when she realizes Lampo is no longer there. Not quite sure how to handle yet another “disaster”, Elvio suddenly hears something scratching the front door from outside: it is Lampo. Why is he outside, and not inside the house? But there is not time for questions, Elvio and Giacomina and Lampo take Mirna to school, and the day goes on as always. When he gets to work, Elvio hears from a colleague that he saw Lampo come into Campiglia via train the previous night, and then take the first morning train back to Piombino. Elvio cannot believe what he is hearing. During the following days, other colleagues tell him the same story. It becomes clear that Lampo wants to sleep in Elvio’s
office in Campiglia at night, but wants to be in Piombino in the mornings to take Mirna to school, and in the evenings to wish her a good night. Elvio is curious about Lampo’s whereabouts, and secretly follows him during the day. He often sees Lampo standing on a rock by the sea, staring at the horizon, almost as if he were waiting for someone. Elvio has also realised that Lampo knows when to go to Piombino and come back by recognizing the arrival/departure times of the Rome-Turin trains. Such trains have a dining car, where Lampo is always given left-over food from the trains’ cooks, who have come to know and love the dog. On an unusually quiet morning, Elvio and his wife wake-up to quickly realise they have over slept, and start shouting and screaming, blaming each other for not setting the alarm clock. They stop arguing when they see that Mirna is not in her bed, and see Tigre barking and growling at the window. The two parents panic, and come to the only possible conclusion they can think of: kidnapping. It must be kidnapping! A four-year-old could not possibly run away from home, she would not even know how to dress herself. The kidnappers must have come in through the window, maybe drugging Tigre in the process. Giacomina and Elvio, desperate and scared, run outside to look for Mirna. As they start fearing for the worst, they find her close to the kindergarten, trotting along with Lampo by her side, carrying her school bag. Summer has arrived, and despite the heat Lampo is not tempted by the coolness of the sea waves. One afternoon Lampo accompanies Elvio to a small, isolated beach. Whilst the man goes for a refreshing dip, Lampo stays on shore, observing the sea as always. Suddenly Elvio feels unwell and finds himself fighting against the strong waves. Lampo does not waste a moment, and jumps in the water to rescue the man. It turns out that Elvio faked drowning to see Lampo’s reaction. Lampo is not amused by this joke, and walks away offended. Elvio calls and looks for him, but to no avail: nobody has seen him or knows where he is. Elvio, ashamed and regretting what he has done, confides in Tigre. The following morning Lampo greets and welcomes Elvio as usual: it is as if the two dogs have “talked” to each other. Elvio is overjoyed that Lampo has forgiven him, and remembers the practical jokes the two of them have played on each other: there was the time when Elvio hid the leftovers Lampo was given from the train’s cook, and Lampo stole Elvio’s hat to get back at him. Elvio apologises to Lampo, confessing that he did not realise how important the sea was to Lampo.
At the train station, Lampo is growing increasingly interested in trains that travel longer distances. Just as one such train departs, Elvio realises that Lampo is missing. He knows where the dog is going to, and communicates with the station masters of the stops he knows the train will make. However, the following morning Lampo is back at Elvio’s house, ready to walk Mirna to school. It seems the dog interrupted his journey to go back and keep his commitment with the little girl. After this small adventure, Lampo is even more interested in trains that travel longer distances, and starts to travel beyond his usual stops. Elvio is still not sure how Lampo can always catch the right train back to Campiglia. News of Lampo’s adventures spread, and Lampo is nicknamed “the travelling dog”. The railway men even fashion tickets for the dog that read “All round free ticket for Lampo, the railway dog”, which Lampo proudly carries around his collar. Lampo and Elvio have established a great relationship, and even the complicity between Lampo and Tigre is at its best. Lampo has become subject of great interest even outside Elvio’s household: everyone is curious to meet the famous travelling dog. Unfortunately, there are also others who are less thrilled about a dog allowed to go in and out of offices, and on and off trains (in the restaurant dining car, no less!). The dog-catchers come to the train station determined to catch Lampo, who tries to run away and hide. Elvio rounds up his colleagues for help. After several chases, the dogcatchers eventually give up and leave. At this point the railway men take out Lampo from where they had hid him and rejoice, naming the dog the station’s mascot. Mirna grows up, as does Lampo; Elvio talks to his dogs more than ever, and Giacomina has finally learned to accept to live with the two dogs. Summer has arrived, and Mirna is on holiday in the mountains, visiting her grandparents. Elvio, Giacomina and Lampo go to pick her up by car. In the afternoon, the family goes for a walk in the mountain town. They decide to go into a small church, without thinking that dogs are not allowed inside. It is only a matter of minutes before the priest sees Lampo and waves a broom at him, sending him on his way. A frightened Lampo runs away. Once they leave the church, Elvio and his family cannot find Lampo, and start looking for him. Evening comes, and Lampo is still nowhere to be found. Mirna cries desperately, and Elvio and Giacomina grow increasingly worried. The following day the family must return to Piombino, despite feeling torn knowing they are leaving Lampo behind. Elvio spreads the word of a very generous reward for whoever should find the dog. During the car ride home, both Mirna and Giacomina are in tears, whilst Elvio takes out his frustration and worry by shouting and screaming at Lampo, wherever he may be. The three of them remain quiet until at one point they see Lampo by the road. The dog recognizes them and 6
yelps with joy, with Mirna hugging it and reassuring it. Lampo has walked 25 km and has displayed great intelligence by knowing where to go and wait for the family. Soon enough, news about the travelling dog spread even to the train passengers, who ask about him and try to get his picture when they stop at Campiglia. Lampo’s travels become more and more frequent, but Elvio knows fully well that what the dog is doing is not exactly “legal”. In fact, one of the train conductors does not want Lampo to get on and off trains as he pleases. But this is no obstacle for the clever dog, who has come-up with ways to not get caught. Nonetheless Elvio gets scolded by his boss, and is warned that either Lampo stays away from the trains, or someone will lose their job. Since none of the railway men can afford to get fired, Elvio realises that the time has come for Lampo to go. Elvio and his colleagues decide that the best way is to board Lampo on the train that will be travelling to the furthest destination. On the day of Lampo’s departure, everyone has gathered to say goodbye. From the train’s carriage, Lampo looks down at them with an imploring expression. Thunder and lightning mark the sky, Elvio cries and the train leaves. The days following Lampo’s departure are very hard on Elvio, who worries of the dangers the dog could be facing. Elvio is tormented by his guilty conscience even at night, when he has constant nightmares. Furthermore, when he gets home every evening, Elvio has to face Mirna who, ever since Lampo’s disappearance, asks whether he has returned. Elvio cannot find the courage to tell his daughter she will never see the dog again, so he lies and reassures her that Lampo will be back soon. One day, exhausted and agitated, Elvio harshly tells Mirna to forget Lampo and that he will never return. Mirna’s eyes quickly well up. Back at Campiglia’s station, life goes on as always, but Lampo’s absence is felt by everyone. The school children ask of him, and the cooks aboard the trains call out for him to give him the leftovers. All of the station’s staff feels guilty for sending Lampo away. Mirna no longer asks about Lampo, and Elvio thinks she is starting to forget about him. But one night Elvio walks past her room and overhears Mirna praying to the Madonna for Lampo to find his way back home. Mirna’s prayers seem to work, since five months later Lampo comes back. He is, however, worse for wear: he is skinny, dirty, has scratches all over him and a haywire collar around his neck. With his return, the Campiglia train station comes alive again, and contrary to the vet’s predictions, Lampo makes a full recovery. The all-round love he is welcomed with has a healing effect on him, and Elvio and Mirna are once again smiling. Even Elvio’s boss, who was once so strict about following the rules, welcomes the dog with open arms. The news of Lampo’s return spread and everyone looks for him. Lampo’s story becomes so notorious 7
that the national television channel Rai sends a film crew to interview those who know of the incredible adventures of this travelling dog. No one, however, knows anything about Lampo’s life before his arrival to Campiglia. One day, Elvio encounters an eccentric old man from Livorno carrying a big suitcase, who identifies Lampo as “Bigheri the American”. The man says he was a small dog who had arrived with an American steamboat, and stayed in Livorno when the boat was unexpectedly forced to leave. This explains Lampo’s habit of staring at the sea’s horizon! After the boat left, the dog became the companion of the sea port’s guardian Beppe, the eccentric old man telling Elvio this story. Lampo is happy to see his old master, who says he would like for the dog to go back to Livorno with him. Elvio says that the fair thing to do is to let the dog decide. Beppe boards the train for Livorno, and Lampo follows him, but comes back to Campiglia just four days later. Now Elvio understands why Lampo will look at the sea without ever jumping in! He decides to write down Lampo’s incredible story. Mirna’s schoolteacher is taking an impromptu driving lesson with Elvio, in his car. After he saves them from getting into an accident, the teacher makes Elvio a proposal: he will teach her how to drive, and in return, she will teach him how to write. Elvio happily accepts; ‘I will bring you the first pages of my book for you to look over’. When the teacher comes back to Elvio with the corrections, the pages are full of corrections marked in red. ‘My dear, you cannot write down a dog’s thoughts, dogs don’t speak’, she says. To which Elvio replies: ‘I am afraid you are mistaken. You see, you can correct all my spelling mistakes, but you cannot correct my thoughts. Dogs do speak, maybe you just can’t hear them!’ Elvio gathers his pages, and leaves the teacher’s house, never to return. Copies of Elvio’s book are on display in a bookshop window, where at one point Lampo’s reflection can be seen. Mirna comes up to him and invites him to play. Lampo looks at her and lifts his right paw towards her, as if saluting her. This image transforms into the small monument erected in Campiglia Marittima in Lampo’s honour. Standing in front of the statue is a blue-eyed woman in her sixties, wearing modern-day clothes. By her side is a little girl who, upon looking at the statue, asks the woman: ‘So Lampo really existed, grandma?’. The woman takes the girl’s hand and, as they start walking, replies ‘Yes he did, and he was my best friend, and my father’s best friend too’. The shadow of the statue comes to life, turning into Lampo, who trots behind older Mirna, in the old, tree-lined road where they used to walk when Mirna was a child. The frame fades into the images of the 1958 television service about “Lampo, the Travelling Dog”.
ERIKA PASCUCCI & JESSICA GIACONI Erika and Jessica studied Film Directing together for two years at the Libera Università del Cinema di Roma, founded by Cesare Zavattini. Both together and on their own, they have worked on numerous video-clips, commercials, backstage videos and promotional videos for private companies, following different aspects, from directing, to photography and editing. They have worked on documentaries that are currently aired by the television programmes “Alle falde del Kilimangiaro”, “Geo” and “Cronache animali”. They also promote several cultural events. SHORT FILMS: -
“Ali” by Erika Pascucci. Winner of the Cinecittà competition organized by the film school NUCT; finalist at the festival headed by Nanni Moretti. “Com’era dolce” by Erika Pascucci. Winner of the Festival Genius Loci of Provincinema in Monterotondo, together with the Festa del Cinema of Rome. “E gli altri ridono” by Jessica Giaconi. Currently in the national and international film festival circuit. “Ipnogames” by Jessica Giaconi. Second runner-up at the Ultracorti Film Festival of Cinecittà. “La corsa di Jonathan” by Erika Pascucci. Winner at the Bellinzona and FilMare of Ostia, headed by Ettore Scola. “La patente” by Jessica Giaconi. Winner of the Efebo d’oro Critics Award in Agrigento. “Lynda” by Erika Pascucci. Winner of the Piero Vivarelli Corto XX Award for Best Performance.
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“E gli altri ridono”: