The boy in the middle Denise Janzee
In her documentary My Name is Nobody, selected for Dutch Competition at IDFA 2017, Denise Janzee sets out to unravel a mystery surrounding two of Italian cinema’s most legendary figures. She reveals all to Nick Cunningham. It is a picture that all cineastes and students of Italian cinema know well. Three adolescent boys are posing for a very formal school photograph sometime in the 1930s. The one on the left, tough and confident, is Sergio Leone. The one on the right, a little jugeared but possessing of a sensitive face, is Ennio Morricone. But who is the boy in the middle? As one character in the film puts it, “the one with the kind eyes, quiet and serene”. This was the question that struck director Denise Janzee when she saw the picture on a programme that was broadcast on Dutch television more than a decade ago. But why should such an innocent tableau pique her curiosity and unleash her creative powers? “Later I realised it is also my own story. I was raised by two famous
people, and I was always fitting in between them.” she says.
support (development and production) amounted to €128,000.
Janzee is the daughter of acclaimed Dutch actress Willeke van Ammelrooy, star of Dutch classics Mira, The Lift and Antonia’s Line, whose second husband is the acclaimed opera singer Marco Bakker. “It is not so important, but it struck me afterwards as the reason why I wanted to make the film. It is nice to make a film about someone that nobody knows, somebody in the shadow of fame.”
With the director’s input, screen writer Tamara Vuurmans provided a bravura script that culminates in a moving and sensitive oration that gathers the threads of Janzee’s complex narrative, delivered by Colombini against an idealised Roman backdrop.
The film, shot over two weeks in Rome, attempts to find out just who the boy in the middle is, in the process uncovering a past that is infused with tragedy and silences. The film is also a treatise on fame and ageing, as a cast of interviewees ranging from a painter/restorer, a doctor, a lawyer, a barber, a priest and a former actor/director, as well as numerous passers-by, speculate as to who the mystery boy may have become. Dutch broadcasters were reluctant to invest in the project because of its lack of Dutch content. But former documentary consultant at the Netherlands Film Fund, Pieter Fleury, understood where Janzee was coming from and suggested that the director should enlist the help of his friend Willy Colombini, a flamboyant thespian contemporary of Leone/Morricone, to help tell the story. “As soon as I met Willy I knew I had a film,” Janzee confirms. Total Fund
One late scene involves Morricone himself responding to questions about his mystery school chum after Janzee photobombs a television shoot for which he is answering questions on his musical works. In the scene, the reluctant and
“It is nice to make a film about somebody that nobody knows, somebody in the shadow of fame” dismissive composer has no idea as to why he is being asked questions about this mystery person whom he last encountered eighty years ago. “[Morricone] is a man who talks about his music, and was a little bit angry. He was the maestro and only wanted to talk about his music. And that is just what I wanted to show. This was enough for me. It was good to see that it is not always so nice to be famous, when you can’t have normal contact with ordinary people.”