Adam Driver & Alba Rohrwacher


by Joanna Orland

As I write this article, it has just been announced that Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher who co-star in Saverio Costanzo thriller Hungry Hearts have just jointly won the Coppa Volpi, the best actor and actress accolades at this year’s 71st Venice Film Festival.  This news does little to surprise me.

Hungry Hearts is a genre-bending film with excellent lead performances.  Driver and Rohrwacher are Jude and Mina, a young couple in New York who meet in a particularly endearing opening scene. They quickly marry and have a baby and what begins as a relationship drama steadily develops into a thriller with Mina rejecting the notions of modern medicine, insisting her instincts will tell her what is best for her baby.  Mina’s love for her child becomes an obsession.

What makes this film riveting are the naturalistic performances delivered by Driver and Rohrwacher.  Driver, a former Marine who is suddenly taking Hollywood by storm with roles in HBO’s Girls, Tracks, Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis and the new Star Wars, humanizes Jude in his sensitive and empathetic portrayal of a desperate father and husband.  Italian actress Rohrwacher takes on the challenging role of Mina whose descent into madness is gradual, believable, frustrating at times and also remarkable.  The dynamic between the two actors feels authentically truthful.

“First of all we met once, one month before the shooting.  And then after that we only met two times, two afternoons we went through the whole script.  We read it and then that magic thing, the magic click occurred,” says Alba. 

“I think that’s also a testament to Saverio,” says Adam in regards to the natural performances delivered by the actors.  “We obviously worked on it for a long time, but he gave us ownership.  At certain points that made us feel that we could take ownership of our characters and if we felt something, it was definitely welcome.  But you know, two actors… I feel that there was definitely times when we would start scenes at the highest emotional stake and Saverio is a very good brutal editor.  Very like, ‘What is this? This is shit.  This is like two actors, you know, emoting or making it about themselves [as] opposed to the story’.”  Adam continues, “He set up an environment that we were free to fail and try things and be wrong.  And we trusted that he would kind of get it on course.”

While a central character to the story which unfolds in Hungry Hearts, Jude and Mina’s baby is never referred to by name, only as “my son” or “my baby”, an intentional decision by Costanzo used to maintain the focus of the narrative on the two main characters’ relationship.  “The movie is a movie about roles – so the mother, the father, the child, the grandmother.  And the first draft of the script I read, which I don’t think is the one he [Adam] read, had only these roles – mother, father, child, grandmother.  No names.  Names were given afterwards, but the child remained The child, kind of symbolizing, desensitizing the creature around whom the whole story revolves,” explains Alba.

“I know at one point Saverio had talked about not even showing a baby.  That would have made it even more so of a ‘what is exactly going on’,” says Adam.

Director Saverio Costanzo also made a conscious decision to never judge his characters Jude or Mina, as did the actors.  While much of the audience will demonize Mina as the villain of the story, Alba herself feels that this is a misguided perception.  Perhaps this approach to Mina is why Rohrwacher is able to play her so empathetically and honestly rather than as a caricature villain.  “Craziness is something different.  Because she acts in a very… she’s full of heart and soul, you know.  She tries to do the best, and then she makes a lot of mistakes, “defends Alba.  “She made a lot of mistakes, but crazy is something, you know it’s like a judge[ment].  And I think we didn’t judge her.”

“If you feel  you’re right, you don’t think that you’re [crazy].  I mean in my experience, I think it’s crazy when people do something that’s different than what I [do].  But in their mind it’s not, because it just makes sense to them,” says Adam.  “And I feel it’s the same when you’re acting, if you genuinely believe that you’re doing something that’s protecting your most prized possession then that’s not a crazy act, it’s territorial.  It makes sense on a carnal level to me.”


Read our review of Hungry Hearts.

Our interview with director Saverio Costanzo.


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