Preview: Behind The Screen: Piazza di Spagna, Somerset House, London

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The British film director Mike Figgis, whose feature films include Internal Affairs and Leaving Las Vegas, has teamed up with the Italian fine-art photographer Massimo Vitali to create an art installation. Shot at the Spanish Steps in Rome last summer, it includes four plasma screens, with moving images by Figgis, positioned in the middle of two huge frozen large-format photographs, by Vitali, of thousands of tourists on the steps, set to a soundtrack composed by Figgis.

"I imagined what it would be like to zoom in on four of these characters in Massimo's photographs of thousands of people and follow them for 15 minutes," says Figgis. "The whole way it is shot evokes that Fellini era of Italian film-making."

The director has filmed four female characters, played by the same actress, Katy Saunders.

"A lot of the work I have made – such as Timecode – is about synchronicity and parallel narrative, using more than one screen," says Figgis. "As this is an art installation I'm not stuck with doing a conventional beginning, middle and end. I created four characters for her who live on the Spanish Steps: two fashion victims, a street person stealing money from tourists and an innocent French tourist.

"I choreographed it as a dancer would. Sometimes the four characters are doing the same thing so that there are these moments of synchronicity."

He prefers to use digital video because it gives him more control. "With small digital video cameras and development in the editing systems it is now possible to shoot and edit yourself and retain some element of intimacy and privacy before handing it over."

Piazza di Spagna is part of Behind The Screen at Somerset House – a series of talks, discussions and screenings taking place behind the giant Film4 Summer Screen. Figgis will talk exclusively about Piazza di Spagna in the Terrace Rooms at Somerset House on 2 August.

31 July to 9 August (0844 847 1715, or book online at