Martin Scorsese: 'Making a film is for me a journey of learning and re-education'

From a lecture by the film-maker on being awarded an honorary doctorate by the literature faculty of the University of Bologna
Click to follow
The Independent Online

When I was young, I thought the moment would arrive when I would know "enough". Perhaps we all think this when we are growing up. The adult world appears to be an impenetrable mystery, and we believe there is a certain amount that we need to know in order to enter and take part in that world. Obviously, we soon realise that this is not the case. There is never an end to learning new things.

To learn is part of my job. Or perhaps I should say that to learn is my trade. In the most unexpected places - new and old films, classics and the forgotten - I find something unexpected, revelatory, emotional. Making a film is for me too a lesson, a journey of learning and re-education. Every problem to resolve, every choice to take, when one is under pressure, is like a final exam with many trick questions.

One of the most formative experiences of my life was to watch Roberto Rosselini's Paisà, when I was five years old, on a little television set with my family, and to gauge the reactions of my grandparents. It was as if they were seeing anew the county that they had left, and the impact of the war on the people and on the land. I was coming to know my own family. I was discovering who I was, and from where I came. And I was learning that there are many kinds of films, and that they do not all need to have the characteristics of a typical Hollywood movie.

The post-war Italian cinema was a glorious period in the history of the cinema, a font of inspiration for film-makers all over the world. These films, considered together, offer the greatest collective expression of rebirth that I know. Visconti for his historical and operatic inquiry, Rossellini for his radical simplicity, Fellini for his almost supernatural gracefulness. De Sica for his extraordinary empathy and his profound perceptiveness, Rosi for his passion for justice and his lyrical powers, Antonioni for his courage and his innovations, and his stunning introspective and visual strength, Pasolini for his personal visual grammar and the impetuosity of his intellect - all these voices from the heart have uplifted us - they have uplifted us all.