Enrico Ballarin Talks the Precious Side of Memories in ‘A Head Full of Honey’

ATM: How has your memories help shape your life identity as a person and the main character’s?

E: The main character played by Nick Nolte is sick. He does not know he has a mental illness called Alzheimer’s. His niece, which is the girl who tries to bring him to the place where he had his honeymoon with his wife while younger. It was in Venice. While on the trip to Venice, we shot this on the streets, which passes through the mountains. This is in South Carola. She hopes he can find his memory back, but this is the place where he loses his memory. Also, this is the place where he is not comfortable. He is not able to recognize her anymore.

The film is a remake on the German version that was done in 2003. We did the same thing for this film. It was also made for Warner Brothers. This one was for international distribution. It is the second time that we worked the director and his company as an Italian executive company. We have only our memory. I think we are the products of our past while riding the bus. The memories are an essential part of our character and personality. We would not be who we are without memory.

ATM: What else do you see the main character decline in besides his memory?

E: The film is interesting because it is not only about the disease, but about the relationship between this old man, the little girl, and nephew. It tells a lot about the problem of having someone who has this kind of disease. You have to see somebody and take care of them. This is a big impact on your everyday life. It changes your everyday life. Suddenly you have to take care of your grandfather, uncle, husband, or wife. The day before he starts fishing. This is a very interesting part of the film. It does very well. It talks about the dilemma about how you could deal with this problem. If you can afford it or if you have the money for an institute or hospital. Even if the person is still there and does not have the memory anymore, then they still help with your memories and what they are.

ATM: How does age play a part of in this because he would be expected to have more memories? What can you dictate as to describing the type of person he is according to his past?

E: The past defines the person we are in all of us. This is the main subject of the film. The big thing for people around the main character is that losing his memory is no more the barrier of the person he used to be. It is dramatic and sometimes it is a comedy. Nevertheless, the film dabbles up and shows he gets less and less of the person he used to be. This is what makes it more painful for the people around him like his family, especially the younger. He used to rely a lot on his grandfather. The parents were very much involved in the business. When do you not have any more memories, then what do you have? It is very close to the end of life. At the same time, the film deals with it as a comedy. Some parts are very funny.

ATM: Were there any correlation to memories during the preparation process for this film?

E: Til is very precise and has his ideas. He is a very demanding director. Because he has such precise ideas, he does not want to lose time. This is not in a dictator way. He is doing a lot of the same things at the same time. He is directing, then he is editing the movie while it is shooting. He is very busy and does not want to be inserting. Once he makes a choice then it goes. He gets something to work on right away. He has a lot of proposals, but he is only picking from a few. He is very quick at choosing without any hesitation. He is sharp, clear, and neat. With someone else, they would feel dislike and imposition. I felt it was like a common choice.

This film shows autobiographical sides. We shot in an area that was very close to South Carola. This is a mountain region in Northern Italian. This is the place where he used to come on holidays while he was a child. He would come with his parents and brother. He would go with his family. Some of his family is in the film. He is very much tied to his family. He brought a lot of his childhood memories into the film. This is very interesting. The place where the young girl wants to bring the old man around were the places where Til enjoyed his happy childhood during summer holidays in Northern Italy.

Also, these are places where I loved to be, which was the greatest similarities. We knew the same places. We used to go on vacation in the same areas. These are mountain areas that I like very much. They have beautiful areas. I liked to go there hiking in the mountains, and this the same thing he used to do. They are the most stunning mountains in the world. They are the dynamites. It is really one of the beautiful places in the world. It is very relaxing and dramatic. There are lakes, mountains, villages, wine, and food.

ATM: How is the granddaughter setting an example for the old man living with the disintegrating mental illness?

E: This is a difficult question. The simplest answer is that he must rely on her because he is already in the middle of the disease. She is his guide in a sense. It is not only the easiest thing. He sees in the young girl that same spirit he once had while younger and in good health. This is what he gets from her. The same spirit of adventure, not willing to make any compromises, to be totally transparent, and honest. He recalls these things about himself through her. It is mutual for the little girl. She is the way she is because of their closeness.