Adam Leon’s Italian Studies drama stars Vanessa Kirby as a woman who befriends a group of teenagers during a brief period of memory loss. Despite the film’s title, it’s not set in Italy, and they don’t speak Italian in the movie — so you’d be forgiven if you were confused about why the film is called Italian Studies.
The director explained why he chose that title — and why Kirby can’t stand it — in a recent interview with MovieMaker.
“It’s called Italian Studies because that’s the name of her book [in the movie],” Leon explained. In one scene, Kirby’s character, Alina Reynolds, is walking down the street when she encounters a fan of her writing. Since she’s experiencing amnesia, this is Alina’s first clue about who she is, so she goes to the library and finds her own book — a collection of short stories called Italian Studies — and read it, as if for the first time.
“There is an approach that we took to the story where — I’ve actually not talked about this — where the movie itself could be an adaptation of her stories. That was really an interesting way in for me, but it wasn’t something that we wanted to put onto the audience. But the idea that like, what if I had gotten this short story book to adapt, and one of the stories was about memory loss and one of the stories was about connecting with teenagers?” Leon said. “So we have the story within the story.”
The title Italian Studies comes from a short film that Leon had actually originally intended to include in the movie as a short vignette but ended up leaving on the cutting room floor. The vignette was meant to be one of Alina’s short stories from her book come to life. It was originally called German Studies — it told the story of a girl on vacation in Germany who hears strange noises through the motel room wall — but Leon decided to change it to Italian Studies instead.
“I just thought Italian was going to be a little bit more romantic, so I just changed it from German Studies to Italian Studies, and then that name just kind of stuck. And it became [Alina’s] short story collection book, and then it, for me, felt like a natural thing to title the movie,” he said.
Leon said he and Kirby are friends and that he wrote the part of Alina specifically for her. However, she hasn’t been shy about telling him that she’s not a fan of the movie’s title.
“Vanessa hates the title. And I think she’s begun to accept it, but she hates the title,” he laughed. “She said to me, ‘it’s going to sound like it’s a movie about teenagers frolicking in Europe.’ And I was like, ‘That’s good. They’re teenagers, and we shot in Europe and some of it is also in the summer.'”
In the end, Leon has decided that next time he makes a movie, he’s going to approach the titling process differently.
“It’s a hard movie to title, frankly,” he said of Italian Studies. “It was untitled for a really long time, which just leads everybody to be disappointed with whatever title you pick.”
Italian Studies is now streaming on VOD platforms including YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, VUDU, and Google Play.
Main Image: Vanessa Kirby in Italian Studies, courtesy of Magnolia Pictures