The Italian screenwriter whose work helped define postwar Italian cinema died on Wednesday (21) after battling an ongoing illness. He was 92.
A poet, writer and sculptor, Guerra was born in 1920. In what would become a prolific career spanning more than several decades that produced more than 100 titles, he worked alongside the most influential Italian directors on era-defining films.
With Vittorio De Sica he collaborated on the 1964 classic Marriage, Italian Style starring leading actress Monica Vitti. Guerra co-wrote with Francesco Rosi The Mattei Affair (Il Caso Mattei), about an Italian Resistance fighter’s struggle against the Nazis which won the 1972 Cannes Palme d’Or and, while he collaborated with Federico Fellini, co-writing the 1973 comedy-drama Amarcord.
In his own life Guerra experienced first-hand the horrors of the second world war and it was while he was incarcerated in a concentration camp in Troisdorf, Germany, that he began to write.
His first screenplay Men And Wolves, written in 1957 for Giuseppe De Santis, was the start of his screenwriting career.
Guerra co-wrote many titles with Michelangelo Antonioni, including the 1960 film L’Avventura, which focuses on a woman who goes missing on a boating trip, as well as the 1966 thriller Blow Up about on a London photographer and the portrait of post-1960s America in the 1970 film Zabriskie Point.
He received three Oscar nominations for Blow Up, Amarcord and Mario Monicelli’s comedy Casanova 70.
Guerra worked with almost all of the directors in the Italian talent pool. He collaborated with Giuseppe Tornatore on the 1990 screenplay Everybody’s Fine and with Marco Bellocchio on 1984’s Henry IV. Guerra also worked with directing duo Paolo and Vittorio Taviani on the 1984 title Kaos.
Commenting on Guerra’s influence to the Italian daily Il Messaggero, Vittorio Taviani said: “When a nation loses a poet it is always a tragedy. But for me and my brother Paolo, it goes beyond this because for us, Tonino was an entire planet, there isn’t a [single] word that better represents the fantastical and magic world that he introduced us to.”
Importantly, Guerra’s skills were able to cross Italian boarders and he also worked on many films with recently deceased Greek auteur Theo Angelopolis, including 2008’s The Dust Of Time. The two enjoyed a long relationship and won the 1984 Cannes screenplay prize for Voyage To Cythera. Guerra also collaborated with Russia’s Andrei Tarkovsky on the 1983 title Nostalghia.
He leaves behind a son, Golden Globe nominated composer Andrea Guerra, whose scores include that Hotel Rwanda, Nine and Pursuit Of Happyness.