TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


The Listener

Nathalie Biancheri



In the sweltering heat of mid-August, 37-year-old Diego Tribeca, a disillusioned travel writer, returns home to Rome after ten years of incessant travelling.

He needs an operation on his retina, which has become detached, confining him to a state of semi blindness. Diego despairs over his limited mobility until he discovers the battered old house phone is intercepting his neighbours’ calls. Soon he is addicted to the conversations of three women: Marta, who has cancer but has not told anyone, Agnese, who is pregnant with the child of her married lover and Giuli, who is battling anorexia and her mother. Though their provincial existences are everything Diego has tried to escape from, listening to their problems sparks his curiosity. Despite himself he becomes involved in their lives.

Diego finds ways to meet them, he starts meddling in their affairs and becomes particularly attached to Marta. But when he realises that Marta is falling for him everything changes, as his fear of responsibility and commitment once again take hold of him.


The Listener is a small, human story: a man’s journey through the conversations of others that will ultimately challenge his own perception of freedom. Through Diego’s spying and meddling we explore the lives of three women in Ostia, the impoverished seaside suburb of Rome. These characters all have a “flaw” or illness they hide from the world in an attempt to maintain a façade of happiness and normality. Their secret struggle to appear perfect makes them all terribly alone.

What I loved about the book, and have enhanced in my script, is the tone of dark humour and underlying absurdity of life that counterbalance the heaviness of the characters’ problems. These comical aspects are mostly a consequence of Diego’s actions. At the very beginning of the story, Diego needs to protect his damaged eye from the light and starts wearing an old superhero mask he finds in the house. It is just a way to keep his eye patch in place but the mask naturally attracts astounded stares from the locals. Diego so hates the provincial neighbourhood in which he grew up that he revels in their indignation and wears the mask like a statement, an open provocation. However, as he becomes addicted to the phone conversations he also unconsciously immerses himself in the role of the hero and begins meddling in the lives of the three women, initially unbeknownst to them. Yet this half-blind masked man needs to learn how to help himself before he can hope to save anyone else.


A lonely writer obsesses over the lives of three women as he listens to their calls through his broken phone.
Nathalie Biancheri

Scriptwriter, Film Director

production notes

written by
Nathalie Biancheri