TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


Except for the Dog

Oriana Kujawska

Poland, Sweden


Rome. Marcello is a successful lawyer, but his private life is a mess.

His mamma keeps annoying him because he is still single at the age of 40. He does not want to hurt her by explaining he already has a fiancé, his gay partner, Morgan. Morgan would like to start a family with Marcello and adopt children. They first get a puppy, a husky, controversial choice for a city like Rome. Marcello has financial problems and his financial adviser is never available. On top of that, Marcello suffers from urinary incontinence. Doctor Spirito becomes someone to lean on, a kind, wise man, close friend of the Pope, a devout Catholic. When he asks Marcello to represent him in court Marcello cannot believe anyone could suspect this noble man of murder.

Spirito is charged with killing his wife who fell from the Vatican basilica. During the trial Spirito is so grateful for Marcello’s help that he vows to help Marcello solve his private problems. First, he gives sleeping pills to the mother, who takes them and never wakes up. Then he slashes the tyres of the financial adviser’s car.

Marcello slowly realizes who Spirito really is. Only after three more deaths (including the Pope’s) will Marcello be able to stop this fanatic.


Catholicism, with its rejection of divorce and homosexuality, but also the renunciation of its own representatives’ gay preferences, the moral corruption inside the Vatican, and a dying Pope, constitute a thematic background rarely seen in thrillers.

I am a Catholic as well, so I feel personally involved in the story. For it shows a world where vilest deeds go unpunished, and gravest sins are committed at the very hub of the Christian faith. At the same time, the finger accusingly pointed at the Vatican mocks the church hierarchy, in which cardinals hide their little improprieties from one another. However, it is all presented in a quite light and amusing tone. Hence, I am considering combining thriller and black comedy genres, especially the dark comedy in Pedro Almodovar’s style.

The main character is gay; his partner is a hygiene fanatic, obsessed with healthy food, sport and stylish clothes. Marcello’s financial adviser seems to be constantly occupied with parking his car. An Italian overprotective mamma, a disobeying husky in hot Rome; these are my sources of humour.

The novel is narrated in a non-chronological order, and I would like to retain that technique in the film adaptation. However, while working on the script I am putting all the elements carefully and neatly in order, so that the final draft would become a surprising jigsaw puzzle for the audience, and at the same time remain coherent.

This patchy narration resembles the way human brain works - out of the blue we recall scenes, snippets of dialogue, all sparked by memories, associations. This lack of chronology in the story reflects the chaos in the protagonist’s life.

Marcello is a great reflection of the postmodern-era hero - he is lost, confused, chaotic, indecisive, and at the same time he is the only one whose morality we do not question, although it is Spirito who quotes the words of Christ to justify his convictions.

The script is structured in a way that allows for the truth about the diabolical character of Spirito to emerge slowly. At the beginning, he seems to be a pillar of common sense and morality, an example of a noble person, whose innocence does not need to be proved, it is obvious. We start suspecting that things are not what they seem when we realize that he takes his words very literally - the claims that pain can ennoble character, that one should renounce worldly goods, use one’s left hand to cut off the right one if it is the source of sin, that death is only a step towards a new, eternal life.

Without faith or beliefs or paradigms, innocence and guilt are just theoretical, alleged conditions.
Oriana Kujawska


production notes

directed by
Oriana Kujawska