Chicly sprawled over a chair or two, film director Eduardo Casanova kindly answered our questions about his latest (and most personal) film, La Pietà [review], with the able assistance of his translator, Marta Calderon. Join 366 as we discover the influences on his visual style, his favorite hometown place to eat (of course),and just how great Giles’ mustache is.
(Keep an eye and ear out for a cameo by Madison Brek, Fantasia Press Relations Representative extraordinaire!)
You can listen to the interview’s raw audio here.
366: [handing over business card] This is who I am…
EC: “…Weird Movies”, okay!
366: ..and I guess that explains itself. My name is Giles Edwards and I am sitting here with Eduardo Casanova, and I managed to see La Pieta in the press screening the other day, and was very pleased with what I saw. So I am hoping to ask just a little about that in the brief time we have.
EC: I can understand you when you talk, but sometimes it is difficult for me to explain in English back, but when you talk I can understand.
366: Great. I’d like to start…
EC: I like your mustache! It is like John Waters‘ mustache. Some people say my movies are like John Waters’, too.
366: Yes, it’s a partial inspiration for it. I like to be as distinguished-looking as possible.
EC: Ahhh, you got it, bitch.
366: Uhh, …there is a strong visual feel to your films, I was curious about your visual arts background, because you have a setup for your images that is painterly or photographical–a lot of specific composition–and I was curious about your educational or experience background in that, what that might have been.
EC: I am obsessed with the [panalack?]. I really like aesthetics dictatorship regimes, like the Soviet Union and communist dictatorships, where the buildings are all looking the same. I think in the countries that have totalitarian regimes, everything around you is really big and makes you feel that you are small, and… part of something. I remember when walking through Berlin through Karl-Max Avenue, how small I felt walking amongst those buildings.
I try to recreate this with one of the most important aspects of the film: the production design. I like to build sets where the characters feel that they are small, that they are controlled by an omniscient voice, which is myself. That’s why I do all the production design on my films.
366: I remember. I’m familiar with your film Skins from five years ago…
EC: Five years ago?!
366: I believe so…
EC: Oh my God. It’s really difficult to do this kind of weird movies.
366: That’s something I hear a lot from similarly-minded directors. It’s an uphill struggle all the way there.
366: The term describing these buildings would be “Brutalist Architecture”, seems to be what you’re describing there. Definitely shown in the dimensions of the home of the mother and son. All the rooms are a bit too large (obviously a stylistic choice), diminishing the size of the characters in the context of their home environment–the long table, the cavernous bathroom, the whole thing; Mateo is just, this tiny person trapped in this giant, almost “observation area”, under the watchful eye of his mother there.
I’ve written my review, and one particular detail in context with this “brutalist” approach was the black marble look overall of the structure and pink curtains and draperies and everything, giving it a–I don’t know–an even worse home atmosphere for that pair of trapped individuals who are stuck with each other.
And going to that mention of weird movies, I imagine you have a number of projects in mind, are any of your as-yet-unrealized ideas in progress, hopefully to be made on a shorter timeline than the gap between Skins and La Pieta.
EC: So the only way to be able to make a film nowadays is to split yourself between doing indie, or personal cinema and what we’d consider something more mainstream. I’ve just finished a television series for Starplayz (an international platform) who asked me to make it, and now I’ve begun pre-production my next film, which is a horror film.
366: A horror film?
EC: Yeah. The gap between Skins and La Pieta was so long is because La Pieta is such a very, very personal movie, I needed time for script-writing, and it took me a really long time to write and think about the film. And I had to expel La Pieta to be more agile for my next projects; it was like feeling I was constipated.
I have another film that is in post-production right now, a documentary film… It’s my first documentary, and I filmed it between Skins and La Pieta, to help me deal with my anxiety.
I want to show you a bit of the guy in this documentary… but I don’t have wi/fi? [Fumbling with phone] It’s about a schizophrenic who took gasoline and burnt himself with it. I wrote a book about him, and other homeless people like him. [cues short intro video] Do you like it?
366: Yeah, it’s… definitely in keeping with themes you’ve been exploring for some time. Speaking of which, one of the first things revealed in La Pieta is the date–this takes place in 2011. Does that hint at when you first started creating this in your mind? Because the tie-in with the demise of the previous North Korean dictator is a necessary parallel for the story of Mateo and his mother, Libertad. So is La Pieta ten, eleven years in the making?
EC: No, no. The reason is that in 2011, it is the last year of life of Kim Jung-Il. I started to write this movie five years ago, on the DMZ border [between South and] North Korea. One of my dreams is to go to North Korea, but a lot of my short films are about mothers and sons, and this kind of relationship.
If you watch one of my short films–the name in Spanish is “Jamás me echarás de ti [available on Casanova’s Vimeo channel]” (“You will never take me out of you”)–the story is very similar [to La Pieta]. I always talk about the same themes, my short films are like a rehearsal to my feature. I’m always going to make the same film… one of my paraphilias… after I shot La Pieta, shoot again Skins, and after Skins, shoot again La Pieta, and after that, shoot Skins again… Shoot the same movie all the time.
366: Will there be a point in the future, because…
EC: Actually, that’s not true. I’m just joking with you.
366: With some of the directors I’ve spoken with, I could have taken that at face value, but thank you for the correction there.
EC: To be honest, all the artists—if you can consider myself an artist, but I don’t like to consider myself an artist—we all talk about the same things, but we just change the perspective in which we talk about them.
366: Unfortunately, I don’t have too much time left, so I…
EC: No, honey! You have time. Talk! The other guy or other girl can come inside and dump everything, and fuck everything, and everyone. Okay. I need to talk because I have anxiety, and I can only treat that anxiety by taking medication or talking about myself. So you can take all the time you want.
366: Most of the interesting people I know like to talk about themselves a lot, so that’s certainly fine by me. My only actual constraint is…
Madison: You can go for another seven minutes.
366: Okay. If you could think, hypothetically–dream–an ideal project in mind, if you had the time, the money, the backing, the support–do you have a story in mind you’d want to tell, with that kind of unlimited possibility?
EC: I think my next movie… That would be any filmmaker’s dream, but what I do, is I take any script, and will just enjoy the process. The big story I wanted to tell was La Pieta. I just want to shoot. It doesn’t matter what kind of shit I shoot, I just want to work in movies, because shooting for me is the only way to keep going, and I’m going to keep filming because it’s what makes me feel good. Do you like La Pieta? Do you like my movie?
EC: Do you think I’ll win something? Because, I am obsessed with this, because I always lose, and I just want to win something. I won one prize, in Karlovy Vary: Best Movie, from the jury. I just want to be loved, and am making movies so people will have me.
I hate a winner, because I always lose.
366: Well, I guess–
EC: That’s why my films are about losers.
366: I’d have to ask Madison: is this in the running for anything?
Madison: There’s the Cheval Noir, but I’m not…
EC: My agents say to do these kinds of movies is a “win,” and just be able to be in this festival in Korea, presenting my movie there, this past week, and Karlovy Vary, and show this movie on Netflix. And to do this movie: it’s a “win.” I think the same, but it’s really complicated, fighting and competing in festivals, because when you win a prize, you feel your movie is the best one, you feel you are the best person in the world. Do you understand me?
366: I do understand you. But if you want my advice on this, there are two contexts you have to perhaps bear in mind. One is the milieu that you’re “winning” in. The kind of people you are winning over, the viewers or critics or festival juries, what kind of people–
EC: Oh, the critics are okay. When people talk about me or my movie, I feel okay. But I want the prize—but it’s not just about feeling better about my movie, it’s the actual award [referring to the award statue]. I like this prize, because it’s like a unicorn.
366: So a, um, “self-validation bauble” seems to be what you’re after…
EC: You know what, pussycat. It is so difficult to make a film, such a hard time, that it’s so rewarding when you suddenly win something, or have the realization that you’ve made something good, that you’ve made something people like. That you will feel more normal when it is well-received.
When you’ve felt different your whole life, suddenly when you make a film and you see that people like it, and you feel that “hug”, it makes you feel normal again, it makes you feel happy–makes you feel loved. That’s what my films talk about, what my characters talk about, what they portray.
Skins is about people that feel different, because their skin is different, and La Pieta, too, is about “different” people, they are not what society demands.
366: I can assure I’m on the wavelength for this. Considering the kinds of people I know, my only question for you is, at this point, would actually be happy to be considered “normal”?
EC: Uhhh, nooooo.
366: So there’s a conflict–
EC: I would be happy to feel normal, but I don’t know what it is to feel normal. The system will always tell you how you want to be. So whatever you choose to be, you try turn yourself into whatever the system is telling you. And when you suddenly think you finally figured out what the system was asking you to do, and you think that you’re normal, you go into a depression.
366: Well, I don’t generally swear, but in this case I almost want to say [bleep] the system.
EC: Yeah, fuck the system! But unfortunately, we live in a system–the whole planet is a system. Some systems are more difficult to live inside, for example North Korea–but all systems will diminish your freedom.
366: I believe now that I really do have to get going, so I have a quick question—a fun question. Before I leave anyone that I interview, I like to ask: what’s your hometown? And can you recommend a restaurant there?
EC: I was born in Madrid, the capital of Spain. I am so, so Spanish, and so, so Madrileño, and my favorite restaurant is… my mum’s house.
[bashfully] Do you think I was at all rude during the interview?
366: What? No, no. Enthusiastic. Honest. Weird–but, that’s what I’m after. I don’t like to talk to people who are “normal,” so that’s one reason I don’t like to…
EC: …thank you…
366: …spend too much time with them.
EC: Send me the link to the interview! I want all the interviews. Thank you so much, what’s your–
366: “Giles”. Or, “hee-les”
EC: Oh, I thought your name was “jail” [makes bar-grip gesture]. Thank you so much, Jail.
366: Good luck!