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Interview: Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo • Director

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The origins of violence

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Interview: Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo • Director

Cineuropa: The Night of the Sunflowers [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Alina Sigaro
interview: Belén Bernuy
interview: Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo
film profile
]
has a very mature and thorough structure. How did the idea for such a well-constructed film come about and what was the development process like?

Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo: I hope audiences agree and feel that the film is worthwhile. For me, "the idea" is the most important element, and the most difficult to create. In this case, it was Mariano Alameda, a television actor who wanted to work in cinema, with experience in speleology, who suggested an idea called Angosto to me. It was like Scream in a cave, but the truth is that it didn’t seem like such a great idea to me, but I asked him to let me use the title and the idea of the cave and worked on it on my own.

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I had a strong desire to write something on violence, and the idea of the cave led me to set the story in a rural setting. While I did not at all want to fall into the usual pessimism about central Spain to talk about violence, I decided to veer towards thriller terrain. I didn’t want to present violence as an element of the rural world and decided that the source had to come from the city. In the end, what solved the problem was the discovery of that which ultimately became the film’s structure. I’ve always been interested in fragmented structures and, in this case, I had the advantage of offering a global vision of the story and simultaneously explaining its complexities.

Moreover, the idea of telling the story through different points of view perfectly illustrates the origins of violence, which often arises from the inability to understand other points of views. Above all, I didn’t want the story to boil down to a mere suspense mechanism, which is why I thought of everyday people you could meet on the street. Although the film is a thriller, my creative efforts were constantly aimed at rendering the characters and their everyday conflicts human, so that you can understand their reactions when they find themselves in an extreme situation. This element added drama to the thriller. The rest of the process was made up of hard work and stealing ideas, personal experiences, moments from everyday life, people I knew or even just saw through the media.

Your two short films, Mustek and La Gotera, can be called "genre" films. So where does The Night of the Sunflowers [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Alina Sigaro
interview: Belén Bernuy
interview: Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo
film profile
]
, a film that presents key questions on human behaviour as it leaves us glued to our chairs, fit in?

I like to think that it’s a noir film in a rural setting but, above all, an actors’ film. It possesses all of the elements of the detective genre, yet also has a dramatic element. This structure allows you to capture audiences’ interest and during the story you can talk about themes you’re interested in. I find it very interesting to work within a specific genre because it forces you to work with fixed parameters that the spectator accepts and which are very fun to play with or search for in order to add something (the Coen brothers are experts at this).

In regards to the element of suspense, my intention was to entertain without tricking the spectator by hiding information. I’ve always been fascinated by Hitchcock, in whose films the spectator always knows something more than the characters. In regards to the dilemmas on human behaviour, I wanted the film to pose questions. I didn’t want to impart morality lessons, nor judge the characters, but simply present a situation that is a moral dilemma, a certain state of things. Basically, I was interested in how people react when faced with moral dilemmas, how they face them or whether they simply run away from them to get by in life. Earlier, you spoke about the quality of European films and this was, in fact, one of the premises; wholly Spanish characters, but with conflicts that were not at all geographically recognisable. Everything had to be understandable, so that it could be as much about Spanish guardias civiles as French Gendarmes or German police officers.

Upon seeing the film, it is obvious that the setting is a crucial character in The Night of the Sunflowers [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Alina Sigaro
interview: Belén Bernuy
interview: Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo
film profile
]
, so much so that you can almost hear the voice of the rural areas dying, a cry that is even stronger than the desperation of the people who live there. Sometimes it is very difficult to separate one self from the characters one creates.

We essentially always wanted the setting to be like a character in the film. In some way, it represents the basis of the story. The agony of the rural areas is also the moral decay of the characters, and, more concretely, the death of one of them could serve as a metaphor for the slow extinction of the rural world, and of our silence and passivity towards this. Perhaps because, like for our characters, it does not directly affect us or we simply ignore the problem. I am left with the wonderful experience of having filmed in these little towns, of having met the few people who still live there, incredible people who opened their doors to us and made our work much easier. But I’m also left with the sad impression of having witnessed the extinction of a way of life. The rural way of life, the kind that my grandparents and parents knew, and probably my son will be able to appreciate. But I’m afraid my grandchildren will have to learn about it through history books.

With such a promising debut film, it’s impossible to resist the temptation to ask you what lies in your professional future and when you will honour us with another artistic work. And know that we won’t be satisfied with a halfway answer. From the director of a film on truth we expect nothing but the whole truth.
I don’t know about an artistic work, for now I hope to have the opportunity to tell stories in the best way possible. The whole truth is that I don’t know what to tell you right now. I have two ideas that I’m working on, very different from one another. It’s already hard for me to make decisions in general, but now that I don’t know how the film will go I feel completely lost. Furthermore, as I said earlier, at any moment I could come upon the element that makes me say, "I’ve got it, I found the idea", and I’d like to be very open because who knows where it will come from this time.

photogallery

international title: Angosto
original title: La noche de los girasoles
country: Spain, Portugal, France
sales agent: Playtime
year: 2005
directed by: Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo
screenplay: Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo
cast: Carmelo Gómez, Judith Diakhate, Celso Bugallo, Manuel Morón, Carmelo Alameda

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Venice 2006 Venice Days (selection)
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