"Experiencing fear more realistically and more directly"
by Alfonso Rivera
- After OT: La película, REC is the second film by duo Paco Plaza - Jaume Balagueró
Cineuropa: What is the central theme in REC [+see also:
interview: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
interview: Julio Fernández
Jaume Balagueró: Paco Plaza and I spoke a lot about the film’s genre, about the mechanisms of fear, what works and doesn’t work, what people like and don’t like. Suddenly, we got the idea to adapt the horror genre to television narrative: a horror story told live and in real time, beginning with the perspective of a single video camera immersed in the action, as if it were a fake news story. This technique will allow audiences to experience the fear more directly, as if they were part of the film.
One of film’s trailers says “experiment fear”. What scares the two of you?
J.B.: I’m afraid of a lot of real things in everyday life. One of the things that terrify me most is violence.
Paco Plaza: I’m also very frightened by violence that’s out of context. A fight in a café one morning, someone complaining because their coffee’s cold and things heating up. Excessive violence.
Do you like haunted houses and tunnels at amusement parks? Is seeing REC similar to one of those experiences?
J.B.: I loved amusement parks as a kid. I haven’t been to one in years but they were a huge source of inspiration for the film. We wanted the film to go beyond what is seen in cinema, to be a film that a viewer could sit through as a true experience.
P.P.: Yes, that was the idea. That the film not just be for a passive spectator, but that he or she were like a character in it.
Working together, how did you divide up your roles?
P.P.: We didn’t. We worked by mutual consent.
Balagueró: We didn’t divide up the jobs, we did everything together. This way of working would have been impossible in a conventional film – REC was a completely different experience. In this film we had to make up the fake news story that the journalist and her assistant have to create, design the false reality in which the characters were to be placed. One thing’s for sure, we had a lot of fun working together.
The idea of filming with a camera on one’s shoulder isn’t very common in cinema. You weren’t worried about the reactions to this highly direct way of telling a story from audiences used to today’s films, which have a shiny, videogame aesthetic?
J.B.: One of the greatest difficulties of the film was to maintain its realistic, live semblance without giving up its narrative and visual aspect. We didn’t want the images to get in audiences’ way. P.P.: Well, the film’s language is that of television, of news, it’s what our story and how we wanted to tell it required. Sure, there are very tense moments, in which the language of the video camera is also reflected.
Can REC be considered a critique of TV junk and reality shows?
J.B.: More than a critique, I think it’s a reflection on the television medium, on how TV engulfs and reinvents reality, on its ethical and moral limits. And all inserted within an experience of total terror, meant to entertain. P.P.: Yes, it’s a reflection, a brutal representation of reality. I think that a television show could very well film the scenes of violence and death presented in our film and the reactions of the editors would be very similar to those in the film.
Some of the humorous elements are surprising. Did you include these scene to lower the tension and fear?
J.B.: The kind of humour we included in the film essentially serves to relax audiences in certain moments. They’re scenes of realistic humour that depict a community of perfectly recognisable neighbours. We think these scenes are a break from the film’s horror tone, they enrich it and offer a human counterpoint to the narrative.
P.P.: It’s a bit like the cotton ball before the injection, no? In any case, the humour arises from reality…
After REC’s media success on the Internet, do you like it when the film is compared to The Blair Witch Project?
J.B.: I love that film and the way it was promoted on the Internet. Although I think that REC resembles other films and many TV shows, I wouldn’t try to compare it to anything. The marketing of the film on the Internet was very conventional. We never tried to make anyone think, for example, that the things shown in the film were real. And I don’t think anyone would have believed us if we had.