"A constant imaginative effort"
by Antonio Rodríguez
- Nominated in 2003 for the Best Short Film Oscar, the young Spanish director has chosen the fantasy genre to explore the forbidden, guilt and redemption
Cantabrian director Nacho Vigalondo shot to fame in Spain when his short film 7:35 in the Morning was nominated for an Oscar in 2003. This actor, screenwriter and showman – who has a firm grasp of marketing and new technology (he designed a game based on his debut film that has enjoyed success on the Internet) – took some time to find a distributor for his debut feature, the daring Timecrimes [+see also:
interview: Alejandro Miranda
interview: Nacho Vigalondo
film profile], despite its triumph at festivals. Moreover, a US remake is already underway, and, according to rumours, is set to be directed by David Cronenberg.
Cineuropa: Where did you get the inspiration for the storyline? Are you a fan of para-science and the fantasy genre?
Nacho Vigalondo: When I discovered literary science fiction, which is much more daring than in film, I became a fan. The sense of uneasiness conveyed in the novels of Philip K. Dick, where you don’t know what is going to happen on the next page, is very exciting and difficult to find in other media and genres. When the idea for Timecrimes emerged, I thought I had found the perfect starting point for a film that would be crazy and wild, but at the same time cerebral and coherent.
The plot revolves around notions of guilt, the forbidden and sex. Where did you get the idea to combine these themes with time travel?
I have to admit that that aspect wasn’t present in the initial versions of the screenplay, when the narrative was shaping up to be even more complicated. The story had real dramatic direction once Bárbara Goenaga’s character emerged, with everything she brings to the film. Sex is connected with the forbidden, and the forbidden with guilt... And time travel is a great way of exploring guilt and the possibility of redemption.
Do you think that the fantasy genre needs new approaches, themes and stories?
Any genre benefits from constant renewal and the fantasy genre more than any other. Dramas can return to classic ideas, but science fiction and horror require a constant imaginative effort. Audiences nowadays will go along with a love triangle, but not the vampires traditionally associated with the genre.
After travelling to Hollywood when you were nominated for an Oscar, did you notice any differences from the Spanish and European industry?
Not especially. During the important moments on the red carpet, the rest of the world simply disappeared. But the following day, you’ve still got to try and get your film off the ground. In that sense, yes, dealing with the US film industry make you realise how chaotic it is in Spain.
Why do you think your film enjoyed such success among festival audiences? What type of viewers does it appeal to most: men or women?
I don’t know if it appeals to men more than women. The story is told from a male point of view, but I don’t think this determines the gender of the audience. I like to believe that people enjoy the film because it doesn’t conform to a particular tradition and yet it’s a work whose success hinges on the audience. Let’s just say that it’s not an overtly commercial film nor is it elitist.
Was it difficult getting a project like this off the ground or did you find it easy thanks to your Oscar nomination?
The Oscar nomination didn’t open doors for me, it half-opened them. By then the screenplay had already been written but it still took three years to get the film released.
What was the film’s budget? It doesn’t look like an expensive film: there are not many actors or film sets used, and no special effects…
I don’t have access to the final budget figures. There’s an economy of elements, but shooting on location demands a certain effort. And the weather wasn’t on our side. In any case, I’m not complaining about the budget. If I’d had more money, I’d simply have spent more time on certain shots. But the film would look the same.
If you had to define your film, what terms would you use: Science-fiction comedy? Comic-erotic nightmare? Time travel with Ikea furniture and a Russian matryoshka doll structure?
It would be very difficult to choose just one of those definitions. All three would be perfect for the DVD sleeve. May I?