"This is my best-selling film"
by Alfonso Rivera
Cineuropa: Wild Bunch has sold Room In Rome [+see also:
interview: Julio Medem
film profile] to many territories. Are you surprised by this success?
Julio Medem: Yes, it really is extraordinary, because the film sold long before its release. We had an almost-final cut in June-July, which we presented at the Venice Film Festival and American Film Market, where it was bought by many English-speaking countries. I was quite worried, because it’s the first time I shot a film in English and I was afraid not only that it would be incomprehensible but even unpleasant to listen to for English-speaking viewers. But there were no problems in this respect and the film has sold as far as Japan, where I hope to attend its premiere. But it is certainly hard to predict something like this. Room In Rome is my best-selling film internationally, along with Sex and Lucia [+see also:
How long did the shoot last?
It lasted four weeks in total and was done in high-definition video. It was the most straightforward shoot of my career. Apart from the beginning and end of the film, which were shot in Via del Corso in Rome, the rest was filmed on a studio set in Madrid, in a room through whose windows you could see a chrome blue background: the Roman rooftops were added in post-production.
Why did you choose to do a remake of Chilean film In Bed?
It was a commission from Álvaro Longoria of Morena Films. I was preparing Aspasia, a big project, set in ancient Athens, which I hope to shoot within a year and for which I’m still doing research. But the opportunity arose to do this remake of a film I love but which I didn’t want to see again, not even in its stage play version performed in Madrid.
From the original film, I took the story of two people who meet one night and go to a hotel together, and I decided to explore it in my own way, with two women: a Russian and a Spanish one. Although I cover a small part of the production, I didn’t suffer the same exhaustion as one of my own films, as it is a transitional film.
Why did you choose to set the action in the Italian capital?
Because I’m fascinated by ancient history, by those cities with a past, like Rome and Athens, where my next film will be set. I also liked the fact that the hotel was built on top of ruins, it was the shortest night of the year and this encounter brought upheaval for the characters.
The almost two-hour long movie unfolds mainly in interiors...
I liked the fact it represented a challenge in that sense, as I’m very used to shooting on location and in natural settings. It was also a challenge for the actresses to be naked throughout and not just when making love, but also for this physical nakedness not to matter so much while they were talking. We had to create a special atmosphere on set and thoroughly prepare the characters. I rehearsed with each actress separately for a month and then I brought them together in a bar, just like their characters meet in a café in Rome. They are two people who like each other immediately, it makes no difference whether they are two women or two men, or a heterosexual couple.
Elena Anaya – the Spanish character – was in the cast from the start and we went looking for the Russian character in Moscow. We even had people from Sweden auditioning for the part. I originally chose a Russian actress, but her boyfriend read the script just before the shoot and stopped her from appearing in the film. But a friend introduced me to Natasha Yarovenko, who was living in Barcelona, and I immediately saw she was right for the role.
Two opposite extremes of Europe come together in Rome. Is there any political symbolism there?
No, it’s a light film; what you see is what you get. It’s not weighty; it’s very different from my other films.
The film is dedicated to Polo Aledo.
Yes, he edited all my films. He had just finished Room In Rome and, as every year, he went away to give some classes at the San Antonio de los Baños School, in Cuba. He died there while doing some sport.
How do you feel about the homage you will receive at the Malaga Film Festival?
I’m delighted, but I still have a lot to do: right now I’m halfway through my career.