“I wanted to tell what the news did not show”
by Alfonso Rivera
- The second film by the director of The Orphanage is a production of great technical difficulty that recreates the 2004 tsunami with overwhelming verisimilitude.
Cineuropa: Watching your film The Impossible [+see also:
interview: Juan Antonio Bayona
film profile], the spectator almost feels the tsunami in his own body.
Juan Antonio Bayona: Yes, it's intentional: to put the public in the midst of all that's happening. This is why I gave importance to the sensorial. When you speak to those who were there, they tell you it all happened very fast, in the two days recounted by the film, so that you didn't have time to think. I wanted to be in these characters' heads. This is why it's more an emotional than an intellectual journey that the audience should experience. The cerebral part appears at the end, when we read the title "The Impossible" and you think, What next?
Did you follow any disaster film model? The film seems linked to this trend.
No, disaster cinema generally aims to tell the tragedy from many viewpoints and leaves the actual disaster for the final climax. We did exactly the opposite: We started with the tidal wave and only focused on one family. Because I wanted to feel with them. Today when we see the news, it's as if we had been anesthesised. We see the events, but not the people. I wanted to be with the people and to show what the news had not told me.
In The Orphanage [+see also:
film profile] there was a dominant fantastic component, whereas here it's pure realism that prevails.
Realism, which is always a convention when making films, or the claim to realism, was essential for this film. On the technical level the tsunami needed to be realistic because it was the turning point in the plot, but it also needed to be so on the emotional level. The film is a journey about pain, and about how physical pain becomes emotional pain in the film's final sequence.
Naomi Watts' tear...
I tend to talk of this as the second tsunami in the film. The first is a black wave of death, and the second is brought by Naomi with a single tear carrying great pain. This is one of the film's ideas: not to limit oneself to telling a story in which people live or die, but to show that there is also pain in surviving.
I would even add a third tsunami, the one created inside the spectator, because it's impossible to not cry when watching The Impossible.
I'm aware that it's a risky bet, because there'a a lot of taboo about showing emotions. Some people feel uncomfortable showing them, and the film aims for this in a brazen way. Emotions are displayed in the same way that they were experienced in Thailand, in a very abrupt way.
Shooting must have been very complicated, with so much water, effects, and children.
We had many complications... It was tough. First there was the technical challenge that we the Spanish team took on, then we had to show the drama with such great actors in a language -- English -- that is not our own, and shoot with children as young as four years old... What was most complicated was bringing together all the pieces of the puzzle so that it worked as a whole.
So how many months of filming did it take?
Filming was atypical, because we would stop to prepare the next takes. The infrastructure was so big that we couldn't cope with shooting the film all in one go. In the end, including weeks of trials, for technical tests but also for actual shooting, it lasted 25 weeks spread out over almost a year.
How much did it cost in total?
People are already talking about The Impossible vying for an Oscar. Are you ready for this?
The truth is no. Certainly it's well positioned but it's something that's very difficult to obtain from Spain, because the film is Spanish, I live in Barcelona, and the producer lives in Madrid. And it's complicated to campaign for an Oscar from here. But we have enjoyed fantastic support from our distributor over there and you never know.
The film is being released in the United States this December, as are the favourite titles for the awards...
Yes. The distributor -Summit Entertainment- chose Christmas because it has great hopes for it.