"Evil in a latent way"
by Héctor Llanos Martínez
- Story of my Death by Spanish director Albert Serra has won Locarno top prize
Despite his cult status, director Albert Serra consistently receives praise for his films at every festival he attends. The Spanish director has left an imprint in terms of distribution too. The film Honour of the Knights was screened in French cinemas for two years running. His latest piece of work, Story of my Death [+see also:
interview: Albert Serra
film profile], is the story of the meeting between two of Europe’s most popular literary personas. It is a journey through the rationalism of Casanova’s 18th century and the romanticism of Dracula’s 19th.
Cineuropa: This film is conceptually very ambitious. How did you approach its screenplay?
Albert Serra: I undoubtedly spent the most time on dialogues. I wanted them to be more original than the usual. I wanted them to sound like daily exchanges, but a little more abstract and philosophical. The characters’ conversations are somewhere between being concrete and insinuation. I wanted spectators to have a sense that anything could happen in each scene.
So you see 21st century Europe as more of a rational or romantic place?
It definitely leans more towards the dark side of Dracula. Europe is going through a situation and we do not know how it will get out of it. Principles of rationalism still govern our society. We have kept the fundamental rights defined back then including the principle of separation of powers, but it seems that current power is owned by people and organisations that remain in the shadows.
You shot over 400 hours of film. It took you one and a half years to condense those into 150 minutes of film. How did you go about selecting what made the final cut?
I gave precedence to scenes filmed inside. During the editing phase, I realised that I preferred them, because I was trying to make the film evoke intimacy and reflection.
You define the type of cinema you make as something spectators either hate or love, with no middle ground. You say there is no point analysing your films in different segments, but that they need to be taken as a whole.
The most important thing for me is to establish an initial concept and always stay faithful to it during filming. How the film ends up being made is unimportant. One of the ideas in Story of my Death was to show evil in a latent way. It is a coincidence, but this idea is also in other recent films like Stranger by the Lake [+see also:
interview: Alain Guiraudie
film profile] or Only God Forgives [+see also:
interview: Nicolas Winding Refn
(Translated from Spanish)