“It’s not easy filming with actors in two different languages”
by Alfonso Rivera
- The director of Fin went to New York to film The Unexpected Life, a bittersweet comedy about uprooting, maturity and shattered dreams, co-produced with the USA
Cineuropa: How are you personally affected by the topics that you tackle in The Unexpected Life [+see also:
interview: Jorge Torregrossa
film profile] (La vida inesperada)?
Jorge Torregrossa: I’m 100% affected: what happens to Javier Cámara’s character is also happening to many people. I wonder the same thing myself: Am I making the right decisions? Am I doing what I have to do? Have I made a mistake somewhere?... Every day, people change course and make decisions as they come across those unexpected things that life throws at you. That, together with fate, takes you down one road or another.
Compared to Fin [+see also:
interview: Jorge Torregrossa
film profile], your new movie appears to be a complete U-turn in terms of your film career...
The way it’s packaged is certainly different, but what’s inside is actually not so different: it’s also a film that is recounted through what the characters don’t say – through their silence. Likewise, it has the same message: make the most of your time and what you happen to come across, be true to yourself, take advantage of the life you have left...
But it really is a change in terms of mood, genre and the way it’s put together.
Yes, because I’m trying to stir up different things in the audience: on one hand, I’m playing the suspense game in order to give the viewer shocks; and then I’m also trying to make you fall in love with the characters, to make you laugh and cry. It doesn’t seem to me that it means a radical departure; on the contrary, it ties in with the path I've taken and with my short films. I had even more freedom than I did with Fin: the film is just what I wanted it to be.
But how did this already-existing project fall into your lap?
It was originally going to be an El Deseo production: Elvira Lindo had written a script tailor-made for her friend, the actor Javier Cámara. They all knew me and called me: I fell in love with the story that the project tells and how it tells it, and I felt like I could contribute something extra to it. It was going to be my directorial debut because at that time, five years ago, Fin did not exist. I re-wrote the script with Elvira, and then it sat around stagnating for a while. Now, having seen the film, it could appear mainstream, but it took a lot of work to get it out there because it was a mixture of different genres, but above all a mixture of production and languages. It was very complicated: filming in New York with actors from there as well as Spanish ones, and in two languages, was not easy.
So what did you contribute to the re-write of the script?
I was worried about the tone: I didn’t want it to remain something trivial and anecdotal about the adventures of two cousins in NYC. Elvira Lindo is a great dialogue writer, and she does comedy so well... We had to try not to let it get out of hand because we were telling a very serious story.
Although it sounds like a cliché, did you also aim to turn New York into another character?
Of course – I lived in that city for a long time. Apart from providing it with a certain believability and making it mine, I wanted it to exist as a character, with its two faces: its attractive side, and then what happens to you there when you’ve been there for a long time, because it’s quite a tough place to live.
Is it harder to shoot in the USA than in Spain?
In terms of administration, it’s easier than it is here: they make things very straightforward for you because they’re aware of just how valuable their image is. But the city itself doesn’t come to a standstill while you’re filming…
Whereas it was nature that dominated Fin, here it’s the urban environment that’s king.
Yes, after what we did with that film, we deserved a city environment and not always being in out-of-reach places. Some of the crew are the same, and we needed a holiday from animals: I wanted to film with creatures like Cámara, who were much more thankful. Besides, we didn’t have so many special effects here.
Raúl Arévalo and Javier Cámara bring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau to mind a little bit. Is it an homage to classic American comedies?
Totally: when I was little, I grew up immersed in films like Barefoot in the Park and The Goodbye Girl: Neil Simon didn’t shoot rough-and-ready comedies; rather, they had a bitter and serious aftertaste. That spirit is also exuded by The Unexpected Life, which was on my list of projects before Fin, and I’m glad that it came afterwards, because the lessons I learnt were very useful for me. The change in register motivated me and is in fact encouraging me to try it again for my next project. And seeing the audience coming out of the cinema with their eyes all lit up is more gratifying than frightening them with a thriller.
(Translated from Spanish)