“Without the support of television, it’s difficult to do well at the box office”
by Alfonso Rivera
- The 43 year old Sevillian director brings us Marshland, unveiled in competition at the in San Sebastian Film Festival, following successes like Unit 7 and Seven Virgins.
Cineuropa: Nervous about the upcoming dates?
Alberto Rodríguez: I’m more worried about the premiere than about the festival: to know what the audience think of my movie, that’s the most important thing. Juan José Ballesta won the Silver Shell for Best Actor in Donostia with 7 Virgins [+see also:
film profile]. We were in Tribeca with the previous film, Unit 7 [+see also:
film profile], and in Rome with After [+see also:
La isla mínima [+see also:
interview: Alberto Rodríguez
film profile] is receiving media support, with a lot of promotion, from Antena 3TV, also co-producer.
Yes, it’s really committed to the movie and I hope that it continues like that: it’s been shown that if this type of support is not available, then it’s very difficult for movies to do well at the box office. The two films that were successfully launched by Telecinco this year - Spanish Affair [+see also:
film profile] and El niño [+see also:
interview: Daniel Monzón
film profile] - are on top in takings today.
You don’t just share two actors (Jesús Castro and Jesús Carroza) with Daniel Monzón’s movie, but also, the importance of landscape...
In this case we started with the photos that he made decades ago. Atín Aya in the Guadalquivir wetlands. It’s an extremely vast area that many people moved into once rice-farming began, but when the countryside became mechanized, those villages were abandoned and were left like small islands with people stranded on them. So from the beginning landscape was a key part of the project. It’s a strange place because, despite the fact that it’s completely open, it’s a labyrinth: it’s very difficult to go from one place to another, with short cuts and blocked roads, which can sink at any moment...
A living moorland...
Exactly: it’s constantly moving and shaking. And the explosion of life that exists there is astonishing... Where we filmed is nearly the National Park Doñana, it covers part of Huelva, Cadiz and Seville.
Why do you include those spectacular aerial shots in the opening credits?
The idea was to explain this complicated place in time. You could be there for hours and not see anyone, but it’s full of water, birds and life, and, as they say there, even if you can’t see anyone, they can see you. Definitely! They can see you from far away, as there are over 30,000 hectares of rice fields. Then the wild marshland begins, followed by the pre-park and the Natural Park. We also discovered a broader meaning to the place thanks to the character of Javier Gutiérrez, who’s obsessed with birds.
Do the crimes in the movie have anything to do with real events?
We wanted to move away from that idea from the very beginning, by making it clear that the story is fiction, but we did read up on crimes: we read a great deal about crimes, murders and about the few serial killers that existed in Spain, without going as far as the present day; they were all old crimes.
Are you interested in the 80s? Unit 7 also took place during that decade...
I don’t have a clear memory of the transition to democracy, because I was very young: it was told to us in such a way that it remained thus. We were encouraged to take up this screenplay again – we had left it aside in 2005 – by two documentaries by the Bartolomé brothers: Atado y bien atado (All tied up) and No se os puede dejar solos (You can’t be left alone). They have an informal take on the transition; they look at it from the street back then. I found them really interesting and they gave us the idea to develop the plot during that period. Many of the problems that we had 34 years ago are back today: but well... we’ve moved forward haven’t we? The main difference between then and now is the presence of the military and terrorism; today they’re not as present. But, there were a lot of connections and we were really interested in that underlying tension, which would allow us to make a movie with two levels of meaning: the plot and something else veiled, which lies beneath.
Once again you insist on two policemen with opposing characters...
In Unit 7 there were four in fact, although two were more protagonists. This time the movie is based on two policemen who have to get along no matter what: one an old gator, and the other, young and naïve. The two characters are based on real people.