“I feel comfortable with the absence of a defined genre”
by Alfonso Rivera
- CANNES 2015: Spanish filmmaker Fernando León de Aranoa is making his Cannes debut with A Perfect Day, a film that boasts an international cast
Madrilenian filmmaker Fernando León de Aranoa is making his debut on the Croisette in the Directors’ Fortnight of the 68th Cannes Film Festival with A Perfect Day [+see also:
interview: Fernando León de Aranoa
film profile], a movie starring an international cast headed up by Tim Robbins, Benicio del Toro and Mélanie Thierry. Cineuropa spoke to him.
Cineuropa: This is your first time at Cannes – does that intimidate you?
Fernando León de Aranoa: Yes, it’s a huge responsibility, and furthermore, it’s in a major section of the festival; I’d really like to see how a thousand-strong audience experiences the movie, how they understand this story. When one talks about characters, as in my film, the stories are universal. It portrays a recent conflict from European history and a group of international aid workers: each one comes from somewhere different. That is real, and it gives the movie something of a small Tower of Babel feel: that will help it to be understood all around the world.
In A Perfect Day, do you toy with a lack of definition in terms of genre?
This is a problem that I’ve been lugging around with me since I was 20. It’s true, and you’re right: the movie is a comedy within a drama, within a road movie, within a war movie. It’s four genres rolled into one. At its core, it’s a drama, but it has a lot of comedic elements, and it’s a road movie: the characters come and go non-stop. I feel comfortable with that absence of a defined genre: life doesn’t have a genre, and to boil down our stories generically would be to oversimplify them. As a viewer, I have a problem with those movies that limit themselves to one genre – they’re not my favourite films.
So genre is like a straightjacket, then?
Yes, and it’s a bit like a life jacket, a safe refuge. When you suggest a genre, the producer and the viewer already have a certain guarantee: they know what they’re going to see. I have always had more admiration for those people who have been able to smash apart genres, like Polanski, as with Bitter Moon you don’t know whether you should be laughing or not. Those types of films are the ones that have always fascinated me the most.
Prior to A Perfect Day, you had only dealt with one star: Javier Bardem, in Mondays in the Sun [+see also:
Yes, by that time he had already had his first Oscar nomination, but we were 30 years old, and he was not in the same position he’s in now. I really fancied working with Benicio del Toro – I wanted to give it a try and I suggested it to him: he took an interest in the character and the tone of the story. He makes big Hollywood films, but he also likes smaller, riskier projects. He has the courage to do that. He liked the simplicity of the adventure, but also the ambitiousness of using something so simple to recount something that transcends that. He was very interested and was the first to get on board the project. Then came Tim Robbins: I wanted to have an American among the main characters because it’s very common to have one in groups of voluntary workers. I thought it was wonderful to have him with me after having seen him in so many legendary films. On the basis of Mambrú, the key character played by Benicio, we looked for the rest and for the girls.
You managed to make Granada look like the Balkans…
I also scouted for locations in Bosnia, but the landscape was very similar, with Mediterranean plants and a high, mountainous area, very close to the sea. The Bosnian actors we brought over couldn’t believe how similar they were.
You are the co-producer of the movie. Was it cheaper to shoot here than relocate abroad?
Much the same: there wasn’t that much of a difference. Making it here allowed us to have more control over the film. In addition, the movie has a certain degree of abstraction: it could be any war, on any continent. It takes place in the mountains and on the road; there are barely any towns, and so it didn’t make sense to go over there to look for the specific features of the place when we could be on the roads in this country.
Finally, and on the eve of the election in Spain, how is the documentary that you’re involved in about Pablo Iglesias and his up-and-coming political party, Podemos, coming along?
We still have a lot of work to do, but we are making progress. It’s very interesting, because the political situation in Spain is interesting as well. We will depict all the intensity, the difficulties and the achievements from the inside. The idea is to portray its very particular situation of having to shape itself as a party at the same time as it is running in the election. That dual level makes everything more difficult and more intense, as that doesn’t happen in other parties.
(Translated from Spanish)