"We’re plumbing the absolute moral depths"
by Alfonso Rivera
- To Steal from a Thief is the ninth film by the director raised in San Sebastián; it is a thriller in the guise of a bank robbery in Valencia, starring Luis Tosar, Raúl Arévalo and José Coronado.
Cineuropa: Had you previously worked with the screenwriter of To Steal from a Thief [+see also:
interview: Daniel Calparsoro
film profile], Jorge Guerricaechevarría, who’s a regular writing partner of Álex de la Iglesia’s?
Daniel Calparsoro:No; we talked about making it years ago, but at last, this time it became possible. The idea of working on a collaboration together came up during the shoot for Invasor [+see also:
film profile], when the producer, Vaca Films, suggested I make a heist movie. Juan Gordon, of Morena Films, and Jorge added their voices to this suggestion: Jorge and I were having dinner together every month, chatting and discussing what it could – or couldn’t – be. After a year of having these meetings, we hit on an idea and started working on it: then he wrote the treatment and, from there, moved onto the screenplay. The process of crafting the film took two years and the writing stage eight months, and once we had the script, in another year we were shooting: so four years in total.
What genre does To Steal from a Thief fall into?
It’s an ensemble movie, a thriller. We always remained faithful to this concept, and then we adapted its twists to the characters. Being an ensemble film, you have to find each character’s moment, and by threading together all of these stories, Jorge came up with one of the best screenplays that I’ve had the pleasure to work with.
Was it shot on specially constructed sets or on location?
All of the locations inside the bank are real: the bank vault, the room with the bars... we only built a bathroom and the tunnel that they dig; but the subway tunnel is genuine, although we were the ones who flooded it, and the control centre is in a hotel in Madrid. The question of how to handle the spaces is always complicated, especially for the actors, and the tunnel was very hard, with all the cold water… For me the difficulty lay in reaching an agreement with the art director, to agree on what we had to do. And then, on the production level, it was tricky to get permission to shoot inside the Buenos Aires subway and flood a tunnel.
The metallic kind of cinematography gives the film a cold, tense look.
I worked with Josu Inchaustegui, who I’ve been collaborating with for many years, and the intention was to mix warmth with coldness: in a predominantly cold environment, we wanted to warm up the actors’ faces.
How did you achieve the pace that a movie like this requires?
We didn’t make any major changes during the editing: the film was already there in the rough cut, although we then polished it and cut the odd sequence. The edit was done on the fly while we were shooting. My editor, Antonio Frutos, was with us in Buenos Aires, the Canary Islands and Valencia, and he did some editing every day: in this way, if a shot was missing, it could be re-filmed. That’s how I work: it helps a great deal in making the characters well rounded, although in this case, the cast – including both the Argentinian actors and the Spanish ones – is the main strength of the film: they’re all great. We did rehearsals in Argentina, in Madrid and over Skype, because there’s a scene involving José Coronado and Rodrigo de la Serna, half of which was shot in the Northern Hemisphere and the other half in the Southern Hemisphere: they have never actually met in person.
In terms of the movie's plot, it seems that loyalty, honesty and truth are endangered species nowadays.
Yes; we’re plumbing the absolute moral depths. But we play with it in a subtle way in the script because in this film – which primarily aims to entertain the audience – everyone tricks each other, betrays each other and tests each other’s limits; it happens between the bank robbers and between the politicians. You really have to stay on your toes, because if you don’t, they pickpocket you and nick your wallet. And my intention was to reflect modern-day Spain, for this to permeate the movie, because treachery and loyalty are not mentioned, but they are there, and they move the plot forward, as this is what it hinges on. They are all only looking out for themselves and are totally capable of betraying their comrades: we live in a jungle today. This is also an exciting moment, a time of change: I hope for the better. In this film, I felt very much protected by the producers: I was able to work very freely, and you can really feel this because the movie flows, as we enjoyed making it.
(Translated from Spanish)