“I like the fact that my film is always just about to erupt”
by Alfonso Rivera
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2016: Daring filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo talks about the European screening of his Canadian co-production Colossal, an Anne Hathaway-starrer that is hard to classify
Out of competition, but still in the official section, one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the 64th San Sebastián Film Festival has touched down at the Basque gathering, following the enthusiastic reception it received at Toronto: Colossal [+see also:
interview: Nacho Vigalondo
film profile], the fourth film by Nacho Vigalondo, a director who is both mischievous and original in equal measure. In the movie, lead actress Anne Hathaway has a connection to a monster causing mass destruction.
Cineuropa: When Colossal’s “special thanks” pop up, we see the names of some of your friends, such as Borja Cobeaga and Carlos Vermut.
Nacho Vigalondo: I always try to remember who gave me their opinion during the development of a project, and having such talented people close by is a godsend – not for them to sing your praises, but rather for them to challenge you. I wouldn’t want to live in an environment where everything was done the same way as I view things, because a director never has enough perspective on what he or she is doing: almost by its very nature, this job is bound to allow the author less distance than he or she should have. It’s reassuring to have these people nearby, and it makes me feel more sure of myself. Whenever a friend badmouths something I’ve made, it then has added value if that same friend congratulates me: if someone who is critical with you applauds you, you know there’s something real behind it, beyond toadyism or politeness.
When you watch the film, you really come out buzzing...
I wanted the third act to lead the film into a broader territory that people can enjoy on a basic level: I didn’t want you to have to be clever – an idea that I find simultaneously attractive and repulsive – to enjoy the ending. Even if a film doesn’t bow down to the audience and doesn’t give them what they want, it’s still good to make a movie that clicks with very different audiences: with teenagers, with fans of action films, with niche film buffs, and with people who like comedy, mainstream cinema and arthouse film. If I can manage to bring together different audiences in one movie theatre, I think that’s a resounding success, not so much to make me feel at ease in a market, but rather to break out of my comfort zone and bring different people into the cinema.
This may be your most accessible film to date, wouldn’t you agree?
I admit that I’ve never wanted to make inaccessible films… Or maybe I’m learning. When my movies become too intricate for someone, for me that’s not a victory, but rather a sign of my own self-limitation that I have to work through myself. I like it when a film is accessible and when it has the capacity to be something more if the viewer is interested in finding something deeper in the movie, but I also like it when it works on a fundamental level, although that’s easier said than done. People sometimes look down on directors who are able to make mainstream cinema, as if they did nothing more than turn a crank, when actually it’s very difficult for a film to maintain a pace that keeps the audience hooked from the very first scene to the final one.
Colossal stays on a knife’s edge the whole time, and it seems like you’re going to fall off, but actually you don’t…
Thanks a lot! Although I’m sure that a lot of people think I did fall off. I like the fact that my film is always just about to erupt. Carlos Vermut told me something very nice about it: there are sections where you forget about the monsters. For us to forget about global conflict to talk about mundane and insignificant things, then go back to global conflict again, is a dangerous idea, I know, but he liked it a lot. All those films, beginning with the first King Kong and ending with Pacific Rim by Guillermo del Toro, always come up against the same challenge: how to connect the human storyline to the monster one, as the monsters are the real reason we go to watch those flicks; but in order for the film to stretch to 100 minutes, we need a human plot, which is a bit like the bread in a ham sandwich. Sometimes, this tension between the bread and the ham in the sandwich means that at the climax there are monsters, but no humans. Then, if the humans have no say at all in the climax – because what are they going to be able to do in a fight between massive monsters? – that makes me wonder whether they actually meant anything during the movie. The biggest struggle that I had with Colossal was finding a reason why the humans and the monsters should stay connected until the very end of the film.
(Translated from Spanish)