Álex de la Iglesia • Director
by Alfonso Rivera
04/12/2010 - This major Spanish production reached about €8m in advertising investment alone (“At the Toronto Film Festival, a journalist told me he didn’t believe the film had cost only €20m, he thought it had cost more. But it’s because everyone put their soul into this work, some losing hours of sleep”, claimed the director). Shot over nine weeks between Madrid and Spain’s south-east coast, it is being released domestically on 300 screens by Warner.
Alex de la Iglesia: A Sad Trumpet Ballad [trailer, film focus] is the story of two clowns, one sad and the other stupid, for there is no other possibility in life: you’re either sad or stupid. They both fall madly in love with the trapeze artist and this love leads them into a deadly struggle that ends in tragedy, because their feelings are conditioned by a past that causes them to feel guilty, driving them to anger and leading them towards their downfall.
I feel like that: we all have a terrible past which has left its mark on us and it’s not our fault; we carry it written in our genes. We have to survive the memory; in order to overcome it we must get all the toys out on the table and, however damaged they are, play with them to exorcize the monsters. Once we’ve enjoyed ourselves, we have to consider why they used to frighten us so much. That is the story of A Sad Trumpet Ballad.
Did clowns traumatise you as a child?
Clowns are a symbol of the human condition. We’re all clowns: we disguise ourselves to survive, hiding miseries and fears. We also try to always be nice, in an obsessive way: that’s our way of surviving. There is a constant underlying violence, in day-to-day life, in the gaze of our neighbours, on the television news, in newspapers… which forces us to disguise ourselves. Because we’re afraid of engaging in dialogue, it’s not the done thing to reach an agreement, to admit that one is wrong. That’s why we disguise ourselves.
And yes, as a child I was taken to sinister places to see the circus, where it smelled of animals and you discovered that Spiderman was a poor bloke in disguise: it was there that I differentiated reality from fiction for the first time, but even so I was trying to have fun.
When did you discover that Spain was a circus?
In this country, we live with histrionic intensity. What’s more, there are no examples of good sense. In time, we recognise people’s talent, but we need them to be dead or foreign. When Buñuel went away to Mexico, we started to recognise him. And that happens to us not only in culture, but also in thought and science.
Have you changed style with this film, which is less stylised and more brutal, almost documentary-like?
The style corresponds to the story: each one requires a different approach, and this one needed to be so raw, that’s why the circus appears so sunken and surrounded by a city in ruins. This makes it more realistic. The situation in which the characters meet is not realistic: it’s dramatic and crazy, we’re not used to stories like this. For that reason, it has to be shot in a closer, almost documentary-like way.
But was so much violence necessary to show those extreme emotions?
Lies, hypocrisy, deceit and all that is loathsome in life arise from the negation of violence. That is the source of violence, not violence in itself. Violence is part of human behaviour, unfortunately. We all have violence in our brain and the act of releasing, exorcising and talking about it is the start of the solution to the problem.
So this film was like putting the toys out on the table for you?
Yes, of course, the good thing about cinema is that it’s like making a nativity scene: playing with clay figures and seeing that work. Let the dead people and problems you carry inside rise up, be put in order, cleaned and classified, and go back to the place where they must return: that way they’re released.
As Film Academy President, how do you see Spanish cinema in 2011?
Like I see everything, like my own life: very difficult, with insurmountable situations, but with hope and joy.