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“Spain is very esperpentic

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Isaki Lacuesta • Director


- Isaki Lacuesta caused some controversy at San Sebastián with his new film, the devastatingly critical Dying Beyond Their Means

Isaki Lacuesta  • Director

Having won the Golden Shell three years ago with The Double Steps [+see also:
film review
film profile
, Isaki Lacuesta caused some controversy at the recent San Sebastián Film Festival with his latest film, the devastatingly critical Dying Beyond Their Means [+see also:
film review
interview: Isaki Lacuesta
film profile
. Cineuropa had a chat with him. 

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Cineuropa: It’s brave of you to make such a brutal change in your tone and rail against every living creature...
Isaki Lacuesta: Talking about film in terms of bravery seems a little strange to me: a surgeon or a fireman would be brave. The most that can happen with a movie is that it ends up being really bad or you go bankrupt, which is the first step towards being someone in Spain. 

But it’s quite provocative...
I mean, it’s not a gentle movie, but I’ve done what I wanted to do, just like in my other films, and we had fun making it. Sometimes you fancy writing poetry, and at other times you want to play some aggressive guitar: this is closer to the latter. I understand that people acknowledge you for what you do, but then we are many things in our day-to-day lives. Given that I’m lucky enough not to have any brand image associated with me, I can always do whatever I feel like. 

You’ve used the term “cooperative” to talk about Dying Beyond Their Means.
Of course, that’s what we did because if we had waited until we received institutional backing, we never would have filmed it, because I wanted to do it quickly. We invested a lot of work in it, and some invested money: the people involved will get back a cut of that depending on their role, whether they are an actor, producer or member of the crew. We did the shoot every now and then, among friends – it was all very convenient because we would stop and have time to look at what we’d shot and correct any mistakes. At one point, we didn’t have any funding, and I thought I would have to make kind of a Lost in la Mancha, as I had shot half of the film already, and in the other half I thought Carmen Machi could appear reading the script, sat on a chair, and we would interview the executives who had said they didn’t want to buy it: that would also be a film about the crisis, but filmed on a mobile phone. 

Is it necessary to make a movie that is so brazenly critical?
It is necessary to make every type of film: social movies, entertaining movies and so on. That’s the beautiful thing about it. I wanted to paint a portrait of modern-day Spain, with this collective imagination. It’s a country where many people have fantasised about killing bankers and taking the law into their own hands, but then they go to the bar to have a few drinks, as happens in the film. 

And that’s how it became part of the grotesque esperpento genre...
There’s a whole tradition behind esperpento: the word comes from the time of Ramón del Valle-Inclán, but it went back even further than that. Spain is very esperpentic, very grotesque: we started to write the screenplay at the time of the financial bailout, and we realised that we were understating it, that everything was linked to political and economic corruption; at that point we incorporated Luis Tosar’s, Carmen Machi’s and Imanol Arias’ characters. Plus, the extras in the mental hospital are the upper echelons of the world of Catalan art.

It’s true that Dying Beyond Their Means boasts one of the best casts of Spanish film stars of all time, featuring names like Emma Suárez, Sergi López, Ángela Molina, Raúl Arévalo, José Sacristán, Eduard Fernández and Ariadna Gil – among many others.
Yes, plus they’re not cameos – everyone has a proper role to play. Given that the film’s aim is to paint a portrait of Spain, I liked the idea of it also painting a portrait of Spanish cinema through its actors – hence the eclectic cast.

(Translated from Spanish)

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