José Luis Guerín • Director
by Héctor Llanos Martínez
- LOCARNO 2015: The great voice of auteur cinema in Spain, Jose Luis Guerin, has debuted his latest project The Academy of Muses at the Locarno Film Festival
Poetry has always featured heavily in the films of José Luis Guerin, one of the biggest names in European auteur cinema. The Academy of Muses [+see also:
interview: José Luis Guerín
film profile], which is currently making its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival, was inspired by a philosophy class taught by Raffaele Pinto, doctor of the University of Barcelona. With his usual, almost documentary-like tone, the Barcelona-born director features multiple layers of dialogue between the teacher, his students and his ironic wife, in which they talk about desire, language and love. His film is being screened in the Signs of Life section, which, since last year’s festival, has showcased a compendium of innovative linguistic and narrative forms, created by both new talent and established names. Perspective Films handles international sales.
Cineuropa: To what extent is The Academy of Muses related to your previous projects, such as In the City of Sylvia [+see also:
film profile] and the photography installation Women We Don’t Know?
José Luis Guerin: The making of In the City of Sylvia was inspired by an edition of Dante’s The New Life, which was wonderfully translated and edited by Raffaele Pinto. That's how we met. In that film there was scarcely any dialogue and the muse was not a character in itself. Perhaps The Academy of Muses, in which words form the basis and the muses are women of flesh and bone, shows the reverse side of the same concept. It's something that I still have to think over, because it’s an idea that was suggested to me right after the screening here at Locarno and now once again with your question. But certainly, some of the ideas that weren’t verbalised before are now openly discussed among the characters in The Academy of Muses.
The film acts as something of a mirror. On one hand, the students are paying close attention to the words of the teacher and at the same time, we, the viewers, are doing the same thing with respect to your message. Does the same need to seduce through discourse exist in you as it does in the protagonist?
Every artist aims to seduce with their discourse. The viewer is somehow transformed into an attentive student. In the film, the teacher feeds off his students and they, in turn feed off him. There is a transaction of power taking place between them. I always like to think that this transaction also exists between the viewer and my work, stemming from what you see on screen.
The first time I saw a film as a child, I wanted to make films myself. It’s almost certain that it didn’t bear much resemblance to the films you make.
It was Disney's Snow White and the nightmare with the anthropomorphic forest trees trying to catch her that really impacted me. It was very well done and terrifying, with references to German Expressionism. My friend and someone whom I admire greatly, Victor Erice, has a beautiful theory that I agree with: almost all moviegoers have had a first encounter with cinema that has created a wound, a shock followed by fear or heartbreak. It is a wound that can only be healed by watching other films..
Locarno’s artistic director, Carlo Chatrian, said that this year’s festival circuit may help independent filmmakers to survive.
Especially the younger generation, as is the case with the other Spanish productions this year. Even if their respective countries offer them some help, they will always return to places like Locarno. In that sense, even the festival has a political responsibility. I was here with my first film in the '80s. It’s a festival that is especially sensitive to young cinema, which knows how to take risks and has a solid reputation, such as Vienna or Rotterdam festival. The organiser now has a much greater responsibility than before, because anyone can make their own film. Now more than ever, we need a synthesis. To choose from thousands of options, those that deserve to compete, is a crucial thing, because that is where the canon of the author is created.
(Translated from Spanish)