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“I love filming dialogue as if it were a fight”

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Alex de la Iglesia • Director

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- BERLIN 2017: We interviewed Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia, whose latest film, The Bar, will have its world premiere at the Berlinale

Alex de la Iglesia • Director
(© Lorenzo Pascasio)

Bilbao native Alex de la Iglesia has arrived at the 67th Berlinale both as a director — of The Bar [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Alex de la Iglesia
film profile
]
, premiering out of competition in the official selection — and as a producer — of Skins [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Eduardo Casanova
film profile
]
, the first film from Eduardo Casanova, showing in the Panorama section.

Cineuropa: You’ve brought two films to Berlin: Skins, which you produced, and The Bar, which you directed.
Álex de la Iglesia: It was unexpected, and I’m thrilled on both accounts. It’s strange how well received my films tend to be outside of Spain; it’s because there’s an element of surprise. In Spain, it’s hard to have to contend with national opinion every time you release a film; it’s like constantly having to sit a crucial exam. I’m also pitched against myself, when people compare my work to my previous films — like when you go to a restaurant and you miss the old chef. All of that forms part of a kind of folklore that I find entertaining, and it gives me the feeling of playing for the home crowd. When I start getting upset over other people’s reactions, that’s when I’ll have to stop making films.

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You both direct and produce — is it fair to say that you live permanently in the world of film?
Yes, I’ve managed to make film block out life — there’s no down time. Film is everything, because when I’m not shooting, I’m busy fretting over production. It’s an absolute dream for me; I’m happier solving other people’s problems. It’s like I’m an NGO, Directors without Borders (laughs).

You worked as a producer for Eduardo Casanova, just as Pedro Almodóvar did on your first film, Acción mutante.
Of course. When you see someone who has genuine passion, you can’t help wanting to do it. Skins isn’t daring; it’s reckless, fascinating. It’s an incredible piece of direction. He has this vision of the world that can’t be labelled. I have tremendous respect for Edward; I wish I was a brave as he is. I love the “Grandpa Smurf” side of myself — walking onto the set and telling everyone to let the kid film in peace.

In The Bar, you hone in once again on our faults: envy, mistrust, paranoia...
Yes. The other day I read something in the news that showed me the missing link between humans and monkeys: a group of smiling people on a beach taking selfies with a dolphin... until they killed the dolphin. That’s what people are like. We don’t see the big picture, and by taking selfieswith a dolphin we end up killing it. We do the same thing with people — if I can save myself, everyone else can just go jump. Nobody is conscious of the fact that they are capable of causing a disaster at any given moment. Things only work properly when you look at the big picture, not when you’re in your own head all the time.

Was the film shot in a real bar?
The whole thing is a set. It was a big bet — people told me nobody would realise. I really like the technical side, the vocation of filmmaking — playing around with shutter speed and depth of field. When you’ve made this many films, you start to enjoy it; it starts to come naturally. Before, I was always thinking about what lens I should be using, but after 14 films, I don’t need to do that anymore... That brings new challenges, and that’s why my next film, Perfectos desconocidos (read more here) goes to even further extremes — the set is a table. I love filming dialogue as if it were a fight.

You’ve teamed up with Terele Pávez, Blanca Suárez and Carmen Machi again, who you worked with on My Big Night [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
.
I love the idea of us being a circus troupe, but it’s purely selfish — I know how they work, and that means I can film in few takes, quickly and with a lot of intensity.

(Translated from Spanish)

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