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“Investigating a serious crime takes tremendous patience”

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Andrés M Koppel • Director

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- Andrés M Koppel is presenting his feature-length debut, La niebla y la doncella, at the 20th Malaga Spanish Film Festival

Andrés M Koppel • Director
(© Festival de Málaga)

La niebla y la doncella [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Andrés M Koppel
film profile
]
is an adaptation of a novel by Lorenzo Silva, featuring such well-known faces as Verónica Echegui, Quim Gutiérrez, Aura Garrido, Roberto Álamo and Marian Álvarez and filmed on the photogenic island of la Gomera in the Canaries. The brains behind the project is one-time screenwriter (Intacto, Rescue Under Fire [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) and short film director (La Raya, Unión Europea) Andrés M Koppel, a Canary Islander by adoption although he was born in Freiburg (Germany). This month, Koppel has brought the film to compete at the 2017 Malaga Spanish Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: Have you still been writing screenplays for other directors over the last few years?
Andrés M Koppel: Yes, but I felt that it was time to start writing for myself. I was going through some family problems and personal issues, which led me to keep my head down and concentrate on teaching. Since 2010 I’ve been writing again. I was commissioned to write La niebla y la doncella by Tornasol Films and for the first time I was working completely alone, without a director to talk things over with during the creative process, which is something I usually enjoy. So, I just talked to myself and gave myself feedback, and that led me to visualise the whole film in great depth. As a result, when the production company read the screenplay, they realised that I had a very clear idea of how it should be directed, and so they offered me the job.

Were you apprehensive about taking on this role for the first time on a full-length project?
Yes, and at one point I was suddenly overwhelmed by the responsibility of it, but some director friends of mine reassured me that this happens to everyone. I felt totally neurotic on the fourth day of filming, when we were shooting the pier scene, but that scene ended up having a wonderful light.

There are moments in the film where La Gomera looks like Iceland.
It is quite similar to Iceland. It’s a small island, but it takes a really long time to get from one place to another, because the roads are terrifying. It has a sense of claustrophobia, something that you don’t find on the other Canary Islands. On all of the islands, time seems to slow down, but in La Gomera you also get this feeling of claustrophobia. It’s a place that either cradles you or spits you out, because you’re living right up against the mountain; there are no open spaces. At one point I was cursing myself, because when you are a screenwriter and you choose a setting for your first film, you’re still thinking along the same lines: you end up picking locations that will complement the story, but that make it impossible to film what you’ve written. It’s a different exercise and I learned a great deal from it. But, in the end, these tucked-away, cramped places where we filmed worked very well, adding to the oppressive feeling of the film.

What aspects of the original novel did you have to leave out in adapting the story for the big screen?
A lot of the travelling and the descriptions of the landscape, although it isn’t noticeable. In the novel, you get a stronger feel for the slow pace of the investigation: going from one place to another, talking to people, stopping for meals... On average, two years of work go into an investigation into a serious crime; it takes tremendous patience. The film might come across as a slow-burner, but I tried to keep the rhythm going, although so much of it is dialogue.

The police officers in the film resemble journalists.
Yes, because the hunt for the truth is the same in both professions — people either lie to you or tell you things straight, depending on what suits them. I’ve spoken to police officers and they’ve told me how incredibly frustrating their work can be at times, when they know that somebody has committed an atrocious murder but they can’t prove it, and then they end up putting the perpetrator behind bars for more minor offences.

(Translated from Spanish)

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