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Mateo Gil • Director

“I was always tempted by the idea of making a comedy”


- After his forays into thriller, western and sci-fi territory, Spanish director Mateo Gil is boldly sinking his teeth into comedy with The Laws of Thermodynamics

Mateo Gil  • Director

Mateo Gil (Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, 1972) made his feature-length directorial debut back in 1999 with the thriller Nobody Knows Anybody; at the same time, he was working as a screenwriter for his friend Alejandro Amenábar (Open Your Eyes,The Sea Inside [+see also:
film profile
, Agora [+see also:
film profile
). He also shot the western Blackthorn [+see also:
film profile
and, three years ago, the futuristic flick Realive [+see also:
film profile
. With his fourth film, The Laws of Thermodynamics [+see also:
film review
interview: Mateo Gil
film profile
, he ventures deeper into the intricacies of romantic comedy, but deceives us by disguising it with a science documentary-like structure. The movie stars Vito Sanz, Berta Vázquez, Chino Darín and Vicky Luengo.

Cineuropa: What was it like tackling the complexities of the comedy genre for the first time?
Mateo Gil:
 When I was writing the story, I needed money, and in order for anyone to pay me for a screenplay in development, I had to be able to offer an idea that a producer would want to develop, because there is hardly any development of feature scripts in Spain. Here, the normal process is that we screenwriters write, and then we sell the screenplay – or not. Then I talked to Paco Ramos, from Zeta Cinema, and suggested a story that I thought might appeal to him. I’d had the idea in mind for quite some time, and I wanted to try shooting a comedy. Comedy isn’t my main focus – in fact, now I’m writing scripts in other genres – but I was always tempted by it.

Science and the universe previously featured in the script for Agora, and they are topics that have always fascinated you: I suppose you had to tone them down a bit here so that it wouldn’t get too heavy going…
Of course: you could say that the screenplay for this film was made possible by the fact that I wrote the one for Agora previously; I’ve always liked science, but with that project there was so much paperwork, so many things that I learned, that I didn’t get around to using them all, and so I thought about recycling them. You could definitely say that The Laws of Thermodynamics is Agora’s little offspring because a lot of what I learned around that time I then went on to apply here.

How did you come up with the idea of making a film that alternates documentary with fiction? And what about the interviews? Did you film them as a simulation of TV documentaries? Where does The Laws of Thermodynamics’ very particular structure come from?
I conducted the interviews myself. First, I shot the fictional part of the movie, and then making the documentary was a different shoot, with its own production process, which was fairly complicated, especially as I wanted to do interviews where the scientists would say very specific things so that the film’s framework would work effectively. But I couldn’t exactly tell them to say one thing or another: I had to conduct very accurate interviews with them so that they would end up stating what I wanted to hear. The only thing that was crystal clear in my mind was that the scientists had to tell the truth: nothing of what they state is false or misleading, and those interviews could easily be used for real documentaries. We shot the fiction scenes in seven weeks, and we filmed the documentary part during four days of interviews, in Tenerife, London and Paris.

The editing and the post-production – with the arrows and the equations superimposed on the screen – must have made the shoot more complicated, as you must have had to plan it while bearing all of that in mind.
The edit was very arduous, but it’s identical to the script: we didn’t change the screenplay in the editing room. It’s true that some of the contributions by the experts don’t say exactly what I’d put in the script, but the timings matched up more or less, and I managed to squeeze the interviews into the running time of the fictional part. I had to sacrifice a lot of what they told me – some really interesting things – but the most important element in the film was the love story. The edit was very laborious because there was an awful lot of material and the pieces had to fit together, the scientists had to alternate and it had to be funny. The toughest thing was shooting it so that everything would fit properly. We would constantly time the actions: I timed the scientific text and made sure that the actions would match up with that length of time, because if they didn’t, the rhythm could get out of sync left, right and centre. It was a very technical shoot, where I was annoyingly meticulous about the timings.

(Translated from Spanish)

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