Pablo Berger • Director
"My aim is to surprise the spectator"
by Alfonso Rivera
- The director of Torremolinos 73 has returned a decade later with a black-and-white silent film destined to repeat the same success as his first film.
Cineuropa: Seeing the magic in Snow White [+see also:
interview: Pablo Berger
film profile] awakens our inner child.
Pablo Berger: I don't understand cinema any other way. All my works are born from the imagination of my inner child or teenager, from what I lived from the age of three, when I started to form small memories, until I was 18, when life returns to normal. During this period, you perceive experiences in a way that you manipulate yourself. I like what you say, because I would love spectators to return to childhood when seeing the film.
Some details in the film show that you have strayed from the fairy tale as we know it...
The film is about this: It speaks of my obsessions, both thematic and visual. My aim as a narrator is to surprise the spectator, this is the only rule I follow. Jean-Claude Carrière, who was a screenwriter for Buñuel and Milos Forman among many others, says the same: If you are writing a screenplay and you see that a sequence is too logical or that the spectator is going to discover what happens next, change course... but make it plausible.
Snow White triumphed in Toronto, competed in San Sebastian, and has been selected by Spain for the Oscars.
Toronto is one of the biggest film festivals and film markets. There, you see the international public's reaction and the response was marvellous. People were moved by a crazy story with bull fighters and flamenco set in Spain, and had no trouble understanding it. The reviews seemed to have been written by someone in my family. Our international career has started well, as there have already been many offers from various countries. Because this David-and-Goliath tale of Spanish cinema versus American cinema sometimes works out, and you can find yourself a spot. It already happened with Torremolinos 73 [+see also:
film profile], which was released all over the world.
After that film's success, why did you wait so long to make the one that you are now releasing?
It has been quite a ride. In 2005, I had already written the screenplay for Snow White. A producer told me that they would like it to be a black-and-white film, but that it couldn't be silent as this would mean a very high budget. After several more rejections, I sought foreign backing, as I had for Torremolinos. Then appeared Ibon Cormenzana, who had just set up Arcadia Motion Pictures and wanted to make international films on medium-to-high budgets. I gave him the script and he confessed that it was the best he had read all his life. These were the magic words of this passionate producer. He said, "This will be very difficult, but together we can do it."
During the last few years, The Artist [+see also:
interview: Michel Hazanavicius
film profile] was released. How did you react?
It was really worrying. I discovered this film's existence a week before starting to film. I received a message from a friend, from Cannes, that read: "This is going to be good for you..." My initial reaction wasn't one of happiness, as the element of surprise had disappeared. Although directors like Guy Maddin make this kind of film, it was the first time in the mainstream industry. In the end, The Artist was positive for Snow White, because it acted as an ice-breaker. It did away with prejudices against black-and-white silent films.
With Torremolinos 73 you gave new life to "destape" cinema (post-Franco "uncovered" cinema), and are now doing the same with silent cinema.
I like passing everything through my filter. As a director, I write and direct personal films, with my vision and point of view. I like homage, but not copy nor recreation. I love turning something that exists around to make something new out of it, with today's sensibilities in mind. I didn't want to make a copy or an exact recreation, but something that would speak to today's public.
And how do you keep that balance?
My filmmaking is intuition. It comes from the gut, the heart. There's nothing analytical about it. This is why one makes films for oneself, I can't think about a specific kind of audience. I hope that Snow White provokes the same sensations in the public that it does in me. I have no idea if the public will like it, I just know that I do.
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