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Esteban Crespo • Director

"A screenplay is a guide, not law"


- Amar is the debut feature film by Spanish director Esteban Crespo. We sat down with him to talk about it

Esteban Crespo  • Director
(© Festival de Málaga)

Amar [+see also:
film review
interview: Esteban Crespo
film profile
 was the title of a short film by Madrid-born director Esteban Crespo and is also the name of his debut feature film, which participated in the 20th edition of the Malaga Spanish Film Festival. We sat down with him to talk about it.

Cineuropa: Was the Oscar nomination you received in 2014 for your short film Aquél no era yo helpful?
Esteban Crespo: Yes, it helped me to make Amar, because although it’s a simple film, a story about falling out of love. I was working on another screenplay, and called a friend to re-write the screenplay for Amar. I received phone calls from various production companies, and managed to come to an agreement with Avalon P.C. It all happened very quickly: within a week TVE and Netflix were on board, and even though I was about to make another film at the time, this is what came out of it.

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Avalon specialises in particular in small and independent films.
Yes, they have a lot of experience with this kind of film, they distribute Xavier Dolan’s films along with others like Son of Saul [+see also:
film review
Q&A: László Nemes
interview: László Rajk
film profile
and The Lobster. The relationship between director and producer is always complex, I’ll be honest, but I can’t deny that the film turned out as I wanted it, and I have to thank them for this, even though I fought tooth and nail for it.

Why did you film Amar in Valencia?
Because they granted us a subsidy there. Initially Valencia wasn’t the right place; the film was going to be filmed in the North: the characters want to escape, they’re oppressed, they need freedom: from their families and society. They want to leave everything behind, and you don’t want to leave Valencia… I want to go and live there. So we had to avoid the colour green and the light: we looked for ugly industrial sites, like Sagunto port, but in trying to dress it up we found a special look for the film. We see the Palacio de las Cortes di Valencia, but the city isn’t clearly defined: we see rooftops and roads that could belong to anywhere. The shoot was wonderful, the city threw itself into the spirit and the extras really got involved, not like in Madrid where everyone arrives on set already tired. We spent six weeks in Valencia, but before that, we spent a month holding auditions. And it was wonderful to work with young people, with all their delusions: their energy is passed onto you and their enthusiasm is infectious. 

The female protagonist, María Pedraza, had not done any films beforehand: was her insecurity also infectious?
Of course, but in looking for our cast members we wanted to find actors that looked like the characters. I started following young people on Instagram and found her there: so I had her do an audition. María was already used to working with cameras and, if you talk to her, you see that she’s like the character of Laura: she told me she’d been through the same thing; so, when it came to filming, it was easy because she worked with her memories, searching for what had been and what she had felt in the past. And she has a gift for performing: the camera loves her and lights her up. She was inexperienced, but has a lot of truth and energy.

You’re 45 years old. How did you tap into the sensitivities of 17-year-old kids, without contamination from your life experience?
I’ll be happy if the viewer, while watching Amar, remembers some detail or feeling from when they were in love. Perhaps they’ll remember how foolish they were, the horrible things they did, or perhaps how lucky they were to experience such a thing: they were madly in love, they gave all of themselves, managed the situation badly and acted like an idiot... but they did all of this, something that probably won’t happen again. And I also put myself into the hands of these young people, I talked to them: for example, I wrote the pyjama party scene and thought I had got the dialogue right, but when I talked to them they said something completely different, and I trusted the language they use; for me a screenplay is a guide, not law: in adapting it, they enriched and made it more up-to-date. 

Sexually speaking, people this age are a lot more casual today than those of previous generations were.
Everything has changed and there’s more freedom now: we are very repressed compared to them. But they’re also looking for love, not only sex as an end in itself: so there’s the character of Greta Fernández, who wants to be a hedonist, and that of María, who wants her relationship to work.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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