Paco Plaza • Director
"We all fear the same things"
- After producing three instalments of the REC zombie saga, Spanish filmmaker Paco Plaza directs Verónica, a pure horror film, with Ana Torrent in a key role
Paco Plaza (Valencia, 1973) demonstrates his mastery with Verónica [+see also:
interview: Paco Plaza
film profile], after shooting two instalments of REC [+see also:
interview: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
interview: Julio Fernández
film profile] with Jaume Balagueró, along with his third solo film and two fiction features. Now he's offering the audience a horror film that tackles tricky topics and features the actress Ana Torrent in a role that’s more than just a cinephilic reference. We chatted to the filmmaker in Madrid, the day after the passing of George A. Romero.
Cineuropa: Today zombie fans around the globe are in mourning...
Paco Plaza: George was an incredible man. Balagueró and I met him at Sitges festival where he was presenting Survival of the Dead and we were presenting REC 2. It was important to have his blessing: he really liked our story and was very kind. He was very pleased to be considered a seminal filmmaker in the zombie genre. He’s a father to us all.
Your new film was originally called El expediente (read more). Why did you change it to Veronica?
Because El expediente referred to a supposed real case: it made you think that we were reconstructing an investigation, and then the film sort of became something that wasn't really directly linked to the facts that inspired it. It's based on a very popular event, Vallecas, but at the same time it also draws on elements from another event that also occurred in Madrid in 1992. As the story was distancing itself so much from the original event, it didn't seem right to call it El expediente.
But the beginning and the end of the film do include some elements of a police investigation...
There is a nod to reality: an intention to locate the film in a specific space and time, in Spain before the Olympics. It deals with the transformation from girl to woman, and I think that year the country underwent a transformation of its own, into modern times: it was a turning point as it marked the end of Post-Francoism and the beginning of a settled democracy.
There's less humour in Verónica compared to your previous film REC3: Genesis [+see also:
REC3 was a romantic comedy with genre elements, whereas Verónica is a more canonical genre film that sits within the limits of what a typical horror film might be.
In the film there are explicit film references, such as Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s Who Can Kill a Child?
Yes, there's also a nod to Carlos Saura's Cria cuervos, as well as Victor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive. Both films embody the kind of fantastic Spanish cinema that is embedded in a childish viewpoint, deforming the appearance of reality. I like films that take on the point of view of the characters, and I wanted our film to take on the point of view of a teenager, so those films influenced the narrative construction process.
And you also have Ana Torrent, protagonist in those two films, in a leading role.
That was a very obvious reference: she's also called Ana in my film, just as she is in Cria cuervos. I enjoyed pondering the girl's history: she ends up marrying a man from Vallecas, setting up a bar and having four children. I love to think of Verónica as a false sequel to that film. Ana Torrent is a mythical actress, as a teenager I was very disturbed by her performance in Jaime de Armiñàn's El nido. I wanted to play games and include a few references to Cria cuervos, but I didn't want to exaggerate, as the film needs to have a life of its own to some extent, and when you use homages to other films to drive a film, you run the risk of losing sight of the film's aim in itself.
The horror genre is incredibly surprising.
Yes, it's true: humour is very difficult to get across, but horror is easy, because we're all afraid of the same things. The greatest panic comes with not being able to control a situation, where rules are arbitrary and anything can happen. That's universal. We've had a few years of fantastic films in the genre, such as Raw [+see also:
interview: Julia Ducournau
film profile], my favourite film from last year, which also talks about the transition through puberty. The horror genre is an excellent vehicle for talking about complex things: how we are, our emotions and our fears.
(Translated from Spanish)
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