Alberto Gracia • Director
“For me, everything is fiction”
- With his second film, Wandering Star, Spaniard Alberto Gracia returns to the IFFR, which he previously visited with his award-winning feature debut, The Fifth Gospel of Kaspar Hauser
Alberto Gracia (Ferrol, 1978) is making his way back to the International Film Festival Rotterdam five years after he was there to present his feature debut, The Fifth Gospel of Kaspar Hauser [+see also:
film profile], which was awarded by the critics. Now, at the 2018 edition of the IFFR, he is world-premiering Wandering Star [+see also:
interview: Alberto Gracia
film profile]. He sat down with Cineuropa to discuss its development and the concept behind it.
Cineuropa: Are you happy to be back at Rotterdam?
Alberto Gracia: Yes; the festival is like my home away from home. Since my films are a bit “arty”, this is the best launch pad I can have. I didn’t have much faith in a film made on a shoestring budget, but in the end they liked it. At Rotterdam, they gave me the FIPRESCI Award for The Fifth Gospel... Then the movie only had a very limited run, as it was quite a complicated film. This one’s more enjoyable, in the way that it entertains you; it’s more cinematic.
The approach taken by the two films is completely different, starting with the cinematography, which is now in full colour instead of black and white. Were you looking for new narratives, did it just come out that way, or did you feel like making something different?
It was all three things: in terms of the shoot and the pre-production, it was sheer chance. To put it in a more pretentious way: it was a tragic shooting philosophy headed for disaster, because both the pre-production and the shoot were pretty disastrous. We used a filming method where I was more absent than I was present, leaving more room for life and not so much for myself as an auteur. I didn’t tell myself, “I have so many great ideas, and look what a fantastic film I’m going to make!”, but rather my colleagues on the shoot were asking me, “Do you know what you’re doing?” And I wasn’t going to lie to them: I would tell them, “Well, I actually have no idea.” I wanted to make a film about people who are in fact not dead, where the televised electronic image would overlap with that of film, in keeping with the abstract nature of the digital image. I always include meta-cinematic nods in my works – I mean, it’s chock-full of nods to the history of cinema as well as to the very nature of the image. Both the characters and the movie itself talk about searching, the relationship with the image – they do it amongst themselves, just as I do with the film and the audience does with the end result.
The group Los Fiambres appear in the film – were they the initial motivation or seed for the movie?
The initial seed was Rober Perdut, the singer in the group, whose interview I came across later on: the editing is determined by that interview. In it I see a lot of symbolic references to popular imagination: for me, the centrepiece could be the interview they do with Rober on television, where you can see that he is totally lost and makes whoever’s facing him lost as well. For me, that interview is Wandering Star. The starting point for the structure is there: when I was filming, I was influenced by psychoanalysis and the first scientific recordings. They are the two fields that have been forgotten by the history of film. I don’t like documentary, because it’s a bit closer to propaganda than it is to the very essence of the cinematic image, and nor do I like the Hollywood-like tendency to have a closed script. You can go much further through fiction than you can through pure documentary, so I manipulate it, and these hybrids emerge from it: for me, everything is fiction. Film is torn between truth and fiction.
The sound also plays a bigger role than it did in your previous film: it moves and conjures up emotions more than the image itself.
The movie was going to be called Echo, like the nymph who was in love with Narcissus, who couldn’t see her, because he was in love with his own image, and she disappears and is destined to repeat the final phrases of whatever she hears: she is not a person any more, but rather simply a sounding board. The paradox of the visual era is that when everything is an image, the sound is in charge, which is what is really fascinating: the film is along those lines. This keeps you riveted to the exile of the image.
What about the characters in the film? Did you know them or did you have to look for them?
My oldest friend of the two is Nacho Alonso, a photographer and artist from Vigo who works a lot with portraits, and I met Rober Perdut in Madrid: I was intrigued by his image and his appearance. It was difficult to film with him because he really lacks focus.
(Translated from Spanish)
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