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Víctor Moreno • Director of The Hidden City

"Going back to the roots of cinema by constructing with images and sound"


- Tenerife-born Víctor Moreno is in competition at Seville with The Hidden City, which takes us on a sensory and symphonic voyage down to the dark, labyrinthine and fascinating bowels of a city

Víctor Moreno  • Director of The Hidden City
(© Laura Márquez/SEFF)

Spanish films may well feature heavily on the winners’ list of the 15th Seville European Film Festival thanks to The Hidden City [+see also:
film review
interview: Víctor Moreno
film profile
, the new feature by Víctor Moreno (Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1981), a surprising, unique and compelling movie co-produced by France, Germany and Spain.

Cineuropa: Was it easy to gain access to the places that you show in your film, or did you need to deal with lots of red tape in order to do so?
Víctor Moreno:
It was quite a long, laborious process, presenting the project to a lot of institutions, although we were able to count on the cooperation of Film Madrid, the office that promotes film shoots in the Community of Madrid. It took a year of hard work to gain access to all of the locations, in addition to establishing which ones were of interest, because there are so many of them. For example, all of the history and the whole archaeological side of the city, with all the countless tunnels built by various kings, I left out on purpose.

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Were there not times when you felt claustrophobic?
I was quite happy in those dark recesses. I like tight spaces and I’m starting to miss them: I really wanted to carry on exploring them because there were security measures that blocked off access to certain areas. I like to be shut in, but in the wider spaces you also realise how huge these feats of engineering are, with those concrete cathedrals that surprise you with how much beauty can be found in such a functional space.

The Allegory of the Cave by Plato also comes to mind while watching The Hidden City.
I’m so happy you said that because that idea was the very origin of the project: there was a scene of a hominid, an unknown lifeform, going into a cave at an unspecified time, and that’s where the journey started.

Where did your persistent fascination with spaces come from? Because you also explored them in your previous film, Edificio España.
I really like crossing the thresholds of places and asking myself, “What’s behind here?” I love seeing the blackness through the windows when I'm on the Underground, and going beyond the day-to-day; my attention is really drawn to those spaces, even though I have not had any kind of intellectual relationship with architecture, as I never studied it at university, but I am interested in going into places where perhaps I haven’t ventured before. As a filmmaker, I like entering that undefined place that affords me some space, and peeping out at everything surrounding it: as a vantage point, it really appeals to me because of its distance from people, dynamics, animals and objects. As a director, I feel comfortable there. And I love the idea of exploring everyday life without having to go far away: in our daily lives, there are many ways of overcoming that barrier.

Why did you decide to incorporate an owl in some scenes of the film?
It’s quite common for animals from the outside world to get underground, and there’s also a symbolic aspect to it: the owl represents wisdom, brightness and illumination. The fact that you might appeal to that in a mystical sense in this concrete world seemed an interesting symbol to us. This is a time when it’s necessary to elicit and broaden your emotions when you watch a film: we are so bombarded with images, information and explanations that we are losing the ability to feel the experience of the image and the sound, which are the very roots of cinema. When I see works by Vertov, I think of the possibility of understanding film in a musical way as well, on the structural and compositional level, prioritising the image and the sound first and foremost, over and above the narrative: I’m fascinated by that. I also like how you come up to street level after exploring the depths in The Hidden City, thanks to its ability to immerse the viewer.

Your film resides in an unspecified place between fiction and documentary, a territory that filmmakers like Isaki Lacuesta also stake a claim to. If you were forced to label it, what would it be?
It’s difficult because the fiction-versus-non-fiction discussion doesn’t come into this film so much, and it’s something that we have to get past. I prefer to have the conversation about causal and non-causal narratives: that’s where we should be focusing the discussion because the boundary between documentary and fiction is already too blurry and provides no more fuel for debate. Because of the spirit of my film, I see myself more as part of an urban symphony: constructing with images and sound and going back to the roots of cinema.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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