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Juanra Fernández • Director of Rocambola

"During the lockdown, the platforms have demonstrated that they are extremely necessary"


- We phoned Juanra Fernández, the director of the tense Spanish thriller Rocambola, which is being released online this Friday, on the Filmin website

Juanra Fernández  • Director of Rocambola

Rocambola [+see also:
film review
interview: Juanra Fernández
film profile
, an independent film that unfolds entirely in a country house and its immediate surroundings, stars a brutal Juan Diego Botto and Jan Cornet, and is being released online today, on Filmin. Its director, Juanra Fernández, self-isolating in his house in Cuenca, answered a phone call we made from Madrid.

Cineuropa: Your film is completely independent, having not had any support from the Ministry of Culture or the TV channels.
Juanra Fernández:
It secured just enough support from local and regional institutions to obtain the permits that were necessary for us to shoot, but not much more – we got nothing from the ministry. We made it all with private investments, which gave me absolute freedom. Seeing as it was going to be shot in Castilla La Mancha and the production company is from there, when we were choosing the crew, we tried to make it so that most of them were also from this area. Because I’m a teacher at the Film School and also lecture at the university, I tried to get my former students on board to complement the film’s crew, to give them an opportunity to get a foot in the door for their future career. The tasks involving a higher degree of responsibility were carried out by professionals, but 80% of the crew were non-professionals, and this was their first job.

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Rocambola was mainly shot in interiors: did that entail any major difficulties when it came to planning out each scene?
Yes, because we repeated the same scene over and over, many times. That’s why you have to try to use your imagination a little, to see where to position the camera in order to switch it up a bit, and so that we wouldn’t drop the pace, which keeps ramping up. It was a challenge, but a fun one.

When making this kind of claustrophobic movie, you can’t help but think of Roman Polanski. What other cinema maestros influenced you either directly or indirectly?
The Tenant and Rosemary’s Baby are both up there, without a doubt. I also wanted to make a couple of nods: there’s a scene where I wanted to imitate one of the most famous shots from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. There’s also a nod to Jean-Luc Godard when it came to settling on the names of the characters: although the protagonist is called Saeta, a reference to Satan, from Inferno in The Divine Comedy, at the start he was called Lazlo and his partner Ingrid, like in Breathless, when the protagonists say that that’s what they would have liked their names to be.

The film discusses the fact that fear leads to violence. How do you ration it out and approach it on the screen?
Violence is inherent in our society: we see this all the time. I think that we are so accustomed to violence that, sometimes, it doesn’t even surprise us. Of course, fear leads to violence, and there are various ways of reacting to that fear: one is to freeze up and stay stony-faced, and another is to react with violence. The characters’ motivation drives them to work with that violence to achieve their objectives, especially the main character (played by Juan Diego Botto), and all the rest of them do is defend themselves.

Another topic that the film broaches is unbridled ambition...
That’s the main motivation driving the role of Dante (Jan Cornet): ambition. There’s another nod there, in the title of the film: Rocambole, one of the characters in the pulp novels of Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail, which were published at the end of the 19th century, and which were about white-collar thieves. Dante is like one of them, as the only economic approach he wishes to live off is theft.

Thanks for chatting to us, and here’s wishing you much success with the online release of your film!
We’re already starting to adapt to the “new normal”, and I think it’s a good thing that we’re releasing movies on platforms, which, during the lockdown, have demonstrated that they are extremely necessary. What would have become of us, locked up inside our houses, without them? They have been the most direct gateway to culture that we’ve had. I do hope people come back to the cinemas, but these two exhibition systems have to coexist. Now it’s a lot easier to access that content. I agree that nothing can replace the magic of going into a movie theatre and watching a film on the big screen, but, well, it’s another option and everyone is coming to recognise that, so streaming is here to stay. It was something that we already had and which existed happily alongside the movie theatres, but now it has also demonstrated how necessary it is.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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