Pablo Maqueda • Director of Dear Werner
“This film has helped me overcome some of my fears”
- With the documentary Dear Werner, Spaniard Pablo Maqueda follows in Herzog’s footsteps, re-embarking on one of his journeys with the exact same adventurous spirit, faith and love of cinema
After it was selected for the recent Seville European Film Festival, before its screening at Turin and just two days prior to its release in Spanish theatres (scheduled for Friday 20 November), the documentary Dear Werner [+see also:
interview: Pablo Maqueda
film profile] by Pablo Maqueda (Madrid, 1985) is being presented in the Bertoko Begiradak – Gazes from the Basque Country section of the 62nd edition of Zinebi, Bilbao International Documentary and Short Film Competition.
Cineuropa: Why did you choose to pay tribute to Werner Herzog, instead of Pedro Almodóvar, François Ozon or Yorgos Lanthimos?
Pablo Maqueda: He’s an often-overlooked filmmaker, from whom many of us directors draw our inspiration because of his conqueror’s spirit and his attempts to film the unfilmed. And we’ve learnt this economy of means from his films, especially his latest documentaries, in which it doesn’t matter which camera you’re filming with, but rather what you’re filming: the act of climbing up to the crater of a volcano to try to shoot that red-hot lava that no one else has ever captured... He taught me the concept of auteur cinema, not in terms of the mise-en-scène, but rather from the point of view of the plot and the construction of the characters, who are always crazy and are striving to reach the very ends of the Earth. I wanted to get behind this concept because I found myself in a moment when I was doubting my own desire to make films. His book Of Walking in Ice inspired me to follow in his footsteps.
So you’ve turned into a young, Spanish version of Klaus Kinski…
[Laughs] Yes – during the shoot, I was able to experience moments in which I felt like a character that the German filmmaker himself had come up with, feeling and experiencing those Herzogian epiphanies, such as going trekking in the Black Forest, utterly terrified and coming across a 20-metre-high waterfall: that was a mystical moment. It’s a film that has helped me overcome some of my fears – fear of the unknown, of the physical and of the dark – by learning from the sheer bravery that he’s demonstrated through his cinema.
Herzog collaborated on the film, but what was it like getting in contact with him?
I’d been told that he was an unapproachable person, but because of the affection and the truth there was behind the movie, that prompted him to help us. We wrote to him through his production company, and a few days later, he replied from his personal address. He’s seen the film several times, he was involved in writing the screenplay, and he suggested we tweak some bits – encouraging me to speak more about myself than about him.It was an act of extreme generosity on his part: he narrated those excerpts from the book himself, with that characteristic accent of his, which to me is like the voice of God…
Having Herzog as a consultant is better than winning the lottery…
Absolutely! I have previous features under my belt, smaller ones that I produced myself, but I approached this one with an almost teenager-like perspective, romanticism and love of film, trying to talk as if I were a student who idolises Herzog’s films without even knowing how to compose a shot. And in the midst of a pandemic, too! The lockdown allowed us to have a more personal dialogue that took place over a longer period of time. When he told me that my youthful filmmaker spirit reminded him of him when he shot Nosferatu the Vampyre, paying tribute to Murnau, that was a very special moment.
You mentioned before that Dear Werner came along at a critical point in your career…
Yes, Dear Werner was born of frustration: I’ve spent seven years trying to get La desconocida off the ground, a feature with mainstream aspirations [see the news], which we will shoot next year, as we secured selective support from the ICAA, and Telemadrid and Filmax have also come on board. During those seven years, I got to experience for myself the long, drawn-out funding processes you have to go through in Spain. Learning to tread that path together with my producers has left its mark on me as a filmmaker, and I wanted to reflect that in this documentary. Not talking about the director from the point of view of success, red carpets and awards, but rather as someone who walks alone, in the cold and the fog, just to get a project done. Someone who’s lost heart. Because that’s what film is: between the films, you have to try to make it to the end of every month. My desire was to reclaim that working-class conscience, at a time when the landscape of the film industry is changing and the very concept of the auteur is being trampled underfoot by the post-COVID outlook and the closure of the movie theatres. After all, from now on, audiences are going to find it harder to get to see certain films in cinemas.
(Translated from Spanish)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.