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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2021 Competition

Claudia Llosa • Director of Fever Dream

“I hadn’t even reached the last page of the book and I was already saying to myself, “I have to meet this woman; I have to make this film”

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- For the first time the Peruvian film maker has used someone else’s material for one of her projects, and she talked to us about it and plenty more

Claudia Llosa • Director of Fever Dream
(© SSIFF/Jorge Fuembuena)

Peruvian-born Claudia Llosa is presenting at the 69th San Sebastián Film Festival Fever Dream [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Claudia Llosa
film profile
]
, her fourth film and the first one to compete for the Golden Shell. It is also the first time that she had not used her own material for one of her projects, daring to make an adaptation of the best-selling eponymous novel by the Argentinian writer Samantha Schweblin.

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Cineuropa: What led you to make a film adaptation of a novel for the first time?
Claudia Llosa
: I wasn’t even looking for something to adapt. A friend from Peru recommended the novel and told me to read it. I read it in one sitting. I hadn’t even reached the last page of the book and I was already saying to myself, “I have to meet this woman; I have to make this film.” There were only two things I knew I had to do. Once was the off-screen narrative, which I though was a risk, but really interesting. And I wanted to take David and Amanda out of the room; I needed that movement. In the book they stay in the same room. And I needed that journey to happen; I needed a bigger trip. And that was all I said to Samantha when we started talking. She was so modest, so serene, and at the same time so intelligent. I immediately asked her to work with me on it, it was daring of me, but I followed my intuition, and it was a revelation for me. It is wonderful to find someone to takes their work as seriously as you.

What was it like to work with the actresses on that fragile balance that is established between the main characters?
I didn’t feel I could choose an actress without knowing exactly who the other would be and having her on board. If you changed the tiniest thing that feeling of balance and parity wouldn’t work. I fretted a lot over that because I couldn’t promise the role to Dolores [Fonzi], who was the first one I talked to, until I knew who would be playing Amanda. And when I started speaking with María [Valverde] I sensed in her some thing ethereal, something mysterious. That part of her is combined with something very unusual in an actress, her delicacy and control; those things don’t normally go hand in hand. Then there is Dolores. She is a women who, if you met her in a village all you want to do is stop her, for her to tell you about her life; you want to be her friend. That sort of energy is inherent in a person. Then the two of them met, and the explosion they had from the outset was really similar to what happens in the book.

The film includes fantasy in the form of nature and animals, who are the centre of significant scenes. How do you make animals into actors?
I love having animals on-screen; they burst in almost like monsters. We had this idea of the centaur, half horse, half man. For me, the animals are another character, as is nature. I know it is difficult and very demanding, even for the actors. It needs so much adaptation. But there is something that they contribute, something that envelops the whole setting of the scene and expands it. I have always been interested in animal presence. In this case, as well, the horse also represents something material, Carola’s husband’s capital. I find all this really interesting, I like it being there but separate from the pastoral, where its presence has a point. And then the acoustic space of nature was rich for exploring.

The balancing act we were talking about is also there in the two children. How did you reach such depths with such young actors?
It is always daunting to work with children. I love it, but I know what a delicate process it is and that it requires an amount of patience and timing that a tight filming schedule cannot always accommodate. This child’s off-screen narrative voice was really important, but obviously so was his physicality, and I wanted them to be the same person without resorting to any kind of tricks. Emilio [Vodanovich] has a voice quality that is not easy to find in a child, because they tend to be able to work with spontaneity but being able to act in front of a microphone is unusual. We needed to make lots of decisions about the narrative which I needed to be clear about in order to take on the project. We rehearsed a great deal, and when we brought Emilio in we made a recording which was the one I eventually used in the final cut. There was something dramatic about this story, an absorbency that wouldn’t let you change it.

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