Iñaki Sánchez Arrieta • Director of El lodo
“This project started with the landscape”
- The Spanish filmmaker has opened the 36th Mostra de València – Cinema del Mediterrani with his second film, starring Raúl Arévalo and Paz Vega
On the heels of his tense feature debut, Zerø [+see also:
film profile], Iñaki Sánchez Arrieta has now shot El lodo [+see also:
interview: Iñaki Sánchez Arrieta
film profile], a drama starring Paz Vega and Raúl Arévalo that was filmed on the Albufera lagoon, one of the most fascinating nature parks in the vicinity of Valencia, the city where the Mostra de València – Cinema del Mediterrani unspools. The 36th edition of the gathering kicked off with a screening of this film.
Cineuropa: In your first movie, Zerø, the landscape took on a particular importance; it’s evident that something similar happens in El lodo.
Iñaki Sánchez Arrieta: Yes – in fact, the germ of this film grew from the realisation that, despite a place like the Albufera lagoon existing right next to Valencia, no stories had yet been told about it, because at that point, the series The Pier hadn’t been shot, and nor had any other film. So I thought about what I could say about that place, and while strolling around the area, I found out that, as is the case in any nature reserve, there were many conflicts of interest. On one hand, you have those who stand up for nature, and on the other hand, there are those who have to make a living from those surroundings. So the project did indeed start with the landscape.
So is part of what you portray based on real events?
I decided to change the name of the place and call it Laguna Blanca [lit. “White Lagoon”] – I don’t mention either Albufera or Valencia – because the film depicts conflicts that are common to many different places. And yes, these problems really do exist.
Once, while I was staying at one of the campsites in that area, I heard gunshots at night.
Yes, there are poachers there, and I verified that with the people who live and work there. They confirmed that there were things in the script that were exactly the same in the Albufera lagoon.
In this film, the main character is an environmentalist, but it can sometimes also be the case that there is a certain mistrust of strangers in these small communities.
My reference points while writing the screenplay were The Hunt [+see also:
interview: Thomas Vinterberg
interview: Thomas Vinterberg
film profile] by Thomas Vinterberg, Straw Dogs by Sam Peckinpah and Backwoods [+see also:
film profile] by Koldo Serra. In all three of them, outsiders turn up in these places. And that syndrome has a certain familiarity to it: when someone arrives in a place where they don’t belong, suspicions and fears start to rear their heads. The film talks about its characters’ fear of making strides or opening themselves up to truth and reality. That’s where the conflicts in El lodo stem from, and the main topic of the movie is those occasions when we have trouble managing that fear.
Your film sometimes brings to mind a modern western.
Yes;that wasn’t my primary intention, but it took on that vibe, which makes me very happy: it ranges from the aesthetics and the colours to the cinematography and the wardrobe.
Perhaps it was lurking in your subconscious…
Yes, sometimes we realised while we were shooting and continued down that path. There was no specific aim to seek it out… But it just came out.
The film also discusses how personal tragedies can have a profound effect on relationships.
Yes, it’s that fear felt by people who are in a certain place and are afraid of losing their stability, even though it may already be hanging by a thread, but they still fear that someone will rob them of what little they have. And the fear that’s the trigger for everything, the one that sets the movie in motion, is that of accepting things that happened a long time ago. I devised Raúl Arévalo’s character as a controlling kind of guy who has always organised his life meticulously. The act of acknowledging something that happened fills him with doubt because he let it pass him by.
There’s also the question of how personal affairs can have an influence on one’s professional life, and vice versa.
In that sense, there are parallels with my previous film. I’m interested in the past and its results – which, at the end of day, are us – and which we do our best to manage. That has an impact on our personal, romantic and professional life: the protagonist of El lodo uses his success at work and in his other activities as an excuse not to think about the dark cloud hovering over him, which he is aware of but doesn’t want to face up to.
To wrap up our chat, was it complicated to shoot in such a muddy environment, surrounded by water and all those reeds?
It was quite an adventure, and time-consuming in both a good and a bad way. We were shooting on rowing boats, transporting the cast and crew on them, and putting the make-up on the actors while jumping from one to another. We also had a storm that flooded the main set, which meant we couldn’t shoot anything for days, and we had to resort to our plan B. But the area also gifted us with some incredible sunsets and some awesome sights of flocks of birds in the sky. It was both beautiful and tough, but I think that the Albufera lagoon area is very well represented in the film: you can see perfectly well that we were actually there.
(Translated from Spanish)
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