Valentina Maurel • Director of Tengo sueños eléctricos
"I wanted to make a film which allows itself to be ambiguous"
- The young Costa Rican director based in Belgium is presenting her first feature film, painting the portrait of a teenage girl who realises that adulthood isn’t the golden age she dreamed of
We met with the young Costa Rican director based in Belgium, Valentina Maurel, who is presenting her first feature film, Tengo sueños eléctricos [+see also:
interview: Valentina Maurel
film profile] - a movie painting the portrait of a teenage girl who realises that adulthood isn’t necessarily the golden age of freedom she dreamed of - in competition at the 75th Locarno Film Festival.
Cineuropa: How did this project come about?
Valentina Maurel: I wrote it as a continuation of my short films. Generally speaking, I don’t choose my subjects all that rationally. I felt the need to explore the child-father relationship, even if I do feel it’s a topic which has been explored quite a lot, in works ranging from Hamlet to Star Wars. But I hadn’t seen all that many films exploring the father/daughter relationship, so I allowed myself to talk about it.
Who is Eva, your heroine?
She’s a teenager who discovers the world of adults, which she’s keen to join, notably by getting closer to her father – a free yet violent man – and his friends. But this isn’t a coming-of-age tale, Eva’s trajectory isn’t that of a teen who becomes an adult, it’s that of a teenager who realises there aren’t really any adults around her. In the end, she’s more aware and more mature, and better equipped for life than the adults around her.
But she’s not an innocent character, nor the victim of malevolent adults. Eva knows what she wants, she understands something of what’s happening to her, even though she doesn’t necessarily have any control over things. But it’s true that she lacks perspective; she lives wholly in the present, which prevents her from gaining the perspective she needs to assess the power relations which are being exerted over her.
In some respects, Eva’s father hands down his violence to her, but he also bequeaths her his taste for freedom and his relationship with art and poetry.
I drew some of my inspiration from the environment I grew up in, which was pretty special. My parents were artists; I’ve always found it paradoxical how they were sometimes capable of being very sensitive and self-aware when it came to what they were. They could write frighteningly observant texts on their condition, on violence, on love. But even though the space they set aside for poetry was where they managed to be clear-sighted, to access a truth, life, it was still complex and ambiguous. As if the present moment prevented any kind of analysis.
How were you looking to portray adolescence, an often-explored period in film?
When people talk about it as a “coming-of-age” it annoys me a little bit, because it’s as if we’re viewing adolescence as a stage in life, which is defined by rather abstract things; as if we become adults at 18 years of age, purely for legal reasons. I wanted to talk about adolescence without separating it off from adulthood, for this adolescent to realise that the adults around her are teenagers too. I wasn’t interested in a linear story about a teen who becomes an adult, I wanted to explore adolescence as a realisation of the fact that there isn’t actually any “final destination”.
Adolescence is about experiencing the desire to be an adult, whilst also realising that adults don’t really exist. We might become beings who are more biologically stable, but that’s all. I think we’re far more lost when we’re adults than when we’re teenagers, when we have greater access to poetry, and when we’re perhaps more clear-sighted too.
What was the greatest challenge and what was most important to you when making this film?
I wanted to stay true to reality, to make a film which allows itself to be ambiguous, to speak of reality in terms of how difficult it is to analyse things in the present moment… which doesn’t allow simplistic judgements to be made about the characters. Also, as a Latina filmmaker, I wanted to tell a story set amongst the urban middle classes, which breaks with the European idea of a tropical country which almost always involves drugs-related stories set in dilapidated neighbourhoods, or magical realism in the jungle. I wanted to allow myself complexity, and to explore inner worlds, avoiding exoticism.
(Translated from French)
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