Carlos Vermut • Director of Manticore
"Making films about monstrous characters is rather appealing"
- With his fourth feature film, the director goes even further in unsettling audiences, demonstrating that his is not an accommodating career or one for all audiences
If Magical Girl [+see also:
interview: Carlos Vermut
film profile] knocked you out with some dark and twisted scenes, wait until you see Manticore [+see also:
interview: Carlos Vermut
film profile], the new psychological thriller from Carlos Vermut, the most daring Spanish filmmaker at present and one of the most talented. We spoke to him as his latest film has been presented at the Contemporary World Cinema section in Toronto and will be screened at Fantastic Fest in Austin and in Sitges before being released in cinemas in Spain.
Cineuropa: What has your experience in Canada been like?
Carlos Vermut: I’ve been here with my last three films, and I know the cinemas quite well by now. The festival is cool, it's like a very big market, aimed at the sensibilities of the American audience, but it's great that it has windows for other kinds of films and from other places.
How did the public react to the screening of such an unusual film like Manticore?
You don't know what the immediate reaction will be, because when the film is over people don't react immediately. It's not a comedy, where you know at the time whether it has worked by the laughs, or a horror film by the screams. I think this is a film that people prefer to take it with them and relate to later. In the meeting with viewers after the screening, they were very interested and needed to talk about it, to ask questions and to understand it in some way. It's a film that I feel needs time to breathe, and I think it's the kind of film that I wanted to make and that I like, and I've felt that happening with the audience.
I admit that I was shocked after watching it and I spent two weeks ruminating on it, thinking about scenes that I didn't think would have such an impact on me. It's a film that really gets under your skin without you realising it.
I'm glad. In fact, when I was writing the script I had that feeling. I wanted to take my time and work on it on several levels. We are used to so many releases, between the platforms and cinemas, that films are quickly forgotten. I don't care so much about whether people think it's good or not, which is a superficial assessment, as the fact that it stays with them, maybe not for everyone, but that it finds its audience and creates that relationship with them: that they feel that the film has touched them in some way. That is what I find interesting.
Which came first: the plot or the title?
The plot was first, which I had had in mind for quite a few years, but I couldn't find a third act that I was happy with, and I suddenly found it, and it came about on its own, working during the pandemic. The video game elements, more aesthetic and plastic, were added, the image of the manticore appeared and gave the film its name.
Why cast as a protagonist someone who works in virtual worlds that somehow help him to sublimate his unmentionable problem?
That came later, because in the first version the character didn't do that, but I started working with virtual reality for something else. This aspect was added and gave meaning to the first act of the feature film, where he has this relationship with the images and then connects it to creating his desire in his own image and likeness. In that sense I understood that video games could be part of the film and they were incorporated during the writing of the script.
Without any spoilers, why have someone with such a dark secret as a protagonist?
In the history of cinema there have always been films about controversial or monstrous characters. This puts the writer in the position of creating an interesting story. I couldn't find a point of view from which to talk about this issue and when I found the right perspective the story came naturally. I might ask you: why do we talk about gangsters and make mafia films? They are far worse people than a guy who simply has a wish that has never even materialised. But we film gangster movies and play great music for them, but they kill and traffic people: And we show them as cool guys! This moral dilemma made me want to make the film even more because I was thinking about it as a writer, and I wanted to convey it to the audience. The protagonist creates rejection but, somehow, as a viewer I empathise with the pain caused by this hidden desire he has. I found this premise interesting. Because sometimes making films about monstrous characters can be rather appealing.
(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.