Elena Martín Gimeno • Director of Creatura
“Sexuality is a vital impulse”
- CANNES 2023: The winner of the Europa Cinemas Label at the festival discusses her second film, which she also stars in and which lifts the lid on the consequences of sexual repression
Elena Martín Gimeno (Barcelona, 1992) is a stage and film actress (whom we saw not long ago in We Won’t Kill Each Other with Guns [+see also:
film profile] and who will be appearing in Unicorns from 30 June onwards), and she made her directorial debut six years ago with Júlia Ist [+see also:
interview: Elena Martín
film profile]. With her second feature, Creatura [+see also:
interview: Elena Martín Gimeno
film profile], which she stars in herself, alongside Oriol Pla, Clara Segura and Álex Brendemühl, she has just taken home the Europa Cinemas Label from the recent Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes.
Cineuropa: How does one digest and process such intense emotions as the ones you experienced in France last week?
Elena Martín Gimeno: Slowly, because the producers and I got there with no time at all to think, as we’d been finishing the post-production as quickly as we could in case they selected us for Cannes. And when they gave us a yes for the Fortnight, we were in a last-minute rush to get it finished in time, and so there was no time for any reflection. Now I’m beginning to understand what this prize means and to enjoy the good news, because we worked really hard there, and now I’m at home feeling gobsmacked by everything that happened.
We saw you a few weeks ago at the D’A Lab [see the news], and then suddenly, you were at Cannes, picking up the award.
Yes, it’s support for distribution, which is important for this movie, which is labelled as an arthouse film, but in fact it was made for the audience, so we hope that it doesn’t just stay confined to festivals; we’d rather it get a theatrical release so that we can do talks with the public. That’s what I’m most keen on.
Because Creatura raises some interesting and intimate questions and reflections that affect us all.
During the whole process, and when we were doing the pitching sessions, it was important to make it very clear that the film was about desire and the cultural difficulties that prevent us from having a healthy sexuality. That’s not exclusive to one gender: everybody has been brought up in a certain way and discovers that they face different types of repressions. When we were doing test screenings during the editing, my gay friends felt they could identify with that sense of shame and that feeling of guilt as well. Likewise, heterosexual men are present in Creatura, with their fears and frustrations.
Does the feeling of guilt we experience after having sex have anything to do with the upbringing we receive?
They’re things that are normalised within us. We all remember moments like that from childhood or adolescence, either our own or those of others. While I was writing the screenplay with Clara Roquet, we talked about that, plus we conducted interviews with women and discovered that feeling the first time you masturbate: feeling dirty or detached afterwards, and thinking you’re the only person doing it. That makes you feel miserable. With this film, through the characters, we tried to bring together or represent these stories that many of us women have experienced, in the hope of also generating a debate to change that. Everything that has to do with how you’ve experienced desire is closely linked to your body, to the feeling of whether or not you deserve things. Sexuality is a vital impulse; it can’t just be boiled down to the intimate part of actual sex, as it’s also a way of connecting with your body and seeing it from the outside. All these small repressions don’t just condition your future sexual relations; they also govern your self-esteem, your mental health and all kinds of relationships, ranging from family ones to social ones. That’s why I’m so interested in having these kinds of conversations with the audience after the screenings.
The film bravely talks about sexuality in such a clear way by normalising it, because even as children, we feel sexual desires, but we repress them as if they were bad.
Also from the point of view of the film, we tried to avoid being shy, so that we could talk about everything, no matter how complicated or awkward it was. And we tried to do so from a natural standpoint, rather than a sensationalistic or unwholesome one, because in general, sexuality has been portrayed with an outsider’s gaze, an external one, or even a violent one. Those things that so many people have experienced, which have scarred us like a kind of trauma, are not normal and can be avoided.
Has this demonisation of sexuality become normalised, then?
Yes, sexuality is connected to mental health, to the bond with oneself and to happiness. Having your sexuality repressed makes you less free within a given system, and that’s what makes it convenient. Catholicism has also attacked it along those lines, making us feel indebted, somehow. Because we’re always going to feel desire; it’s a natural impulse for us, with each person experiencing it differently, and feeling that “debt” is very hard.
(Translated from Spanish)
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