Martín Rejtman • Director of The Practice
"Eccentricity is a feature of comedy, which is why almost anything can happen in comedy"
- The Argentinian filmmaker's new film is a comedy full of quirky characters that are easy to identify with
We spoke to the Argentinean director Martín Rejtman, who was at the 71st San Sebastián International Film Festival, competing for the Golden Shell for the first time with his new film The Practice [+see also:
interview: Martín Rejtman
Cineuropa: The title of your film refers to the practice of yoga. It could also refer to the lack of practice for life that the protagonist seems to suffer from.
Martín Rejtman: I hadn't thought about it, but it's a perfectly possible interpretation. He’s a lost character who gets everything wrong. I don't know if there’s a connection there. I think so, that's what's wrong, that he's lost the practice for life. For teaching, for marriage, for a home, for living... he lost the practice of all that, and also the practice of yoga.
I also see a certain parallel between your character's disorientated situation and humanity in 2023, which is lost and doesn't know where to turn. What do you think?
Maybe, yes, no doubt, there's nothing intentional about it, but it's true that in today's world we're all on social media, looking at our phones and a bit oblivious to what's going on around us. This isn’t the case for the character, in the sense that he's not on social media or looking at his phone... But in fact, at a moment when he's meditating, the phone rings... and he picks it up.
There’s something in the tone of the film, in how we see the characters, that conveys a certain coldness, but the film doesn't seem cold to me.
I don't know, I don't really like moving the camera. I don't like its presence very much. Whenever the camera moves in a film I always wonder who is behind that camera and I don't like that feeling. I’ve been developing a way of narrating where there’s this distance. On the other hand, there is the character's voice-over, which is also not telling anything about his motivations, but which offers an extra, more complete dimension of that character. And then the fact that we are following one character for most of the film also creates a closeness. That coldness for me has to do with that, with the fact that I don't really like the camera to reveal the presence of the author.
I noted a certain parodical tone in the way some of the characters are portrayed, they go through absurd situations that create disbelief but also humanise them. Was there any intention in that?
What I can tell you is that some of the things that happen in the film are things that happened to me and that I see as absurd, but at the same time they’re parts of things that happened to me. I don't mean that the film is autobiographical, but for example, the fall in the sewer is something that happened to me in Santiago de Chile walking down the street, the difference is that I fell with one leg in and the other out. And of course, it’s absurd, but it’s not parodical. There’s no mockery at any time, with anyone. They’re a bit eccentric, maybe that's just it. But then, eccentricity is a feature of comedy. There’s a reason why almost anything can happen in comedy, because the characters can be eccentric and allow themselves to do whatever they want.
Some of the film's most brilliant moments come from very precise dialogue that immediately makes you laugh. How do you manage the timing to make these dialogues work?
It's all written and everything is nailed down, the timing of it all is super-rehearsed. Those are my favourite moments. There are a lot of little dialogues that are things that I really enjoy and I'm waiting for a long time to shoot the film for that, to shoot those scenes.
In the film, yoga is at the core and you can see that you know and respect it, but you also joke a lot with the clichés, without taking it too seriously.
In yoga there are rituals that are respected, but it’s not something sacred, it isn’t a religion. Most of those who practice it, even teachers, don't take it that seriously.
(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)
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