email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on LinkedIn share on reddit pin on Pinterest

BERLINALE 2024 Encounters

Matías Piñeiro • Director of You Burn Me

“There was something about not knowing how to do things and just having a magnetic attraction to the text”


- BERLINALE 2024: The Argentinian director, known for interweaving experimental tropes and Shakespeare, breaks down his newest film inspired by Cesare Pavese and Sappho

Matías Piñeiro  • Director of You Burn Me

“You Burn Me,” reads Sappho’s Fragment 38, a small part of what’s left of the Ancient Greek poet’s legacy. You Burn Me [+see also:
film review
interview: Matías Piñeiro
film profile
is also the title of Matías Piñeiro’s newest feature, a deceptively small film (clocking in at only 64 minutes) that seems to hold endless possibilities for a new relationship between film and writing. Part of the Berlinale’s Encounters section, the movie works with Cesare Pavese’s text Sea Foam (a dialogue between Sappho and the nymph Britomartis) and Sappho’s fragments. Cineuropa spoke to the director about the nature of fragmented cinema, the writing procedure, shooting with a Bolex camera and the musical compositions informing the process.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: You’re based in New York and San Sebastián, so did travelling feed into the fragmented film form of You Burn Me?
Matías Piñeiro:
After a year of collecting shots for this film, I thought it would be weird to go back to San Sebastián to teach at the film school [EQZE – Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola] exactly like I did before. This gave me another excuse to go back – apart from teaching, which I enjoy – and that was making the movie. What also helped was the fragmented nature of You Burn Me, and since I had to go back and forth every two months, I could develop the footage and shoot again.

Some of the footage you shot yourself, while other parts were filmed by your cinematographer, Tomas Paula Marques. How did this work, exactly?
In practice, you can have ideas that are better than the ones you can put down on paper. For example, the experience of going out to the seashore in San Sebastián with Tomas Paula made us understand how we could shoot landscapes, actually. We tried, we talked about what was interesting and what wasn’t, and then we were able to choose. Also, you can go again or shoot it differently, or decide that it's better not to shoot in that part of Spain, but instead in Argentina. In that way, too, the film has a different relationship with writing.

What do you mean?
The process includes the footage material, but also the action of shooting, which would then inform the writing. Like: writing, shooting, editing, then writing, shooting, editing as a repetitive structure.

In that case, the sequences cannot be pre-planned, correct?
The only thing that was pre-planned was that I had a text [Sea Foam] that had a beginning and an end, and that I wanted detours.

What was your first encounter with the Pavese text?
When I first read it, I didn't know how to shoot it. So there was something about not knowing how, and there was this magnetic attraction to the text. I knew I wanted to make a film, but how?

Your regular actress Gabi Saidón plays Sappho, but she also composed the music for the film. How did this come about?
I'm very proud of that because it was a process that somehow got organically integrated in the film. Even though we love the music of Elizabeth Cotten, which we wanted to use at first, it sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. We wanted to move away from the idea that we could recreate Sappho’s music, and of course, Elizabeth Cotten was already a contemporary intervention, but she gave us the key: the guitar, the arpeggio and the pizzicato. It was weird to think that we should fade out the music, though. We needed it to be in fragments, even if it was a bit clumsy in the way that we have a few notes here, a few notes there, to convey the dialogue between two musical voices at the same time.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.

See also

Privacy Policy