The maker of Truman He has been writing bittersweet comedies and dramas with sparks of humor for more than twenty years. It began with a craft introduction to the indie American, Hotel room, and was establishing his position as a filmmaker through Krámpack Y In the city, a portrait of urban frustrations. His next productions, Fiction Y YOU, they took more risks and reaped less commercial impact. The choral stories of A gun in each hand contributed to repositioning him on the map and Truman assumed his consecration as a mature filmmaker.
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His new movie, Sentimental, part of his own play: The neighbors above. A couple in crisis begins to argue because she has invited the couple who live upstairs to dinner, apparently very noisy in their intimate relationships. Javier Cámara plays the acid husband, rather bitter, who doesn’t really want to be the host. Griselda Siciliani plays the wife who wants to save the evening. And the surprising guests, to whom Belén Cuesta and Alberto San Juan put face and body, take the conflict far beyond what could be expected.
Gay has opted to follow the general scheme of the theatrical productions of the text, which he took to the stages of Barcelona and Madrid. Sentimental is a short comedy, with a single space and continuous time, absolutely based on the dialogues and the interpretations of part of the quartet. The dislocations in the ways of living life and sexuality become the center of a comic bet that seeks sustained discomfort and punctuated by outbursts of perplexed laughter. Behind all this, wounds and frustrations appear, without dissimulation.
The premiere of the film breaks a long streak of the director, who had been releasing a film every three years for most of his career. This time, five have passed. In the midst of them, there was not exactly a creative break: the representations of The neighbors above Y filming the tv series Felix.
He reconnects with the cinema but does so through the adaptation of a play, something that has already happened several times in his filmography, although never with his own material.
In this case, I must say that I wrote the text without being very clear about what I was going to do with it. When the project of Truman was assembling and defining, I thought it was better to take The neighbors above to the stage, because he had wanted to direct dramaturgy for a long time. Despite that, I was left with the bug of making a film, especially because it was a text very inspired by the American comedy by Ernst Lubitsch, by Howard Hawks …
Mentions references of classic Hollywood, but Sentimental it is being compared more with films like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or A wild god, which also start from the theater, are located in small spaces and are based on very continuous dialogues.
I know, I know. I wrote the text inspired by this kind of acid and fast comedies of the thirties. But yes, there are also proposals like the ones you have mentioned, which have forged a certain tradition of camera films, with few characters talking or arguing in a closed space. Álex de la Iglesia did something similar with Perfect strangers. It is almost like a subgenre.
How is the shooting of this “camera film” planned? Were you ever tempted to incorporate something outside of that night, of that floor and its landing?
The truth is that I always felt that it would transform into something else if I made these kinds of changes. And he could have done it, it is something perfectly legal. In Krámpack I did a very free adaptation of Jordi Sánchez’s play, for example. In this case, he believed that grace was continuous and rapid time, pure dialogue. Breaking it with sequences located off the floor, with temporal ellipsis, would have transformed it into something else. A shoot like this was not very complicated to carry out. So, once we could find a date with Javier Cámara, we decided to do it.
Sentimental is about the strange night of a couple who welcome neighbors who have noisy sex into their home. Was it really based on a real experience?
Yes, the trigger for everything was that my neighbor started messing her up and that generated a little debate at home. My children were younger and curious debates arose about why she screamed that way. From there came a writing that I did not want to control much. Although I don’t usually write without knowing exactly what I’m doing, this time I got carried away. I think you have to allow yourself to surprise yourself when you write a type of dialogue and a comedy like this. I ripped through that anecdote, and everything else was already my harvest.
Among his creations is Salva: we all have a friend or acquaintance like him, who prides himself on being direct and sincere, but comes to generate a lot of discomfort. Alberto San Juan interprets it by mixing the innocent and the perverse …
That was the idea. There are people who are like that, people who tell you things with a cruelty that leaves you perplexed. They speak from a place that seems naive and naive, but they hurt you. And Alberto has that capacity as a comedian that, with a little bit, he takes comedy out of everything.
The viewer can be entrusted to this character because he is a troll that strains the situation until the masks of the socially correct fall. Did you want to stimulate something cruel in the viewer, who wanted everything to burst to laugh with the result?
Yes, I wanted to work that type of comedy that is based on surprise and perplexity, but also on the outbreak of conflict … and the discomfort of having to hide. For that, neighbors are an ideal bond: at first, you let things happen to avoid conflicts … With a friend it is different, because if he does something that bothers you, you can tell him the first or second time. Most of the work works in this uncomfortable climate.
Since In the city He is haunted by a certain label of ‘portrait painter of a generation’. In A gun in each hand criticized the masculinities of that generation. In your works, do you focus on specific characters and situations or do you think more about projecting a vision of the world?
A bit of everything. Sometimes you can observe a character and a conflict very closely, but then there has to be an overview, a little more from above, of thinking about what you are drawing and what you are projecting. For my part, I always portray a type of characters with whom the protagonist can empathize and can identify, because he is more or less close to them, because they are not zombies or serial killers. My films are populated with what normal people would be.
The character of Javier Cámara could have a generational component: it seems that now mismanaged, resentful frustrations abound, very visible because they are spread by social networks.
We have lived through this time and I would not know how to compare it with others, but it seems to me that we live so fast that we accumulate emotional dirty clothes without time to wash them. From time to time, we open the trunk and see that everything is dirty. I think there is a daily rhythm that does not even allow you to have time to feel the things you feel. And they accumulate, be it reproaches or something else. I think this increasing speed has something to do with social networks, where it seems that every day the world is ending.
All the characters in the film have some very objectionable facet, like everyone else, but it seems that he wants to focus on these little miseries. The bottom of Sentimental is it acidic?
Yes, quite a lot. At the San Sebastián festival, someone ironically said to me: “How did you do a comedy? You don’t even believe it!” Yes, there is a part of the conflict that is harsh and bitter. Things work out like that for me, mixing genres. Truman It wasn’t entirely a drama, because I couldn’t help but let the humor soak into her. And this is not a kind and light comedy, but it has a bad host.
In any case, it does not turn the Camera character into a talking target. It becomes unpleasant, but allows wounds to show through and even the possibility of change to be staged …
Yes, because after the battle, after the conflict, something comes up. And that something does not have to be negative. Positive things can also emerge from conflicts, things that regenerate. I will not say that the end includes hope, because I do not like this word very much, but I do raise this idea of trying to fight a little for relationships. Every day we change mobile phones, cars, everything. It seems that the pairs disassemble with great ease. And I include that gesture of trying to persevere a little with the links.
If you stop and try to look at your life in perspective at that age similar to that of the hurt host of SentimentalHow do you rate your career? Any particular frustration?
Many, like everyone else. But I began to study cinema as I could when I was twenty years old and I never imagined that I could make the films that I have made. In this aspect, I am happy. I think it is a privilege to continue working in such a difficult profession. I can not complain.
He has commented that you have another film in perspective. How is this very uncertain period presented?
Well I do not know. In the cinema and in any other sphere, we are all the same: we don’t know whether to stop or not to stop. But there is a movie that I have been thinking about for a long time, Stories not to tell. Episodic, like A gun in each hand, but a little different. The idea is to shoot it from February or March. We will see.
In an interview he said: “The less you talk to the neighbors, the better.” Even if the play and the movie bring you joy, will you continue to hold that position?
Well, I answered this interview in the supermarket while I was shopping with my daughter, and this comment that was half joking haunts me on the Internet. What I wanted to say is that with the neighbors you have to deal with respect and consideration, but that perhaps it is advisable to maintain a certain distance. If you talk a lot, as in the movie, you may find yourself in for a surprise.
The fact that he does not use social networks can also be understood in this line of not exposing himself too much.
Yes, but it is not something that is born from a great reflection. I just like the anonymity. And I don’t know what pleasure there is in telling yourself in the media.
And in telling yourself through your characters? Are any of the protagonists of Sentimental do they have to see you?
The fireman, the fireman. Readers will understand when they see the movie.