Spanish comedy-horror director gives directing master-class at Marrakech
Cult Spanish filmmaker, Alex de la Iglesia (“Witching and Bitching”), is prepping two projects for 2015, one of which will be the first film he produces himself.
Attending the Marrakech Festival to give a directing master-class, Iglesia spoke to Variety about his recent projects, including documentary “Messi” which screened in Venice, and short “The Confession,” part of the Guillermo Arriaga-originated “Words with God.”
De la Iglesia also revealed details about the projects he aims to direct in 2015: “My Big Night” and “The Bar.”
Explored in distinct enclosed spaces – a TV studio and a bar – in which characters are forced into extreme but comical situations, they explore themes of deceit, betrayal and guilt, – which he said in Marrakech that he’s particularly interested in. He has already picked up on them in many of his films, including his “Words With God” short.
Both are co-written by Iglesia’s long-term co-scribe, Jorge Guerricaechevarría. Enrique Cerezo, who also backed “Witching and Bitching,” will produce “My Big Night.” De la Iglesia hopes to complete shooting between January and March 2015.
The pic is about a large-scale pre-recorded TV program of a lavish New Year’s Eve show, involving hundreds of people -which is actually being shot in September. The TV studio is a large building in the middle of nowhere, with a stark contrast between the frenetic, fake party atmosphere within the studio itself and the silent surroundings.
Pic’s main character is an extra on the show. Though he has to clap and smile throughout the recording, his life is in a mess. During the shoot, he receives a message asking him to urgently visit his sick mother. But, given he can’t leave, because of the show, the police bring his mother to the studio, triggering a new twist in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the fake party.
Iglesia says he aims is return to the style of 1960s madcap comedies in which anything can happen, in the tradition of Stanley Kramer’s 1963 epic, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
“There will be perfect chaos and perfect happiness, which will be liberating for the spectator. The spectator will be able to laugh at the impossible events and absolute farce, and by entering the spectacle will feel completely happy,” De la Iglesia predicted in Marrakech.
For his second project, “The Bar,” the helmer will switch to the thriller genre, while maintaining his characteristic caustic humor. He will shoot “The Bar” immediately after “My Big Night” and hopes to complete principal photography next Summer. This will be the first time he produces his own film. It revolves around a group of people locked inside a bar. Given its single core location, De la Iglesia says that it will work a bit like a stage play, “where tensions between the main characters grabs all the attention.”
The people in the bar are effectively imprisoned because a madman is shooting anyone who exits. Iglesia describes the assassin as a “strange, exterminating angel.” Little by little the people inside the bar begin to reveal their sins and guilt, thus returning to some of the helmer’s trademark interest in religion-related themes.
In both the Marrakech interview and master-class, De la Iglesia talked about his strong Catholic roots and the fact that religion is a constant element in his films, including his pics scheduled for 2015.
He agreed to direct a segment – “Confession” – in “Words with Gods” because he is a close friend of Guillermo Arriaga and wanted to make a film about Catholicism from an eccentric point of view. Instead of addressing religion from a “deep” and intense perspective, he wanted to use comedy.
For the master-class he also spoke about his interest in the figure of the sad clown, who must be sad in order for us to laugh. He then screened a clip from “Witching and Bitching” in which a gold spray-painted Christ figure holds up a pawn shop, taking his young son with him – creating an implicit parallel between Christ and the sad clown.
In “Confession,” a killer murders a man, but is shot in the process, catching a cab to escape. He wraps himself up in his black jacket to hide the wound, and is wearing a white collared shirt. The taxi driver mistakenly takes him for a priest and asks the killer to go to his house to say the last rites to his sick father. Desperate to escape, the killer agrees.
At the deathbed scene, both the killer and the father are dying, but in “Twilight Zone” style, as Iglesia puts it, the sick father begins to take on a Godlike, supernatural dimension and ends up by listening to the killer’s confession and forgiving his sins.
Regarding “Messi,” Iglesia is not a football fan. He lives in Madrid but isn’t interested in the intense rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, or between rival soccer’s tars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. However, he does believe soccer has become another kind of religion. This was the angle that most interested him. For the film, he adopted what he calls a Citizen Kane approach, in which we barely see Messi directly but try to understand the enigma of his personality through the statements made by others.
Iglesia is increasingly conscious of the religious dimension in his films. “When you make films you’re not really aware of why you made them. But when I look back I realize that there are certain common themes, including that of Catholicism,” he revealed.
Despite his cult filmmaker status, Iglesia remains relatively unknown in the U.S. and U.K.. His only previous U.S.-lensed pic was the 1997 Javier Bardem-starrer “Perdita Durango.” However, the helmer admits that he would like to shoot another U.S. pic because the higher budget would enable him to “play with bigger toys.”
But he’s also “happy to play in my own backyard” and is therefore content to continue developing his unique brand of grotesque-comedy-horror films in Spain.