One of Latin America’s highest-profile filmmakers, Pablo Trapero, will direct Martina Gusmán (“Lion’s Den”) and Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist”) in “La Quietud,” an intimate family drama turning on two sisters’ reencounter and attempt at closure on a common troubled past.
Edgar Ramírez (“Carlos”) plays the older sister’s husband; Graciela Borges (“Chronicle of a Lady,” “The Swamp”), one of Argentina’s grand dames, is the sisters’ mother; Joaquín Furriel (“The Bronze Garden”) has also joined the cast.
Going into production in the week of Nov. 20, and shooting on a country estate in the province of Buenos Aires, “La Quietud” is set up at Trapero and Gusmán’s Buenos Aires production house Matanza Cine. Headed by Melita Toscan du Plantier and Marie-Jeanne Pascal, Paris-based Macassar Productions co-produces out of France. Viacom-owned free-to-air network Telefe and Axel Kuschevatzky co-produce out of Argentina.
Trapero’s last two movies, “White Elephant” and “The Clan,” which won him a 2016 Venice Best Director award, marked a step-up in scale, budget, production values and production partners, as Trapero, always a crossover director mixing arthouse and mainstream elements, sought to make films lifting the lid on recent Argentine history which reached larger audiences in and outside Argentina.
With “La Quietud,” Trapero has taken advantage of a window of filming opportunity before he foreseeably makes his English-language debut with “Thin-Skinned Animal,” from Euro powerhouse Studiocanal and top British production player Working Title.
“La Quietud” is still set against the background of little-known – or discussed – recent Argentine history: Argentina’s bloody military dictatorship’s rampant expropriation of murdered detainees’ real estate. But, in a departure, it marks a return to the feminine world of “Lion’s Den” in a film where direction and actors’ performances are paramount.
The film sees Bejo’s character, Eugenia, return from Paris to the family’s rural estate, La Quietud, after the father is hospitalized following a stroke. There she reencounters her younger sister, Mia, (Gusmán) and their mother, whom she hasn’t seen in 15 years. Old rancors, resentment, still rankle between the siblings, but their love has survived the geographic distance and is bulwarked by their common trauma by a tragic past and a troubled relationship with their parents, Trapero and Gusmán explained.
While the far less outwardly successful younger sister is “dysfunctional, fragmented” and desperate for her sister and mother’s love, the sisters’ are also united by “the search for love and a sense of identity,” Gusmán added.
One source of suspense in the narrative is the story’s context of a court-case over ownership of La Quietud, Trapero said.
“The film’s central theme is two sisters’ necessity of closure on the past, so that they can advance towards a sense of their own identity,” Trapero told Variety.
But Trapero’s films also resonate as metaphors for Argentina – and many other countries – at large. The director said that the film also suggests, in its context, “how the parents’ past, and the shadowy history of Argentina related to the years of dictatorship, which was a big real-estate business, ends up affecting the women in the present.”
“This is a film that I’ve wanted to make for years. When I was shooting ‘Carancho,’ ‘White Elephant,’ ‘The Clan,’ I always had the sensation of wanting to make something more intimate, where the narrative center is more the actors, not so much the production style these bigger films demanded,” Trapero added.
As he stepped up in scale, “I sometimes felt I’d have liked to shoot another take, to try this or that.” “La Quietud’s” “production rhythm will be marked by the story and the way we’re going to shoot,” he added.
Trapero anticipated that the tone of the film will be “slightly surreal, slightly Luis Buñuel, absurdist, with a lot of dark humor. Like in ‘The Exterminating Angel, it’s beautiful countryside around the family house, but nobody’s capable of opening a door to go outside,” he said, citing other Buñuel titles such as “El,” “Belle de Jour” and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” as references.
Diego Dussuel, d.p. on Laurent Cantet’s “Return to Ithaca.” will serve as cinematographer.
Telefe and ex-Telefe exec Kuschevatzky, now an independent producer, have been a power behind most high-profile recent Argentine cinema, helping to drive a clutch of Argentine titles every year to blockbuster, or at least substantial, box office in Argentina.
Macassar Productions credits include Cannes’ 2015 Fipresci winner “Masaan,” Fatih Akin’s “In the Fade” and Benoit Jacquot’s “Eva,” with Isabelle Huppert and Gaspard Ulliel.
Trapero is represented by CAA’s David Kopple, Bejo by the United Talent Agency, Gusmán by Javier Furgang in Spain and Argentina’s Pedro Rosón.