After shooting the first two films — “The Soul of the Bone” and “Drifters” — of his “Trilogy on Solitude,” Cao Guimaraes decided to team up with fellow director Marcelo Gomes for the project’s third and final installment. “The Man of the Crowd,” loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s1840 short story of the same name, explores the nature of loneliness. The filmmakers and producer Joao Junior spoke with Variety via email about their new movie, which premiered at October’s Rio Festival and has gone on to become of the highest-profile Brazilian films abroad, screening in Berlin’s Panorama last month. It now plays Guadalajara’s Ibero-American Competition, which features many of the best Latin American titles of the last year. Variety interviewed the film’s makers just before its world premiere.
Tell us about your new film “The Man of the Crowd.”
Guimaraes: “The Soul of the Bone” was about the universe of a hermit, where isolation in time and space is a determining component of a solitary existence. While “Drifters” was a documentary film about the universe of people whose essential characteristic, unlike hermits, is constant displacement. For this third project, Marcelo Gomes and I decided to mix documentary with fiction, based on one of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories called “The Man of the Crowd,” which portrays a fictitious character who can never be alone, following crowds of people without ever being able to relate to them. It is loneliness in the multiplicity.
What does the movie suggest about the nature of human relationships in modern society?
Gomes: The image of the “man of the crowd” is anachronistic for today’s time. Urban cities have many frictions that are inherent to them and these frictions have changed a lot in relation to the time when Poe wrote his short story. Today’s loneliness is more industrial than “handmade,” as it used to be. Now it is more virtual and technological. Still, we did not want to lose this character that hides behind the crowd and we decided, in some way, to modernize the dilemma of solitude through the character Margo. Nothing better than bringing to the film both kinds of loneliness — Juvenal’s “analogic” one and Margo’s “digital” one — and promote a dialogue between them.
What was it like collaborating on this film, considering your distinct filmmaking styles and different genre specialties?
Gomes: I met Cao in 2003 in Belo Horizonte, when I saw the first cut of his short film “From the Window of My Room.” Later on he showed me “The Soul of the Bone.” I was fascinated with the plasticity of his work and we started to talk about cinema. Cao, on his side, was very impressed with the actors’ work on my first film, “Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures.” Ever since then we had the desire to collaborate on a project. This film relates to my previous films since it is also a character-driven drama. It has the complete sonority image, and visuals composed for those characters. It is not a cinema of cause and effect, but of emotional experience. In terms of texture, it is different than my previous films, but the pleasure of making cinema is very present here. For Cao and myself, this was a chance of exercising creativity with lots of freedom.
What are some challenges you face as Brazilian filmmakers?
Guimaraes: The biggest challenge is to make good films, preserving integrity and freedom of expression of the author and the work. For this reason we choose low-budget films, which generate lower financial expectation about the work. Another challenge is how to show our films on the cinema circuit or in other words, how to distribute them. The pressure of high-budget film producers to control exhibition in theaters is immense, leaving little room for more independent films like ours.
Gomes: As Brazilian filmmakers, we have the specific challenge of finding ways to reflect about the complexity, ambiguity and contradictions of a big and diverse country such as ours. And at the same time to find innovative ways to tell stories and become chroniclers of our time.
What’s the key element in funding: international TV sales, domestic distribution, overseas distribution, or something else altogether?
Junior: The financing model for independent films in Brazil is based on direct government incentives. That was the case for “The Man of the Crowd.” TV pre-sales or advances by local distributors occasionally complete the production budget, but they are not the key financial source.
With the advent of VOD, do you think that movie-going is now a rarity?
Junior: Analyzing Brazilian reality, I consider there are still plenty of moviegoers who prefer going to movie theaters, either for art films or other kind of films. In addition to that, there is a healthy art-house cinema circuit in most major cities of Brazil with a very loyal audience.
Nevertheless, there is an increasing group of consumers used to watching films in the comfort of their home — either on VOD or piracy — which is also very extended in our market. High prices for movie tickets in shopping centers and urban commuting difficulties in our big cities have contributed to keep these costumers away from the theaters. Added to that you have to consider that very similar films, or even the same one, most of the time occupy all the theaters simultaneously, therefore leaving few options for moviegoers other than staying at home to watch what they prefer.