LONDON — “Welcome!” a soldier shouts at B (Tim Robbins), Mambru (Benicio Del Toro) and interpreter Damir (Fedja Stukac) as their jeep approaches a military checkpoint. “Tell them not to wash the car: We don’t have any money. It’s a joke, tell them,” B urges Damir, who hesitates, then does it; the soldiers, 30 years younger than B or Mamru, who are grizzled vets, stare back, eyes glazed, light automatic weapons in hand.
The scene, typical in its comedy and its realism, is one of seven in the first teaser of Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s awaited “A Perfect Day,” to which Variety has had exclusive international access.
Joining Del Toro and Robbins, Oscar winners for “Traffic” and Mystic River,” respectively, are Olga Kurylenko (“To the Wonder,” “Quantum of Solace”), Melanie Thierry (“The Zero Theorem”) and Stukac (“In the Land of Blood and Honey”), who round out a topnotch ensemble cast.
Sold by WestEnd Films, “A Perfect Day” zeroes in on the disparate agendas of five conflict zone aid workers: Sophie (Thierry) still wants to help people, Mambru (Del Toro) just wants to go home, Katya (Kurylenko) once wanted Mambru; Damir (Stukan) wants the war to end; and B (Robbins) doesn’t know what he wants.
Then, together, they have to haul a dead body out of a well. But the simplest task, the film’s synopsis runs, becomes an impossible mission where the real enemy could be irrationality itself. “Humor, drama, emotion, routine, danger, hope: It all fits in a perfect day.”
One-minute long, the teaser will be screened to buyers by WestEnd Films, a London-based sales and film financing company, at next week’s European Film Market in Berlin. The teaser suggests that Leon’s “Day” will be much faster-paced, have more tension, than the director’s previous Spanish-language films — “Family,” “Barrio,” “Mondays in the Sun,” “Princesses,” “Amador” — all variants of social dramas.
“Fast, direct, rough, a race against the clock, this film has no time to waste. Like cars in the mud, like the trucks in ‘The Wages of Fear,’ like the aid workers on the ground,” Leon said, just before shooting last year.
But Leon’s hallmark humor — which won him a San Sebastian Golden Seashell for Javier Bardem-starrer “Fridays in the Sun” — has not deserted him, the teaser also underscores.
“The wittiest comments, comedy at its wildest and grittiest, its most desperate, often happens in the very midst of tragedy. Because there is no place on earth where it is more necessary,” Leon maintains.
“A Perfect Day” has pre-sold to TF1 in France, X Verleih in Germany, September Films in Benelux, Praesens in Switzerland, United King in Israel, ECS in the Middle East, Spentzos in Greece, Czech Republic’s Delta, VTI in former Yugoslavia, Malaysia’s Suraya and M-Net in South Africa. Universal is distributing the film in Spain.
Just as Isabel Coixet’s “Nobody Wants the Night” opens Berlin, “A Perfect Day” is shaping up as another big festival play out of Spain. Jaume Roures’ Barcelona-based Mediapro — the same company behind “Nobody Wants the Light,” plus Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris” — produces with Leon’s own shingle, Reposado.
“A Perfect Day” is in post-production.