SAN SEBASTIAN — Scenes Isabel Coixet’s romantic, historical drama “Elisa & Marcela” were sneak peeked at the San Sebastian Festival on Tuesday, along with further details,. The feature will be released by Netflix in 2019.
A Netflix original – produced by Barcelona-based Rodar y Rodar, A Coruña’s Zenit TV and Córdoba’s Lanube Películas in co-production with regional broadcasters TV3 in Catalonia and Galicia’s TVG – “Elisa & Marcela” portrays a lesbian relationship in late 19th century Galicia between Elisa Sánchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas, ending in the first-ever recorded marriage between two women.
The nearly five-minute sneak peek offered B&W scenes fragments selected by the director and edited by Bernat Aragonés (“The Bookshop”). The shown images exude a large tenderness hinting at a rigorous, richly-textured recreation of Galician life and manners at that time.
Marcela met Elisa in A Coruña in 1885 on their first day of school, founding a deep friendship between the two. Over time, Marcela’s parents became suspicious about the real nature of their friendship and sent her away to a boarding school. Years went by, but their feelings for each other only grew stronger. In the series, when Marcela returns to Galicia, she tries to have a happy life with Elisa. But the two face severe opposition and must come up with a longer-term solution.
The sneak peek also included a song by Portuguese musician Salvador Sobral, which will most likely be added to the final cut, “as an homage to the Portuguese country and culture that hosted and understood who Elisa and Marcela truly were,” Coixet said.
The screenplay is written by Coixet, based on personal research by the director and the research of Narciso San Gabriel, a scholar at A Coruña University who has devoted 15 years of his life to investigate the real facts of Elisa and Marcela’s story. Scandal follows the real story— it was rumored that one of them had poisoned a man.
Elisa and Marcela’s characters are played by young Spanish actresses Natalia de Molina, a two time Best Actress Goya winner for David Trueba’s “Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed” and Juan Miguel del Castillo’s “Food and Shelter,” and Greta Fernández, star of Isaki Lacuesta’s “The Next Skin.”
Coixet is well known for her focus on working with actors, allowing them large room for improvisation and creativity. According to Coixet, the film will show two love letters between Elisa and Marcela that presumably existed but have not been found. As a training exercise, the director asked actresses to write both letters. Coixet liked the idea so much that she decided to incorporate the letters in the film.
The soundtrack will be composed by Galician composer Sofía Oriana Infante. Cinematographer Jennifer Cox will lens the film; Coixet explained that they studied several films from the ’20s and ’30s – particularly Erich von Stroheim’s “Queen Kelly”— in order to investigate “the work of placing the light sources in the shot.”
“In ‘Queen Kelly,’” she went on, “there was a large and admirable sophistication and level of sexuality. In our feature there is passion, tenderness, love and real sexual drive. I think we’ve tackled the story from a very different point of view to ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’.”