×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Alvaro Brechner on ‘A Twelve-Year Night,’ Exploring the Human Condition

In his 2009 debut “Bad Day to Go Fishing” and 2014’s “Mr. Kaplan,” both Uruguay Oscar submissions, Alvaro Brechner, Uruguayan but Madrid-based, has charted characters’ battle for dignity. Captured here in a trailer, “La noche de 12 años” (A Twelve-Year Night) – which world premieres in Venice Horizons, plays San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos – retains the focus, but delivers a dramatically new context: the true-life-inspired 12-year incarceration in solitary confinement from 1972 of Jose “Pepe” Mujica, under Uruguay’s military dictatorship. Mujica went on to become an exemplary president of Uruguay, never sought revenge on his captors. A survival drama and an existentialist thriller, “A Twelve-Year Night” is a paean to the resilience of the human spirit.

“A 12-Year Night” is inspired by an interview-memoir written by Mujica’s fellow prisoners, Mauricio Rosencof and Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro. What was the key to the adaptation?
These men lived in total isolation. They couldn’t tell the difference between night and day or what month it was, aside from the heat or cold of night and day, summer and winter. For me, that constant mental confusion was the most important thing to transmit. We started from that source, but our work entailed almost four years of investigation and interviews.

What was your key aim when making the film?
My intention was to show the mental universe of people who were robbed of everything that makes them human, and everything they do to maintain themselves as human beings.

What saved them?
I asked them the same question. Mujica told me: “How do we know what we are capable of if we’re not placed in the worst circumstances?” I asked him what can be done to endure such a situation and he told me that put through that extreme situation, man tries to survive however he can. They had immense mental fortitude with which they could find relief and entertainment through thought, the only space which nobody but them could breach.

There’s something very stoic that allowed them salvation; something that also characterized Mujica’s presidential tenure. He told me one day: “I would not be who I am if it wasn’t for that time I spent being myself.”

That need to find the essential, I believe, was what helped them survive. And not only survive, but the way in which they did it — with no thought of vengeance.

What visual approach did you take to stress this intimate survival tale?
For me, it was essential that the visuals were “dirty,” that they came from the gut. In the end it is a difficult film, but the violence is buried. There’s no aesthetic recreation of violence. Here, it’s about depicting another kind of darkness. I wanted the camera to seem as confused as the characters. The camera is in a privileged place, but doesn’t know what’s going to happen.

What were main difficulties in representing total isolation?

It was less important to me to describe how those years were than, within the dramatic limits of cinematography, get as close as possible to the experiential. I met with psychologists and physiologists, to investigate life in isolation— which still exists. The problem is when our senses start to fail and you don’t have the horizon as a reference. The brain starts to unravel.

It’s not a prison movie…

No, it’s not. Two things are always present in a prison movie: the intent of escape; the recreation of a micro-society within the penitentiary. None of this happens here. It’s a film about descent into the depths of inner hell.

How should a viewer approach the film?
With the desire to go on a journey, not to be a tourist. It’s a film about the miracle of being human. As a viewer and a director, for me the only worthwhile films are those that try to explore the human condition.

More Film

  • 'Who Will Write Our History' Review:

    Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our History'

    The most famous diarist of the Holocaust, Anne Frank, began to write down the drama of her daily life with no ulterior motive (apart from her teenage ambition to write fiction). But in March 1944, the year before she died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she heard a radio broadcast by a member of the [...]

  • Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer

    Film News Roundup: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Trailer Sets Sony Pictures Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” sets a studio record, Chris Meledandri and Glenn Close are honored, an art-house streaming service is unveiled, and “Cliffs of Freedom” gets a release. TRAILER STATS Related Film Review: 'One Nation, One King' 'A Twelve-Year Night,' Uruguay's Oscar Candidate, Wins Top Prize in Cairo The first [...]

  • Frank Grillo Hell on the Border

    Frank Grillo to Star in the Thriller 'Hell on the Border'

    Frank Grillo is set to star in the action-thriller “Hell on the Border” with Wes Miller directing. Miller also penned the script with Curtis Nichouls, Henry Penzi, and Sasha Yelaun producing. Ron Perlman is also on board to co-star. Related Film Review: 'One Nation, One King' 'A Twelve-Year Night,' Uruguay's Oscar Candidate, Wins Top Prize [...]

  • Lee Unkrich Variety Oscars Nominees Lunch

    'Toy Story 3,' 'Coco' Director Lee Unkrich to Exit Pixar After 25 Years

    Lee Unkrich, who won Academy Awards for “Toy Story 3” and “Coco,” is departing Pixar Animation Studios after 25 years to spend more time with his family. Unkrich joined Pixar in 1994 after working as an assistant editor in television on “Silk Stalkings” and “Renegade.” He served as editor on Pixar’s first feature, 1995’s “Toy [...]

  • Velvet Buzzsaw trailer

    Netflix Original Movies: What to Look Forward To in 2019

    Following the biggest fourth-quarter worldwide subscriber gain ever and some controversy around increased prices in the U.S., Netflix looks to keep its momentum going into 2019. From Jan. 18 through March, the streaming site will release 10 original films, including action-packed thrillers, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, quirky comedies, inspirational dramas, an artistic horror movie and a viral [...]

  • Third 'Fantastic Beasts' Production Start Pushed

    Third 'Fantastic Beasts' Production Start Pushed Back Several Months

    Warner Bros. is pushing back the production start date of its third “Fantastic Beasts” movie several months from July to the late fall, a spokesperson said Friday. Actors have been notified about the change in dates. The untitled third “Fantastic Beasts” movie has not yet set a release date. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find [...]

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. Related Film Review: 'One Nation, One King' [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content