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Lucia Puenzo Unveils ‘Impactados,’ Courts Mariana Di Girolamo, Marcelo Alonso (EXCLUSIVE)

BUENOS AIRES  — Argentina’s Lucía Puenzo, one of Latin America’s most sought-after writer-directors, is in talks with Mariana di Girolamo, star of Pablo Larraín’s “Ema,” and Marcelo Alonso (“Neruda,” “The Club,” “Araña”) for both to star in feature “Impactados.”

Both actors have expressed their interest in appearing in the film, said Puenzo, which she will pitch to potential co-producers at Ventana Sur Proyecta Forum on Dec. 4.

There, it bids fare to be one of the pitching session’s highlights given its pedigree production  – Argentina’s Historias Cinematográficas, the Puenzo family production house led by Academy Award-winning Luis Puenzo, Juan de Dios Larraín at Chile’s Fabula and Stéphane Parthenay at France’s Pyramide Productions – and Puenzo’s own caché as one of Latin America’s very few film directors whose films can open theatrically to significant box office outside Latin America.

Di Girolamo and Alonso played in the acclaimed Fabula-Fremantle-produced and Puenzo showrun TV series “La Jauría.” Neither have signed contracts, Puenzo insisted. The idea of casting two Chilean actors as stars in an Argentine movie is viewed by her as a move towards the creation of a regional cinema.

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That forms part of a bigger picture, Puenzo told Variety, talking about “La Jauría,” “a movement that’s occurring in culture, cinema. series, literature and the arts in general, of a greater relation between Latin American countries.” “In series, it’s already rare for the heads of teams, creative heads and cast to all come from just one country. Increasingly, series are conceived regionally,”  she added.

All of which does not mean that “Impactados” will lose any of its auteurist force. The project is very obviously a Lucía Puenzo film, a drama about abnormal people, and what they say about human nature. In the run-up to the Proyecta presentation, Puenzo fielded questions from Variety about her new film project, one of the attractions of 2019’s Ventana Sur:

Your films and series quite often turn on statistically singular or extreme characters or ask what they say about hunan nature….

A glance at “XXY,” “The Fish Child,” “Cromo” and “Wakolda” is enough to understand how much “Los impactados “is related to my previous films: the ethical limits of medicine and science, normality (or more accurately: abnormality and amorality) together with the singularity of bodies, sexuality, gender fluidity, the construction of worlds diverging from realism are present in all of my films.

Can Ada in “Los Impactados” function as a metaphor for people who’ve received a significant shock – in other words, most of the world?

Amongst the reduced group of doctors, scientists, meteorologists, and technical engineers dedicated to understanding the physical and psychological consequences provoked by lightning strike, several sustain that lightning strike can reconfigure a person’s synaptic system. It disarrays internal circuits, altering cellular behavior. If we look at lightning strike as a detonation that pulverizes a person’s body and psyche, erasing former synaptic pathways, we can also regard the misfortune under an inverted charge: many people spend their life looking for an opportunity  to be reconfigured.

Few details have beben given about how “Los Impactados” plays out, but can the attraction felt by now-fragile lightning victims for a “magnetic” doctor who can cure their ills admit some kind of political reading?

We are electrical beings: the brain, the lungs and our cellular system works through electrical impulses. It is little known that there are people addicted to electricity. Many people stricken by lightning develop electrophilic impulses.  There is something common to every lightning strike: The rupture of small capillaries under the skin caused by the lightning current leaves skin burns known as Lichtenberg figures. These branched scars trace the discharge’s pathway as it runs through the body.  From then onwards her attempts at resuming life from where she left it fail one after the other. Ada is unable to recognize herself beyond the physical aspect that has transformed her into a woman of a strange and unsettling beauty, although she feels a monster. Several strange symptoms which she is unable to control nor acknowledge push her toward isolation from her loved ones. My fascination with this world of los impactados was born from this idea of someone being able to reinvent him or herself… and this, I agree, can be understood  as a political statement.

The film appears to be a psychological thriller, but is that correct?

You’re right. After Ada is struck by lightning, when she wakes up after five weeks of medically induced coma, she is permanently changed. The visible sequels aren’t half of what’s troubling her…. nor that she has been physical and and psychologically reconfigured. Or the strange scar the doctors refer to as the Lichtenberg figures, tracing the lightning’s electrical discharge when it burned a path through her body from head to toes. Nor the fact that the discharge zapped the melamine in her skin and hair, turned to white. She is more troubled by a series of strange symptoms she can neither explain nor control: visual and auditory hallucinations, electrical discharges and temporal confusion end up isolating her from her life as she knew it. She finds a sense of belonging in a group of lightning strike survivors, who despite being a heterogeneous bunch, end up feeling like her new family. There she meets Juan, a doctor both magnetic and contradictory in equal measures, dedicated to the study of keraunopathologies and to discovering the specific talent conferred to each of them by lightning.

How do you imagine the style or styles of the film?

“Los Impactados” will be a genre film with supernatural elements set in a realistic tone. My first references are the films of Lynch, Ozon, Assayas, Lanthimos, Haeneke and Claire Denis. It never becomes clear whether Ada’s hallucinations respond exclusively to post-traumatic stress such as suffered by people recovering from an emotional crisis, or whether these strange symptoms she can’t actually explain but will learn to accept -and even manipulate- are real. In “Personal Shopper “(Assayas), for example, fantastic irruptions within a contemporary and realistic frame render a mysterious movie both risky and unclassifiable.  Lynch’s characters provide another reference for her state of an altered perception of the world. I’ve always been attracted by the complex relationship between memory, reality and fiction in the films of David Lynch. Similarly eerie is the relationship established between Lanthimos and Claire Denis’s characters and sex. “The Pianist” and “Trouble Every Day” are stylistic references of how I imagine sex, nudity and corporality in “Los Impactados.” Of an intimate tone, the appeal of this project remains for me in its characters and in the detonation produced in Ada by the accident.

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