CANNES — Spain’s Oliver Laxe returns to Cannes for the third time with“Fire Will Come” (O Que Arde), competing in Un Certain Regard— the first time a Galician-language film is selected for Cannes.
He has pedigree. His first time round, in 2010, Laxe snagged a Fipresci nod for his Directors’ Fortnight title “You All Are Captains”. His second out, he won the Grand Prize at the 2016 Critics’ Week with “Mimosas”.
Shot in the village of the director’s grandparents, the film follows Amador, who returns to his mother’s house after having been accused of and jailed for arson. Amador is just starting to settle into a peaceful life until a fire breaks out nearby.
Sold by Paris’ Pyramide International, “Fire Will Come” is a co-production of Galicia’s Miramemira, France’s 4 A 4 Productions, the Basque Country’s Kowalski Films and Luxembourg’s Tarantula.
Mauro Herce serves as d.p. The initial sequence— one which Laxe has been wanting to shoot for years—is memorable: a legion of colossal eucalyptus trees felled in the night by an initially unseen force. Variety talked to Laxe.
There’s a mix of more classic elements— a story in acts, evoking Ulysses’ return to Ithaca— and others more avant-garde or original facets. But would you agree?
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This was certainly what we were looking for. And it’s one of the things I’m happiest about in the film. Having made it in Spain, where cinema is so polarized between the classic and commercial. It’s not just me, many are striving for this. I’m looking to make movies about essential things— as they say in France, ‘writing ‘à l’os’ (to the bone)— but with the intention of reaching a wide audience, of serving the community. On the other hand, even though it seems the opposite, avant-garde is often everything but freedom. It’s a comfort zone, escapism for many creators.
So what defines the type of film that you make?
I don’t want to be a creator, I want to serve. I always say the same thing: I want to serve the viewer—but what’s the best way to do this? Well, being ambiguous. We have a need for clarity (the great stories, common places). But to “reveal” something you need to “cover it with two veils”.
Films must transcend their authors; if they remain at the level of the directors then we’re losing the best of cinema.
I’m happy, because I think this is a film which is classic and avant-garde at the same time, a peaceful co-existence between the two. Films used to be made this way… by our masters.
“Fire Will Come” echoes Tarkovsky in its fog scenes…
Well, Russia and Galicia have similar climates, we’re on the peripheries of Europe, they are both ‘finis terrae.” Tarkovsky helped me feel secure in the relationship between the artistic and the sacred. Film has a mystery. You come out of it transformed, and you realize there’s something hidden, with different rules…
What’s happening in Galicia? There’s an incredible and burgeoning generation of filmmakers. You, your brother Felipe, Alberto Gracia, Lois Patiño, Eloy Enciso, Xacio Baños, Álvaro Gago….
Well, we aren’t more sensitive here than anywhere else. But we’ve freed ourselves if complexes. And there’s more camaraderie. We’ve set our egos aside. We help one another out, all of us are making very different films. There’s no competition… but we have high expectations for one another.
But what factors help explain this generation?
The abundance of festivals in Galicia. This creates an audience, and it creates professionals. In fact, many directors direct those festivals. We even have a distributor now, with Numax. And government grants to creatives, which don’t go through producers. This is the large problem in Spain, there’s no tradition of producers at the service of films. Another positive thing is that we’re far away… that’s healthy. And we have other references; we often look to Portugal which, next to Romania, has the best European directors.
Could you reveal something from your fourth film?
It’s going to be my most genre piece, between a psychedelic road-movie and survival thriller. It’s about a group of punks and ravers looking for a party in Morocco. It will be filmed between Europe, Morocco and Mauritania. For the moment, it’s produced by 4A4 (France) and the working title is “After”. It’s a pre-apocalyptic “Mad Max” meets “Easy Rider” and “Stalker.”