Movistar +, Studiocanal, Bambu’s ‘Instinto’: Pushing the Envelope on Sexuality, Luxury

‘Instinto’ Director Carlos Sedes Drills Down
Manuel Fernandez-Valdes/Movistar +

CANNES — A Movistar + Original Series co-produced with and sold by Studiocanal, “Instinto” begins with deep breathing.

It is in fact Marco Mur (Mario Casas), jogging down an empty near-dawn Madrid street. But it could as easily be his having sex. He pleasures himself in the shower, glances at a sketch – maybe his – of a naked woman, then heads to his shrink.

That night he’s off to an “Eyes Wide Shut”-style S & M club, has a threesome with two masked girls. By day, Marco is an entrepreneur and owner of Alva, a high-tech industrial engineering company whose banner first product is Ciclon, a luxury automobile converting wind-power into energy. But even his inventions – there’s a high-speed train in the pipeline – seem, symbolically, a way of escape.

Where did you get the idea for Ciclon? an Arab sheik and potential investor asks at its presentation

“In a dream in childhood,” Marco answers.

Only when Marco confronts what happened to him in childhood, Ep. 1 suggests, will he be free to take on family.

Acquired by Amazon for Latin America), and the latest from writing powerhouse Ramón Campos, Teresa Fernández Valdés and Gemma R. Niera at Madrid’s Bambú Producciones (“Grand Hotel,” “Velvet,” “Cable Girls”), “Instinto” breaks some ground in at least three ways. In industrial terms, it marks the first co-production between Movistar + and Studiocanal, which owns 33% of Bambu, two of the biggest and most ambitious players on Europe’s new high-end drama scene, sharing a passion for upscale stories of substance.

In a building hallmark of new Spanish scripted – think “Elite,” and Alex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato’s “La casa de papel” and especially “The Pier” –  it is graced by young, buff actors  – though late twenties, not “Elite’s” teens – and, as in many ways an open audience series, pushes the envelope on sexuality.

“It’s a series which addresses without restrictions controversial issues (sex, infidelity),” Fernández-Valdés said at “Instinto’s” world premiere last month, at the Malaga Festival.

“Bold, mysterious, cast as a thriller,” “Instinto” aims to talk about “passions, obsessions, breaking established limits. And also love, though perhaps a mistaken one,” she added.

Also, as befits Bambú, a production house which has reshaped women’s melodrama for a modern TV age, its women characters are “complex, ambitious and free.”

The later stretches of Ep. 1 are seen from the POV of industrial engineer – and possible industrial spy – Eva (Silvia Alonso), a Stanford U alum, who, turned on by Marco, follows him to his night club. “Instinto” receives an Market Screening at MipTV on April 8. Variety talked to director Carlos Sedes in its run-up.

Could “Instinto” be called an erotic Freudian mystery-thriller? Even in Ep. 1, there are hints that Marco is so driven, such a high over-achiever, and so cold to a sense of family and friendship because of his mother….Could you comment?  

Yes it could be called that. Marco is a character who made the decision not to love; not to feel so as not to be hurt. That is what we try to demonstrate with his personality, a character still succeeding in that aim, he is alone. He doesn’t let anyone in because of something that happened in his past.

You push the envelope on sexuality. One influence on the series is obviously “Eyes Wide Shut.” But “Instinto” is far less coy in its private club scenes. Do you see Spanish drama’s sexual frankness, about not just men but women, as one of its competitive assets?  

Of course. We’re in 2019 and that should be recognized – bot in the fantasy of the club, the atmosphere, the bodies and the fact that Marco very much treats sex like sport.

Your direction in “Instinto’s” early stretches seeks, I feel to establish Marco’s psychological state. Even in the opening scene, where he’s jogging down a Madrid boulevard, you capture hm from multiple angles where, though he’s near jogging, he hardly advances in frame. Here is a man of large energies but caught in psychological stasis, you seem to be saying.  

Yes. A man who, through sport or sex, finds a certain calm; a man who constantly needs to calm anxiety in that physical way; a man apparently sure of himself; a lost man or maybe actually a child.

In Ep. 1, you invent an erotic cliffhanger. Eva, getting into Marco’s club, is required by the house to take off of her clothes. Which she does. Whether this is her driven by her desire for Marco, or the masoschism of someone who’s just applied for a top job at Alva is a moot question. Could you comment?

For me it is the discovery of another way of living, “Marco’s” way. Are we capable of taking that step? Or do we just like it to happen in our mind as a fantasy. Who are we really? How many are our obsessions?

Via its plush, high-gloss look, near fairy-tale luxury settings but sexuality, you appear to be positioning “Instinto” as an edgier mass appeal drama-thriller, somewhere between what used to be free-to-air and cable. But would you agree?  

Yes, a story with a background that could reach out to many people. With pace, and where you want to know what’s wrong with Marco. In some ways cable, in others free-to-air.