Pretty well from when he started out in 2002, melding fiction, recreation and direct reportage in films that won him two San Sebastián Golden Shells but bamboozled more mainstream critics, Spain’s Isaki Lacuesta has maintained that he wanted to make larger audience movies.
With his tenth feature, Berlin competition player “One Year, One Night,” taking in the 2015 Bataclan Paris terrorist attack, he finally has his chance.
Produced by Lacuesta’s label La Termita Films and Spain’s Bambu Producciones, the company behind milestone Spanish TV shows “Grand Hotel,” “Velvet” and “Cable Girls,” “One Year, One Night” cost six times the budget of Lacuesta’s most expensive film before that, the director says.
It stars Argentina’s Nahuel Pérez (“BPM (Beats Per Minute)”) and Noémie Merlant (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”), two of the most admired young actors currently working in France, and it’s backed by the distribution and sales muscle of Studiocanal, which took a minority stake in Bambu in 2016.
“I’ve never tried to make films of a size whose budget I didn’t have,” says Lacuesta. In the case of “One Year, One Night,” however, his budget allowed him to shoot the tremendously complex evacuation of the Bataclan nightclub.
In other ways, however, the film remains very much of a piece with Lacuesta’s work to date. What sets Lacuesta apart, suggests Bambu’s Ramón Campos, is “his love of his characters, their voices.”
“I remember [Berlin Fest artistic director] Carlos Chatrian once saying that my films have a strong sense of empathy towards their characters, which exploring the depiction of memory,” Lacuesta agrees.
One key to the film, Lacuesta says, is its title. The film is inspired in large part by “Peace, Love and Heavy Metal,” written by Ramon González and depicting how he and his girlfriend Paula, both survivors of the attack, attempt to close the wounds of its psychological trauma.
“One Year, One Night” is a love story which plays like a sequel to a movie about the attack. The only thing which Lacuesta baulks at in this description is describing Ramón and Celine as “survivors.” “They don’t want to survive. They want to live.”
Céline attempts to move on, returning to her old job at a youth hostel. Ramón, in contrast, just can’t let go of the past. His obsessions crowd Céline out of his life.
The attack itself is depicted in sudden jolting shards of memory, says Lacuesta. “The film captures the multitude details, moments, experiences which it would have been impossible to write if you hadn’t actually lived them.”
What was remarkable, he adds, was that when talking to Ramón and Paula, not only their memories of the attack differed, but that at times they were also clearly inaccurate, contrasted with reality. Both remember, for example, how they walked up straight stairs to escape to the club’s fourth floor. In reality, they used a winding staircase.
The terrorist attack was shot decorously. But Lacuesta didn’t want to avoid it all together. That would have been “cowardice,” he argues.
A Spaniard, he feels no need to apologise for having made a film about arguably the ghastliest event in recent French history. “These events don’t belong to anybody in particular,” he says. “If you look at the Nov. 13 Nice attack or the Barcelona Ramblas atrocity, victims of more than 30 nationalities were involved.” A film involving talent from France, Spain and Argentina, spoken in French and Spanish, merely reflects this reality.