Chilean filmmaker Matías Bize’s pandemic-prompted film “Private Messages” will be part of the Official Selection at the 2022 Malaga Film Festival, and the feature dives face-first into the stories which make us human, vulnerable and strong.
Bize, who won a Spanish Academy Goya for his Variety-championed film “The Life of the Fish” in 2011, uses self-filmed footage of the film’s international cast (including Blanca Lewin, Nicolás Poblete, Antonia Zegers, Néstor Cantillana, Vicenta Ndongo, Alex Brendemühl and Verónica Intile) confessing their most intimate stories during 2020’s global lockdowns, which coincided with filming.
“Private Messages” pieces its narrative together carefully, the truth of its storytellers overlaid with original music, and culminating in a powerful ending which memorializes the power of rebirth.
Variety spoke to Bize ahead of his film’s premiere at Malaga.
Covid was the impetus for “Private Messages,” but what else inspired the film?
This film was born on the first day of the pandemic’s confinement. I was in Mexico City, and I thought: I want to turn this situation around and create something good out of all this bad. I called some actors and proposed making a film without knowing where it would go or how it would end. It was a very open invitation to look inward and think about what we wanted to talk about.
“Private Messages” is different from anything I had done before. They are all true stories. Some are interpreted by the actors, while others are the actors’ own experiences. It is a film that resembles a documentary and is completely stripped of accessories. They are people sharing their most intimate and private stories directly to the camera, from the privacy and solitude of their spaces to something as public as a movie screen.
Themes of pain, family, darkness and loss permeate the film. How did you decide on the stories you wanted to tell?
When I started making the film, I didn’t have a preconceived idea of what the stories were going to be. But as they came in, the film itself began to take shape, and it was much clearer to see which stories would be in the film and which would not. It’s something you usually do in the script process, but here we did it during the shooting and editing, which we did in parallel.
So, the film invites us to reflect on our own private world, our own secrets, our own pain, and those things we have kept silent and hidden, sometimes for years. I hope that “Private Messages” manages to connect and move the audience and that viewers themselves complete the film with their own stories and personal experiences.
Music plays a unique role, with the actors singing and performing songs at different times. How did you approach the score?
I am a great admirer of the work of the musician (Me llamo) Sebastian. I invited him to participate in this film as if he were just another actor. We talked about the music he was composing at the time, and he showed me several songs until we came to one that I thought was perfect for the film. The idea was that he would not only send me the piece, but he would perform it on camera as all the actors did with their scenes, and that he would also participate in the film as an actor. There is also music by Rodrigo Jarque, a musician I have worked with on several of my films. Rodrigo provided a very emotional piece for the end credits. The film has very few elements, so I wanted the music to be quite simple, but at the same time bring us closer to the emotion experienced by the characters.
The film ends with a very powerful scene of a baby being born. Can you describe how that scene came to be?
When I invited Argentine actress Verónica Intile to work on the film, I gave her total freedom to propose her own story. She told me that the whole experience of her childbirth was very intense for her and that it was something she found very interesting to work on and explore in the film. We were working and doing different tests and takes. One day she told me that she had recorded the birth of her son and that if I was interested she could share the material with me.
The truth is that it was a great gift for the film. For me, it is the perfect ending. Beautiful, powerful, and moving. Also, this ending generates multiple interpretations and reflections that give new meaning to the film.