Coronación: How to transform feelings into poetic images?
An Interview With Chilean Director Silvio Caiozzi
We usually come to know Latin-American films through their political contexts. With the liberalisation of cinema in the sixties in Latin America, cinema became an important tool for political commentary. Since then, in North America at least, we have few chances to see new Latin American cinema. Sometimes, festivals give us the privilege of seeing some of these films, as was the case with Coronación,  written and directed by Silvio Caiozzi, and screened at the World Film Festival of Montréal in 2000.
Not long after that, I had the opportunity to do an interview with the director of that film, Silvio Caiozzi, which follows the brief introduction to the film below. Through this interview I had the pleasure of learning about the current state of Chilean cinema as well as the work of the director.
To begin, Coronación has garnered a healthy international success. It is impossible to quote all of awards,  but some of the higher profile ones include, best direction at the Montreal World Film Festival; five prices at the Huelva Film Festival in Spain, including best film and best script; and best film and best direction at the Latino American Film Festival. The film has been praised by critics and has been seen by over 100 000 spectators.
At the opposite side of political cinema, rests the auteur cinema of the European tradition. Coronación is an adaptation of a novel written by Jose Donoso, which tells the story of an elderly man named Andrés. Over the passing years, the character has become insensitive to suffering. We see him at the beginning of the film asking his sick grandmother for money. In fact, he is presented as a figurative dead man. But one day Andrés has a new employee, a young woman named Estela who comes to take care of his sometimes crazy, sometimes lucid grandmother. The man falls in love with the young Estela, rekindling all kinds of emotions in him. The story deals mainly with these three characters and the destiny that drastically changes them.
One of the film’s most interesting characters is the old lady. There is a poetic world that emerges from her in the few moments of craziness when the spectator has access to the visions she has of younger, dancing self. She is the one who clearly sees that her grandson is falling in love with Estela. It is with this type of sixth sense that she can predict Estela’s sin, as well as those of the poor people who come to steal things in the house. Out of this character emerges an idea of poetry and craziness which, as the grandson seems to realize at the end, is perhaps the only way to make the impossible become reality.
Coronación is an intimate story which pays great attention to the magnificently played characters. For example, Andrés is a well defined character (he is so lonely that he can find a book in his collection without looking for the title). Another scene shows him talking and walking with his friend. But he is such a prisoner of his own world that he can not speak his mind and, slowly, the camera tracks back past an old fence to metaphorically reflect his own condition. / How can we have access to the interior world of characters? We understand them from the world that surrounds them. The film succeeds in visually expressing the character’s personality by the set design, the use of props, and the character’s environment: Andrés stay in a old and traditional house with wood furniture, surrounded by a collection of books and canes. His friend Carlos, opposite in personality to Andrés, stays in a bright and cold modern house. Finally, two young and poor men are often seen living outside, without a place to stay.
In that sense, Coronación is a microcosmic representation of Latin America, a place where standard of living is determined by the amount of material goods a person possesses; a place where we see contrasts between rich and poor, tradition and technology, young and old, and even within the character’s themselves
Moreover, visually, Coronación has a beautiful mise-en-scène that supports and reinforces all the small details (aided by the photography, the framing, and the choice of lenses). In using the cinema medium, we know that it is very difficult to represent interior emotions. But director Silvio Caiozzi is able to do it by achieving a brilliant cinema-poetry!
An interview with the filmmaker Silvio Caiozzi
Offscreen: How would you qualify the present Chilean cinema? Would it be a cinema centered more on political films, on auteurist films or entertainment films?
Right now, in the last year and a half, we have produced 17 films in Chile, which is an historically high amount of films for Chile. This is thanks to the fact that democratic governments have started to help film production for the first time. And not only that, but also the Chilean audience does not have prejudices against Chilean movies. Now they, especially the young people, are going to see without any prejudices Chilean films. So, Chilean films have bigger audiences now. This is why we have a bigger film production right now. This does not mean that we have a great industry right now, because we still don’t have a law or an institution that really promotes films. This government wants to pass a law to create an institution to promote the film industry. But that’s something in the near future. So until now we are getting a little help in different sections of the government, but its not a big solution.
Chilean filmmakers now, I would say, are doing different types of films. You will not find two Chilean films alike. Some people are making an adventure type of film, others are going after the so called auteur type of film. There is such a wide variety of films right now, that, right before I came here , they released a horror film. So that can give you an idea of the range of films being made. I think this is good because it seems that every filmmaker is trying to look for something. They’re all searching for themes and types of film. I could not say there is a specific theme or type of film being done in Chile. There is a nice variety.
Offscreen: What about political films in Chile?
I would say that a minimum number of films have been political. Some of them have had some success, like La Frontera some years ago; it deals with a political theme. And it was very successful. But most films are not political. The funny thing is that Chilean audiences have the feeling that all Chilean films have been political. And when you ask them today about Chilean films, they say "Ok, why don’t they stop doing political films!" And, really, very few films have been political, very few. But the audience has that sense that we have made many political films, and they don’t seem to want to talk about that. But it’s funny because political films have had success. Not all of them, like anywhere in the world, the ones that had success are the good ones.
Offscreen: Talking about politics, and how the present government is helping here and there with film productions, what was done before, during Augusto Pinochet’s reign?
Well, when Pinochet started ruling the country, one of the first things he did was to stop a law that promoted films. Actually, he did not stop it, what happened is that the law ended and it was supposed to be renewed and he did not renew it, and therefore it was stopped. So we, the filmmakers, did not get any help at all. On the contrary, I would say that we were looked upon as enemies. Therefore, the filmmakers stayed in Chile and we ended up doing commercials. I was very lucky in that I had a big success and made some money making commercials. But I kept the money, and saved it to be able to make a feature length picture because that’s what I really wanted to do. I was associated with two other guys and they also wanted to make a feature film. So we saved money for several years making commercials like mad and finally we made this 16 mm black and white film called July Starts in July (Julio comienza en julio). And then we blew it up to a 35 mm “cyclotron” type of film. And it was a huge success in Chile. Nobody expected a thing like that. The film won the first price at the Huelva Film Festival, outside Chile, and was chosen for the filmmaker’s fortnight at Cannes. It became a huge success in Chile, and it was a very weird moment because it was released in 1979. In those years Pinochet’s regime promoted a culture that was anti-Chilean. At first everything that felt Chilean was bad and everything that seemed to be American was excellent. So, I was fighting against that mentality. Reporters in Chile saw the film and they loved it and they knew that people were against Chilean films. There were practically no Chilean films, very few, maybe one a year. Then all of a sudden they saw this film, they loved it and started doing a campaign in the newspapers saying “you’ve got to see this film!” because they wanted the people to see a Chilean movie. Then the film received all the awards and it was big news. And even with the awards, for the first three days of release the film was a flop. Nobody went to see it. Even though the reporters had been talking about it for a month, very few people went to see the film. The distributor said they were going to remove the film from the theatres. And then on the third day, people started going because of word of mouth recommendations saying “you’ve got to see this film.” It became the second most seen film of the whole year after Jaws. Amazing! People identified with it.
I’m telling you this story so you can have the feeling of what it was like making movies under Pinochet. It was very difficult. There was a lot of auto-censorship too. You knew there were some things you could not touch, you could not describe. For instance, (Julio comienza en julio) is a portrait of Chile at the beginning of the century and about the “power.” Some people in the extreme right-wing wanted to out-law that film because, although it is not a political film, they felt it dealt with the abuse of power. But the reporters that were predominant in the censorship bureau fought in favor of the film. In that film, which was, as I said, a portrait of Chile at the beginning of the century, there should have been a character that was in the military. He was very important to the farms in Chile. Very important and an intriguing guy. This military type was used by the rich fellows who owned the lands. That was self-censorship. I didn’t put him in it because I knew that if I put a military person there, the film would not exist. That’s an example of self-censorship.
Offscreen: What do you think of Chilean filmmakers who got out of Chile, of what they’re doing now and of what they did back then, when Pinochet was there?
Well, we didn’t have any connection under Pinochet’s regime, you know. We knew that there were many filmmakers outside Chile making movies. But those movies were not shown in Chile and there were no connections at all. Absolutely two worlds. Now the few connections were, or sort of connections there were, was the fact that once in a while you would receive a message from some filmmaker outside that said “please shoot such and such scenes.” I participated in that type of filming without even knowing what the film was about and really not knowing much about the filmmaker. I was once asked to shoot the Andes mountains in Santiago with the sun glowing over the mountains for some film that was done outside Chile. I have no idea which one, and I still don’t. So that was the type of connection there was. And I know some people who did a lot of shooting for Chileans outside Chile. And I know cases of people that suffered, cases of people getting killed for it. Like the cameraman of my first film A la sombra del sol, Jorge Müller. He was tortured and he is missing. Why? Because he would shoot footage for people outside Chile. Or he was tortured just to know what he was doing and he died. Disappeared.
Offscreen: Is there a coalition or type of coalition between Latin-American countries and the Hispanic community like we see in Europe or Asia, by the opening of markets or by co-productions, as an example?
I would say the most important thing going on is IberMedia. IberMedia is an organization between Spain and Spanish speaking Latin-American countries. Some Latin-American countries decided to get involved with IberMedia. That means that the government of Chile pays $100, 000 a year to be part of that system. This system gets the money from the countries and with that stash of money, they read scripts from different Latin-American filmmakers. The selected winners are then lent a percentage of what they need for production. Many films have been produced this way, this has been working quite a lot. It’s a Spanish/Ibero-American way of producing films and it has been working. It has for about three years, it’s not older than three years. The good thing that is happening right now is the fact that some Latin-American films have been having a true success throughout Latin-America. This has happened only in the last two years. For the first time we are having a market of Spanish spoken films. This is only beginning. You have to think that the Spanish speaking market is bigger than the English speaking market. We are almost 500 million, which is bigger! We have never been able to have that market for different reasons. One of the reasons is the difference of the accents. Argentineans hate the Chilean accent, Chileans hate the Mexican accent, etc. I think thanks to television, thanks to soap-operas, now people in Latin-America do not hate other Spanish accents. It has become normal for them because they listen to them more often, a Colombian accent for example. Even Spanish people don’t mind hearing Latin-American accents because some Latin-American soap-operas for instance have been very successful in Spain. So that was a huge barrier and that barrier is gone now. It doesn’t exist anymore. So for the first time we can see that there’s a big market that has started to exist. This is wonderful because we can see that some Mexican films or Argentinean films have been successful throughout Latin-America, that’s new. For the last 30 years Chile has not received any Latin-American films, well maybe one or two in the last 30 years, with the rest being Spanish films. And in the last year, they have distributed several Latin-American films, several Spanish films, and several European films. We have been very isolated and received only American films. The other factor that has changed this is the fact that nowadays we have all over Latin-America new cinemas, new theatres, Dolby stereo, and good sound systems. So we can listen to Spanish speaking films and we can understand them. In the old days, all these theatres were very badly kept because people would only read subtitles. So once in a while they’d show a Spanish film or a Latin-American film, and people wouldn’t understand it because the sound system was not kept up at all. They used tubes [lamps] and they wouldn’t change them. They wouldn’t mind since it did not matter one way or another if the sound system was working because people would read the subtitles. That has changed, thanks to the digital system. With the digital system, the sound system won’t work until it’s perfectly under control. So there you have another big change that explains why Latin-American audiences now are going to see Spanish spoken films. And then, in Chile for instance, everybody would hate Chilean movies because they wouldn’t understand what the actor said. They blamed the film and the actors. Today, they won’t say that, they say “the actor’s great, wonderful!” It wasn’t the fault of the actor or the movie, it was the theatre. But nobody never, ever blamed the theatre, it was always the movie.
Offscreen: Does Chilean television help or contribute to the diffusion of Chilean films? For example, in some countries, television acts as a school for directors or camera operators?
No. We don’t have a school or anything like that. But, let me see, Chilean television, the national network, channel 7, some years ago, they would buy Chilean films for a very good price. Sometimes, they would buy the films before they were made. In that way they would help the production of the films. That has changed. Now they don’t have as much money, at least that’s what they say, and they are paying much less. On the other hand, they are doing a lot of short stories for television. They pay some independent producers to make those short stories. They pay very little. So, usually, the result is of poor quality because it is done with very little money. That’s about it.
Offscreen: So are there any schools forming technicians?
Yes they are many private film institutes. They are jammed with students because it’s a career that is in fashion these days. Films, televisions, mass media, communications, it’s “in,” it’s fashionable right now. So it’s a bit different. That’s why there are many institutes with lots of equipment, modern equipment, modern film institutes, and they are very expensive. Their students are normally the kids that come from wealthy families. The problem is, once they graduate, they really don’t have the place to work. That’s a big problem. Therefore, they graduate and normally they go out of the country or they change professions. [laughs]
Offscreen: You have studied in the U.S. What are the advantages and the inconveniences of such an experience?
Well, I studied in the U.S. when nobody in Chile thought of studying films or television. That was unthinkable. I got the help of my parents, who would pay. I worked part time in the states so I managed to study there. Well, I have a very good experience you know. I feel that my university was very practical. We started using equipment from the beginning, using cameras and editing right from the beginning. And I thought it was very good. It was not theoretical it was very practical.
Offscreen: Did it have an influence on what you do now?
Well, I learned a lot, of course. I would say it represents my first, let’s say, “professional” movie. Because before, you see, I did many little short films with my friends in school, you know like a hobby. In the university, I did my first “serious” short films.
Offscreen: Let’s talk about The Association of Chilean Television and Film Producers, of which you are the president?
Right now, yes!
Offscreen: What can you tell us about the organization, about it’s members, its politics and objectives?
Well, the first television and film association that existed in Chile was this one. The Association of Chilean Television and Film Producers. It’s funny but this association was in Chile when Pinochet passed the law that enabled us to make associations. This was the fifth association founded in Chile. This association was formed because in those days we were desperate because the Pinochet Regime, for many years, kept the dollar very low so everything that was imported was very cheap. And also it was very cheap to go outside of Chile to travel. The dollar was very cheap. This created a situation in which publicity agencies for instance would tell their customers not to shoot in Chile but to go outside because they would have more fun, meet more people, etc. And the situation got so bad that many times there were companies from Chile that were absolutely out of work and you would see some commercials being made outside of Chile just to shoot a close-up of a can [laugh]. Something absurd like that. They were made in Brazil or even in Miami. I would say that that was the moment in which many companies decided to get together to form an association. It was to fight such a situation which was just incredible. Later on, we stuck together. Sometimes more people, sometimes less companies but all these years we have been together. The main idea of the association is to have a common word to face the problem. Like today, our association is important because we have a common word with the government and the government wants to pass a law or wants to do this or that and we say “we think this” or “this is our opinion.” So this association is basically for that, to have a common front, to have a common opinion. To act as a group instead of individuals here and there..
Of course. Now later on, other associations have turned up. Other associations for film directors, another association for documentaries, another association for short feature films. There is even an association for filmmakers for poor people, poor neighbourhoods. They make films without cameras you know… [laughs]
Offscreen: You have been a cinematographer for different kinds of productions. What have these experiences developed in your filmmaking?
First of all, I was very lucky to have worked with different filmmakers. Some of them, very important like Raul Rúiz, Costa-Gavras. He made a film in Chile and I was in the second camera unit. So I learned a lot from all these filmmakers. They all have different styles and I learned a lot. Of course, to me this was very important. I was very lucky to be able to work at that moment in which Chile made lots of movies with different, important directors.
Offscreen: Let’s talk about Coronación. The movie was an adaptation of a novel by Jose Donoso. It is not the first time that you do a movie in relation to this author’s books…
Yes it’s the first time.
Offscreen: Is it? Isn’t it the second time?
No. It’s the first time that I do an adaptation of a novel from Jose Donoso. The Moon in the Mirror was an original idea of Jose Donoso. He told me his original idea and I loved these characters and he started working immediately and we both wrote the film script right away. You will never find anything written about The Moon in the Mirror. It is not an adaptation, it is an original idea transformed directly into a script. So it was the first time that I did an adaptation of a novel.
Offscreen: But do you and Jose Donoso know each other well, are you close or do you just love the way he writes?
Oh yes, well I love the world he describes, the way he writes, I always love that. And I had the good fortune to meet him when I took my film July starts in July to the Huelva festival. He was there as a guest. They were making a panel of Latin-American writers, and he was there. He was there also because [Arturo] Ripstein, the Mexican filmmaker had made a film, an adaptation of one his novels [El lugar sin limites]. And that film was released that year, that’s why José Donoso was in Spain in that festival. And he saw my film, he liked it and he started talking to me and he was saying “Well, maybe we can do something, you know, some day together.” And many years went by, we never met again and all of a sudden a very famous theatrical group in Chile, named "Circus," called me to direct some videos, fiction videos, and this fiction video was based on a Jose Donoso story. And I directed that video, a one-hour video, and again, Donoso came to see the final result and he liked it. Once again he talked to me. We both talked and he said “I will call you and so maybe there is a story for you somewhere.” And he called me many times, he showed some little shorts stories, but I would say, “Yes, great but I don’t know if I can do this or do that.” One day he called me and he told me that he had imagined this story which is The Moon in the Mirror. And I saw that, I loved that, then I proposed to him “why don’t we write the script together.” That’s The Moon in the Mirror. And after that, we tried to make something else, one of the novels is called Coronación, the other is called Casa de Campo but he started getting sick, then more and more and finally he died. So I was never able to work with him again.
Offscreen: When did you get the idea for the adaptation of Coronación?
Well he died and two or three years after that, I was ready to shoot another film, a co-production. Nothing to do with Jose Donoso. What happened, it was a co-production and all of a sudden one of the co-producers told me that he didn’t have the money at that moment, so we had to postpone the project. And from The Moon in the Mirror to this project ten years went by and I began to get desperate. I thought, “Ten Years! Again, we are not making a movie.” I started thinking about what I had talked about with Jose Donoso, that I love his literature and one of his works, Coronación. I read it again, and I said this is it, this is what I want to. That’s why I made Coronación, out of despair!
Offscreen: We all know that adaptations are very problematic. The change of medium and the sacrifices it implies. Even so, the critics were surprised by the faithfulness of the adaptation. What did you keep from the novel? Is it the atmosphere, the details of objects?
I try to respect as much as I could the world Jose Donoso described, the atmosphere. Also the characters. I loved the characters in the novel. What I changed, I changed one of the characters, the friend of Andrés, Carlos. Carlos is a doctor. In the novel he is a very small, tiny character. There is not much mention about this character. I made him into a huge character for two reasons: when you write a novel the author says what a character is thinking or what a character wants to do, what Andrés wants to do, what is his problem are, what he is thinking? On film if you put in a voice-over, that’s a bad film. So I needed somebody Andrés could talk to and discuss things with… So I could know Andrés through the discussion with his friend. So I brought out this guy and I made him discuss things with Andrés, so the viewers can know Andrés more. And the other reason was that Jose Donoso’s novel was written in 1958. He rendered the description of Chilean society, the Chilean mentality and Chilean psychology of those days, which was, I thought quite valid for today, for the Chile of today. [laughs] But there is one mentality that did not exist in those days, which is the “nouveau rich.” The guy that thinks that the only important things is to own material goods, and show them to others, no past, no future, just the moment, etc. So I gave all those characteristics to this Carlos, who in the novel did not exist. All the sequences when he shows his house do not exist in the novel. But I thought that it was very important to make a film of today’s Chilean society. And one other change I did, I’m talking about content of course, is to make the dialogue completely different to fit the way people talk in Chile today. The other change I did is with the old woman. In the novel, she has more of a European mentality, coming from Europe, or somewhere. It’s not very clear where she comes from. I thought she had to come from Spain directly. I made her much more a Spanish descendant than others. I used more of the Spanish elements. Because Chile comes from that, much more Spanish. When I was a kid I remember Chile full of Spanish elements. That disappeared later on, Chile became a U.S. loving country. But before that, it was a Spanish loving country. The rich people in Chile would say that they come from a very important Spanish family. All the decorations were Spanish. So I remembered that world that I lived in when I was five, six, seven or even ten years old. So I felt that Chile was more that, you know, I wanted to represent that generation through this old lady. So that’s how I ended up with all those Spanish costumes. All these ideas that she says, about coming from an aristocratic family, from the Royal family in Spain.
Offscreen: Does the character of Carlos come to balance the more sad and tragic side of Andrés? Was it your intention to make use of him at the precise moment in the movie where Andrés is at his lowest?
Well, when you are developing something, somehow you feel what you need in that moment, you know. To add more spirit, to speed it up or slow it down, it’s something that you start feeling. My purpose was to make a movie of contrasts, a world of contrasts. You can feel that in the novel but I wanted to have even stronger contrasts in the film. So I wanted to create a film with huge contrasts. This inside world, inside a house where it seems that time does not go by, never went by, a static world, a dying world, and the outside world which is set at a different pace. So when you go to Carlos’ house, everything is different, the timing, the placing, the photography, everything is different. It’s a house of a child. And when you go to the clubs, to the restaurants, to the place where the transvestites dance, again the lighting is different, the music is different, and everything is different. I wanted to play with these contrasts, which I think is the feeling I have of Chile today and Latin-America today. It’s a world of huge contrasts. That’s what I intended to do.
Offscreen: The photography is very beautiful. The light that hits the old lady, the colours of the wood and the textures are magnificent. Do you work closely with the director of photography to obtain the desired effects?
Very close, yes. Very, very close. I worked as a director of photography so I chose the camera movements, I chose the lighting and all that and then I tell the director of photography the type of atmosphere that I need for that sequence and then he places the lights. But sometimes I make him replace it [laughs]. But yes, I work very closely.
Offscreen: The montage in Coronación is interesting. You use close-ups as transitions between scenes for example. On one occasion it’s a bowl of soup, in another it’s a crushed pill. Also, in the opening scene, the main character sees a snail and crushes it. What is the main idea behind that use of close-ups? Do you work closely in the montage?
Oh yes, very close. I mean frame by frame. I really believe that everything is extremely important. And it’s the moment that I enjoy the most. I enjoy it in a maniacal way, you know. I keep bugging on one frame sometimes. And it makes a big difference. One extra frame and you can feel it. Somehow, you feel it. When you lack a frame in a cut, you feel it. I love that the cut should be perfect. And these big close-ups… I’ve always had a bit of a tendency to go from big long shots to extreme big close-ups. It’s a tendency I have. But in this case especially, I feel that in Donoso’s world, objects are very important. So I use the objects. That’s why I go into big close-ups with objects. Sometimes objects, sometimes noises. The little noises are very important. There is some sort of music through little noises. I love that. The Moon on the Mirror, for instance, is much more clear in this aspect. The film did not allow me to put in music. I mean, it was so much thought out in the beginning of having noises and little details and rhythm that once the film was edited, I tried to put music, the musician worked on it a little bit, but the film rejected all music, because the music was already in the noises. So the only music you will hear in that film, is the music that comes from the loudspeaker of the old record players. In other words, it’s a music that must exist in the sequence. It’s real music, not sequence music. That film does not have any background music, like atmosphere, because it was so full of little noises, little details and tempos that every time that I tried to put music to make it more interesting, it wouldn’t work. It was too much! [laughs]
Offscreen: Your staging is backed up by many camera movements. Is it an aesthetic choice or does it express certain details of the characters?
Well, the characteristics of the characters. Yes I love to describe the interior of human beings. I also have the feeling that to me it’s much more interesting to know what is going on in a human being than what surrounds him, or the action that surrounds him. Most films are based on the action that surrounds the characters or the action; the guy wants to kill another guy, the close-up of the gun, the other guy is falling on the floor, etc. Outside world. I am more interesting in the inside world of the character. So that’s why sometimes I move with my camera [laughs] really close going into the eyes because through the eyes you can see what’s going on inside the character. To me the eyes are very important, you know what’s happening inside. That’s why many times I go really close to the eyes of the character.
Offscreen: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I observed that the selection of the lens to film the main character is not the same at the beginning of the movie as it is at the end. A wide angle lens seems to be used at the beginning, which gives us a better depth of field. As the main character is consumed by his tragic passion, a long focal lens blurs out the background of the image. Is it a deliberate work? And, if so, are there any other uses for different lenses in the movie?
It’s very interesting because I’m not conscious of that but I see what you mean. At the beginning I think I was looking for the deformity of the character, to make him look like a blob, you know what a blob is? Yeah, a blob. Toward the end of the film I was reaching in toward the face to see the breaking of Andrés within. So I, go in and in… And for that you cannot use a wide angle because if you go with a wide angle here, it’s horrendous it’s like you are making a video clip, you know [laughs]. So then, I use more telephoto lenses so therefore the background becomes very blurred. It’s probably because of that but I was not conscious, but it might be because of that. In the beginning I just want to feel him as fat as possible, a man that never did any exercise at all. A man that is nothing, a man that is spread out totally and he’s almost deformed. So I was looking for the deformity. But later, my necessity was to show what’s going inside him, the destruction inside Andrés. So yes, that is probably why I was using telephoto lenses, to penetrate. It’s true what you say, it’s funny because I never thought about it, but I do try not to have not a «steady» type of point-of-view. It’s was not an aesthetic choice it was something else, the decision was the way to portray, how to express what’s going on with the character.
Offscreen: Your characters, so real on the screen, develop their personalities through the characterisations that you give them. Are these your ideas or are they present in the book?
One of the things I love the most in the novel is that the characters, they have a lot of changes, a lot of psychological depth, they are not simple characters. They are complex characters. And I respected the characters very much, most of them. Of course, with the actors and doing the script, things change, but the psychology of characters are basically in the novel, let’s say 80% is already there, that’s why I love the novel you know…because of the psychology of the characters.
Offscreen: And to make them so true, do you need to go really deep into the character, do you have to live a bit of what was wrote into the novel? Did the actors have to do research to get the characters?
Research, what I do when I write the script, first, it’s to remember people I know… [laughs]. People from my family, friends… that’s what I do. I’m not trying to invent, it’s brought from real life you know, personalities that I have met. And then, I’m starting to match you know, which actors will match with the personality. During the shooting, I allow the actors to give me things of their own. And before the shooting I go with the actors and I do research, studies like with the old lady. The old lady is a seventy years old person and she has to portray a ninety years old lady. So we went with her to a senior citizen’s home. First, her assistant went, looking for an old lady’s home that was close to the character, and she found one. We went with the actors, we looked at the old lady and we stayed hours and hours with the lady. And the actress was noting how she moved, how she talked, how she communicated with the rest of the world, with the nurse. Not only that but also with the camera, we taped her with a video camera. After that, we took all the material and, after a while, the actress studied again the images, all we had recorded. / The same things happened with Estela, the young girl. Because Estela the actress is the exact opposite of the Estela you see in the film. She is a teenager, a modern, city girl, you know…[laughs], the discourse… So I decided to go south with her, looking for native girls in the south. But I was very lucky because I didn’t have to go south, because, in a house of a friend, there was a very young girl, a seventeen old girl, who came to take care of an old lady. And I looked at her and I said… Estela! She was exactly like Estela. And I asked the owner of the house if they would allow me to bring the actress and they said yes. And I brought the actress, then she studied the way the young girl talked and the way she moved, how she moved her hands, everything. I was with her one day, the first day, and after that the actress made friends with this girl and she came often to the house on others days. So the girl tells her stories, you know… So the actress was able to imagine the path of Estela. Not only the physical attitude of Estela but also her life path. Thanks to the talks with this girl.
Offscreen: What is the significance of the cane in the film?
That’s in the novel, it was taken from the novel and it’s very important. First of all, what is a cane? Right away if you are Freudian you can say it’s a phallic symbol, right there [he mimics as if he was holding a cane]. It’s the power, the symbol of power on it’s own, of manhood. Clack ![mimics as if hitting someone] it’s a symbol of superiority. And you have this guy, castrated, in a world that does not exist, but in a world that is full of restrictions and formalities. That’s the world that his family shows him, right? A world of superiority but full of formalities, and things you are supposed to do and things you are not suppose to do. And you have the power. So here you have the poor castrated Andrés [laughs] who is collecting only the best and finest canes, but only ten. Not eleven or twelve, but ten, throughout his hole life, ten. He thinks he has the ten best canes which men can never have. The formality, the traditions, the things that you can not change, the power, that’s how you keep the power, static, you can not change anything. And then you have a sequence in which Andrés decides to change and decides to get eleven canes, twelve canes, doesn’t matter and the quality of the cane does not matter. That sequence, when I tried to shorten the film as best I could, some people told me “why did you not eliminate this sequence because this sequence doesn’t make the story move on…? It doesn’t tell the story in itself and it’s eight minutes long! Why don’t you take it out?” I replied, “No, I think it’s very important.” Finally I tried it, I took it out and all the film was horrendous because we couldn’t understand what happened to Andrés. Without this sequence, it’s a very stupid film. You have a man who seems to love this girl and then this man goes crazy, end of the film [laughs]. We couldn’t understand the inner part of Andrés. And that sequence is extremely important. It’s the sequence that makes you understand and accept that Andrés enters into this world of changes and freedom in a way. It’s extremely important, you cannot touch that sequence. And also that sequence is like a labyrinth, he doesn’t know where he is. It’s a labyrinth and every minute he goes crazier and crazier.
I would like to thank the people who made this interview possible. First, the filmmaker himself, Mr Caiozzi, for his generosity, and Mr. Francisco Cionti from the Chilean Consulate, who arranged the meeting. Without him, we would never have had the chance. A huge thanks to my thesis director, Professor Peter Rist, Ph.D, for his support of my projects and for all his help. Thanks also to the Cinematheque Québecoise, in particular Mr. René Beauclair, who helped make the interview available. A final thanks to my close relatives, my parents-in-law, and my boyfriend who helped and supported me through the project. Mélanie Morrissette.
2. All the details are available at the movie site.
3. Precisely, he came to Montreal for the Festival des Films du Monde, during the summer, 2000.