“I would rather that my films generate discussion over mere praise”
by Alfonso Rivera
22/03/2012 - Cineuropa: Where did the idea for Extraterrestrial [trailer, film focus] come from? Was it television series V, Hitchcock, Woody Allen, or Independence Day?
Nacho Vigalondo: I won't deny any of these influences. If these elements all come together at one point, that's exactly what I am interested in - this collision of genres, tendencies and authors that seem not to have anything to do with each other. I would like to think that if Woody Allen were to make a film with aliens in it, it might look a little like this. A while ago, I wrote a sequence, that I wasn't able to film, in which Julio and Julia, the main characters, meet. They are drunk and fall in love so fast and wildly that they don't care if there are strange lights in the sky. This was what sparked the rest of the screenplay.
The film, with its few scenes and actors, didn't cost a lot. Is this right?
Yes, it cost less than € 1 million. From when I was writing the screenplay, I knew that it would have to be small and agile - not the result, but the process. Everything that happened in the flat and around it was filmed in three weeks and the rest was filmed over several weekends.
So you are a specilaist in low-cost cinema, something useful at the moment...
Yes, being low-cost is today's specialty. As a man of my time, I am being consistent with was is happening. I am lucky enough to feel comfortable developing plots within tight margins of space and time. I like confined stories that promise the audience that there will not be any more characters, that there will not be a new location, or that it will happen in real time. These kinds of promises give off a certain energy that, as a member of the audience, I have always liked.
In your short films and feature films you show the silly things that we sometimes do for love. There's a never-ending list...
Love alludes to the most intimate dimension of each one of us but, at the same time, is something universal that everybody understands. Love interests me both as a theme and as a tool, because I'm not sure to which point in Extraterrestrial lying is a tool and love is a background theme, and the same the other way around.
Extraterrestrial has been screened, among other places, at the Toronto and San Sebastián film festivals. Is your humour understood the same way everywhere?
The differences aren't from country to country, but from screening to screening. There is a whole science to develop on why people laugh at one moment or another. The Toronto festival was more explosive than the one in Donostia. I worked on the screenplay without depending on complicity with the audience, so as not to limit the film to Spanish. I tried to make it so that humour is based on situations, detached from the interaction between characters.
Irony is big in your humour. Isn't this risky?
I would rather that only one of two people understand, if it makes them laugh twice as much. I think that the only way to please everybody is to not be memorable to anybody. In this respect, it's worth taking care of one member of the audience, even at the cost of losing another. Therein lie the game and the adventure. I would rather that my films generate discussion over mere praise. Much more exquisite that someone talking about your film is seeing two people fighing over it.
You conceive your films as something global, mixing internet promotion, viral advertising, and games. Don't you see Spanish cinema as being somewhat slow in this respect?
I won't justify the actions of those who illegally download films, but you have to remember demand, and offer things as fast as people want to see them. It's the intelligent way to operate. I used the tools that I had handy. For example, we created an internet game with Timecrimes [trailer, film focus] because we didn't have access to more expensive companies like television. With Extraterrestrial we will hold a UFO sightseeing competition, where there wil be room for everything from vanguard special effects to plates hung from a bit of string. Everything will be welcome, including real UFOs. [Laughs]"