Rodrigo Cortés • Director
by Alfonso Rivera
28/02/2012 - Rodrigo Cortés, the 39-year-old Galician director who triumphed in half the world with his second feature Buried [trailer, film focus], continues to take the world by storm with a thriller about investigators who make money from people’s belief in the paranormal. The film has been to Sundance, boasts a dazzling line-up of North American stars including Robert de Niro and Sigourney Weaver, and confirms Cortés as a film director with spirit, nerve, and muscle, capable of turning Red Lights [trailer] into a film that is action-packed, perfectly tied-together, and constantly mysterious. Its narrative style is close to that of a political thriller from the 1970s, a genre well-loved by the film director.
Cineuropa: How useful was the film going to Sundance?
Rodrigo Cortés: It was very useful of many levels, not only as an experience. Red Lights received mixed reviews: a very polarized first day with some people fascinated and others opposed, and then from the second to the seventh day, with a relaxed and engaged audience, and extremely powerful reactions. This makes you think about all the energy generated in festivals, this kind of brutal craziness. Seeing the film seven times with seven different audiences also allows you to sense the electricity that reaches the audience, and to tune into its energy to adjust certain things. To be able to make these final adjustments is a real gift. With Buried, I did this too. It arrived in Utah “still wet”, so that afterwards we added three new telephone voices and adjusted the music. It’s is an opportunity that I wish directors always had.
Red Lights going to Salt Lake City must also have boosted international sales.
The film had already been sold in over 50 countries, and there it was sold for the United States, one of the main reasons that we went to the festival in January.
Shooting this film will have cost more time and money than Buried.
Yes, it cost €12m, a very responsible figure for a Spanish film, but only a fourth of what it would have cost in a Hollywood studio. This is a 90% Spanish production, 80% of which was shot in Barcelona, with two weeks of filming outdoors in Toronto, with the team that was all-Spanish except the cast. They were, in total, ten and a half weeks of filming.
The film is about illusionists who use tricks to cheat people. But cinema is also always a great trick, pure magic.
This is the way it is. The film is designed, in its entirety, as a magic trick, with its exposition, development, and conclusion. You only have to see Fraude by Orson Welles, one of my ten fundamental films, to understand that an illusionist and a film director do the same. One also works with the mechanisms of perception: What you try to do as a film director is to make the audience look at the right hand, all the while doing something with the left. They’re the same tools. It’s illusionism. When someone walks into the cinema trying to unveil the trick, it’s entirely their right to do so, but then again they might miss two hours of enjoyment. Because we prefer living in an illusion than reality, and we always believe what we want to believe and what is more convenient for us to believe.
In this film, you were the scriptwriter, editor, director, and producer.
For my writing, directing and editing have been, since I started with short films, different bases for a single creative art. I’m not saying that this is the correct way of doing it, but it’s my way of doing it, what suits me best. As for producing the film, with my colleague Adrián Guerra, it has to do with creative control. This way, decisions are not subject to the superior opinion of a committee with magical tables about what audiences like. My real function as producer is, therefore, to protect the film. Because it’s easy to know where you are going at the beginning of a project, but just as easy to finish it somewhere completely different without knowing how.