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Isabel Coixet • Director

“This is, without a doubt, my most daring film”


- BERLIN 2015: Cineuropa spoke to Catalan director Isabel Coixet, who opened the Berlinale with her latest opus, Endless Night

Isabel Coixet  • Director
Isabel Coixet, on the set of Endless Night (© Leandro Betancor)

Catalan director Isabel Coixet came out on top from one of the most difficult challenges of her career with the Franco-Hispano-Bulgarian co-production Endless Night [+see also:
film review
making of
interview: Isabel Coixet
film profile
, filmed in Norway, Sofia and on the island of Tenerife, starring Juliette Binoche, Rinko Kikuchi and Gabriel Byrne and selected to open the 65th Berlinale

Cineuropa: Is Endless Night your most ambitious film?
Isabel Coixet: It's been a tough job, for the last four years, getting this difficult project off the ground. When producer Andrés Santana offered me the script, we saw that it was an incredible work and we thought: "How are we going to do this?" Because obviously it's easier to put avalanches, ice, storms and what have you on paper... but how do you do all of this? For me it's also been a learning process of carrying out lots of things that I'd never filmed before. It's been my most daring film because certainly, I feel close to my characters and I understand the adventure and the mad passion but... will people understand that? Will that message reach the audience? Will it be exciting? There were so many doubts, I was really nervous.

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In the face of such a challenge, only an insensitive person wouldn’t be afraid...
What's more, there was also the issue of who would be capable of playing these characters... When I brought the script to Juliette Binoche at the Aviñón Theatre Festival and she said yes, just like Rinko Kikuchi and Gabriel Byrne, I realised that I was going to have incredible actors that would perfectly suit the characters - something that wasn't as easy at the beginning of the project. 

So have you kind of been like Binoche's character: a woman ready for anything, romantic and stubborn, embarking on a terrifying endeavour?
In part, yes, with my stubbornness: when something seems impossible, I go straight for it. At times, that stubbornness has led me to come to some memorable blows, but at the same time that’s what the adventure of life and movie-making is all about: doing things that in theory can't be done and learning how to do them. That's another reason why I can relate to the Rinko’s character: the wilder one.

With this movie you return once again to the Berlin Film Festival, where you’ve also been on the jury. You maintain quite a loyal love affair with the competition, don't you?
Well, it's also true that the movie was requested for other festivals and I said no. I really like the city, I have friends there, I know it really well, there's a great atmosphere at the festival, and the people incorporate it into their daily life. I especially like that part of it.

It has just been announced that at the Malaga Film Festival, in April, a tribute will be paid to you with the Retrospective Award.
That's because I'm old. I love that festival, too, because it has fought really hard to stay going and to survive. There’s always an incredible atmosphere and the audience really worships it. I'm delighted to be receiving that recognition, to be honest.

It’s hard to believe that you’re old - you’ve just had a string of movies: last year Another Me [+see also:
film review
interview: Isabel Coixet
film profile
made its debut, and before Endless Night you filmed Learning to Drive in the US, with Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson. When will we be able to see this movie?
It will be released this summer in the US and then, I guess, in the rest of the world. It’s because of the vitamins I’m taking... No, really, the screenings just happened to coincide, but they were very long processes. Nevertheless, despite the difficulties, you can’t stop, you have to keep fighting. Luckily, it seems like a miracle, but they all worked out.

How long did filming take for Endless Night?
It took eight weeks, my longest filming experience. Shooting in Norway was really difficult because of the environmental conditions and sub-zero temperatures, but we knew that before we started. To prepare her character, Rinko spent time with a real Inuit, who also appears in the movie: it’s one of the naked women; in that way she learned how they move, how they behave with children and even how they act inside the igloo. It was key for her. Juliette, on the other hand, familiarised herself with documentaries about the period, diaries from the time, she learned how to pick up cutlery and so on. 

What drew you in when you read the screenplay written by Miguel Barros?
I thought it was one of the best storylines that I had ever read, because it was full of all the things I’m interested in: intimacy, silence, stubbornness and love. As soon as I read it, I said: I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I want to. 

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(Translated from Spanish)

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