Agustín Díaz Yanes • Director
"A movie without a strong woman in it doesn’t make sense"
by Alfonso Rivera
- Agustín Díaz Yanes returns in style with Oro, a violent film about the conquest of America, which has world-premiered at the 14th Seville European Film Festival
Oro [+see also:
interview: Agustín Díaz Yanes
film profile] is one of the most eagerly awaited titles of the year, not only on account of its star-studded Spanish cast (it stars José Coronado, Raúl Arévalo and Bárbara Lennie, for example), but also because it marks the return of one of the most highly respected directors in the country: Agustín Diaz Yanes, who has presented the movie at the 14th Seville European Film Festival. We met up with him in the unparalleled surroundings of the city’s General Archive of the Indies.
Cineuropa: We can’t skirt around asking you why you spent so long without filming anything...
Agustín Díaz Yanes: It’s because no one called. The only one who did was the late Pedro Costa, to write Jarabo, but that film didn’t come to anything. Then Mikel Lejarza from Atresmedia Cine called me, as he had the rights to the story by Arturo Pérez Reverte that Oro is based on. Then, very soon after, Enrique López Lavigne, from Apache Films, got on board the project.
And why did they overlook you like this, do you think?
It was a combination of several things: first of all, my last movie didn’t work as well as we thought it would; then I released that film just as the crisis was taking hold, and a whole generation of new directors and producers arrived on the scene, so it’s to be expected that they’d start pushing us, the older ones, aside.
There is also renewed demand though, isn’t there? For certain, more popular genres....
Yes – they’re trying to make a lot of comedy, and the type of film I’d made up until that point was more complex and more expensive. Alatriste [+see also:
film profile], from 2006, was a huge hit, and that came before Just Walking [+see also:
film profile], from 2008. It was another time, when we had more resources and a different sensibility.
Alatriste has several things in common with Oro: Arturo Pérez Reverte was involved in both storylines, they are both period films, and they portray our historical past...
Yes, but they are different: Alatriste was a hero whom Arturo wrote six novels about, and they were hugely successful, whereas Oro was a story about anonymous people. But they do share the fact that they are historical movies that we made through a joint effort. For me, Alatriste was almost like a Master’s degree in historical settings: the wardrobe, the make-up, the records... I had been trained up in those aspects so that I could then take on the same kind of thing in Oro.
In any case, recreating the language from another period must be more complicated than doing the same thing with the costumes or the set design, correct?
In that respect, I followed a method used by the English: modernising the language but slipping in expressions from that period, because if you don’t do that, it gets very tiresome, since the language from that time was very ceremonial. That’s what I did in Alatriste: it sounded like it was taking place in the 16th century, using words from that time, but I combined them with modern-day expressions.
The film talks about the ambition for fame and fortune: a subject that is still very topical.
It’s universal: all the themes had already cropped up in Shakespeare and the Bible. The rest of us have just picked up subjects that were already found in the Greek tragedies and in our literature. They are always the same topics: love, money, ambition, jealousy, avarice and enmity.
The handful of women who appear in Oro are strong-willed and determined, just like those in the rest of your filmography.
I have always liked strong women: a movie without a strong woman in it doesn’t make much sense. Bárbara Lennie’s character is the most “me” in the whole film: the one I created most by myself. And there have been fierce women in cinema since the Golden Age of Hollywood: Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis played them then. And then in Italian cinema you had the great Anna Magnani. It’s all already been invented... Ever since Shakesperare, with Lady Macbeth.
(Translated from Spanish)
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