Carlos Vermut • Director
"I feel comfortable talking about uncomfortable things"
by Alfonso Rivera
- Carlos Vermut talks about his third feature, Quién te cantará, a French-Spanish co-production starring the charming Najwa Nimri and Eva Llorach
Carlos Vermut won the Golden Shell and Best Director award at the 2014 San Sebastián Festival with his second film, Magical Girl [+see also:
interview: Carlos Vermut
film profile]. His third feature film, Quién te cantará [+see also:
interview: Carlos Vermut
film profile] is due to be released in France, and then Spain, two days later, before closing the XX edition of the emerging Abycine Film Festival. It is an intense drama starring Najwa Nimri and Eva Llorach, beautifully supported by Carme Elías and Natalia de Molina. The Madrid-born filmmaker welcomed Cineuropa to Caramel Films’ offices, the Spanish distribution company due to release his third film in cinemas on 26 October, two days after Le Pacte in France.
Cineuropa: You focus on the sanctity of motherhood in Quién te cantará, among other things…
Carlos Vermut: It's strange how comfortable I feel talking about uncomfortable things, but family violence has always fascinated me. The idea that you can feel unsafe in the place where you should feel protected. The theme emerged as I wrote the screenplay. I started with fame and a character who’s struggling to make it big and who feels a sense of rejection towards her own daughter. Her daughter perceives that she doesn’t have her mother's affection and tries to win it back. This all stems from frustration. That sort of relationship doesn’t just appear one day out of thin air – broken relationships between parents and children lie dormant for a long time, and it’s not always easy to pinpoint the cause, which is why it's very difficult to resolve. Everything is dragged along until one day something serious happens or it results in a separation.
The film also shows that nobody is completely authentic, so... who is the real Carlos Vermut?
One of my inventions: Vermut is the surname I gave myself, and Carlos is the name given to me by my parents, so there’s a mixture between who we are by inheritance and the people we have constructed ourselves. Like everyone, I am the sum of my environment, my time, my culture, my family, the songs I listened to as a child... We are everything new that didn’t exist in previous versions. We represent the margin of differentiation, a modified version of everything that we imitate. That's where our authenticity lies, including mine.
Perhaps rejecting what we don't want to be affects us too much, causing us to polarise and limit ourselves.
Exactly. We are made up of what we are and what we reject. What you’re talking about happens a lot to parents and children: with believing parents and non-believing children, and vice versa, for example. We can’t avoid being like our parents, but what makes us unique is what we’re a slightly modified version of them. We are very different from our grandparents, because the culture changes. There is also the relationship between the individual and the collective: we are affected by the collective, but we also influence it.
That said, you're also not a pure director. I recognised the ghost of Hitchcock in Quién te cantará, especially Rebecca and Vertigo.
Yes, of course. There are conscious and unconscious aspects to my film. Vertigo was definitely present in the first screenplay and in the idea of rebuilding a person. Almodóvar is in there somewhere, too, because I admire him, and he has influenced me so much that it was inevitable that he would turn up in the film. I'm also interested in Fassbinder and Cassavetes' Opening Night. And the documentary Amy [+see also:
film profile], which I saw as a horror story told in a realistic fashion. I’ve also been very influenced by manga in narration and how the Japanese construct time.
Despite its tragic tones, Quién... is still a great love story, because the female protagonists love each other so much.
That’s an interpretation that I like, because that's how I view it and that's how I wrote it, as a story of absolute surrender and sacrifice, which is the highest expression of love: sincere, unconditional love between two women, it's real.
In terms of the production, how did you start working with Apache Films's Enrique López Lavigne, the driving force behind this film?
I knew Enrique from my first film, Diamond Flash, and he originally asked me to make a ghost film about a woman who was possessed by another's spirit and was changing her identity little by little. But there was something about it that didn’t quite convince me. Why were the ghosts so whimsical that they affected some people but not others? I’m far too rational to write about ghosts, unless it’s symbolic or in relation to dreams. Enrique also likes melodrama and musical cinema. He respects me and supports me, and he absolutely loves cinema, in a playful and romantic way. His life revolves around the cinema and Quién te cantará was born out of some from very emotional moments, such as all the karaoke nights we spent imitating Raphael or Mocedades.
(Translated from Spanish)
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