“I have neither imitators nor followers because I am the one who works the most. That is why I am the best”

“I have neither imitators nor followers because I am the one who works the most. That is why I am the best”
“I have neither imitators nor followers because I am the one who works the most. That is why I am the best”

The Catalan director Albert Serraloved and hated in equal parts, takes a step further in his career thanks to ‘Pacification’, a film in which he demonstrates his ability to make a cinema that goes beyond conventions to create images of expressive power that take us to unexplored territories within contemporary auteur cinema.

At first ‘Pacifiction’ was going to be called ‘Bora Bora’ and it was going to be a romantic story. What happened to that?

Well, I couldn’t find the right actress. The days went by and we were halfway through filming, around 12 or 13 of 26, and they told me, “but you’re not going to make a film with only men.” And well, they were somewhat right, so I adapted to what I had, I looked at the character of Shana [Pahoa Mahagafanau] and we began to develop that story of seduction, which has become a bit abstract, but which works within the film.

In the end it has been almost more like a ‘thriller’, also abstract, of course.

The ‘thriller’ was always there, everything nuclear, the threat, the latent, was very important. But the elasticity and versatility of my system is that it accepts and gobbles up all problems and turns them into something else. It’s what makes me original, that I don’t prepare things. When you plan everything, the ideas become less interesting and mysterious. For me, the important thing is that kamikaze drive in which any problem does not matter, because the result is always better. I defend myself better between chaos and the absurd and the unconventional.

So you don’t plan anything.

I have such a stock of reasons that I don’t need it. Every day I decide who is going to act in real time, I always have all the actors at my disposal and I decide based on who I like best or who I feel like bitching about to respond to the vibration of the moment. That’s the only way to get something organic. I give a lot of value to the inspiration of the actors, but in professional shootings that does not exist, because it is a prefabricated system.

What interests me are the observations on the human within a context of light incidents, a la Stendhal

Did Benoît Magimel get screwed a lot?

With him it was not necessary because it already comes from the factory, he already fucks himself [risas]. You already know his story, his life and his various problems. I liked to torture him a bit, but he was a pretty invulnerable guy, he took it in, accepted it and swallowed it all. And he has something exceptional, verbal imagination. He always improved any ‘speech’. It’s a gift and he had it. At the same time he is very charismatic, very sophisticated, and also very contrived. And very precise to generate uncertainty, ambiguity and ambivalence until reaching such a degree of ultra-hyperrealism that it is impossible for an actor to do that on purpose.

He doesn’t like his films to provoke reflection, but ‘Pacifiction’ talks about many topics.

Themes always have to be, but they are contradictory, they don’t go in a specific direction. You can talk about politics, about colonialism, but what is said about that? What interests me are the observations on the human within a context of light incidents, a la Stendhal, which has always been a great inspiration. Balzac is coherence, and Stendhal is the confusion between gravity and lightness. I also like the anticlimax moments that generate irregularities, that make you tense, that intrigue and exasperate you, that’s why there are dialogues of more than thirteen minutes.

It may be his most narrative film, although at one point it gives way to an almost mental state.

The structure coincides with the evolution of paranoia. The viewer identifies with the perception that the protagonist has, and this is distorted until in the end it is already a mental state, yes.

If there’s something everybody likes, I make a point of hating it.

What did filming in Polynesia give you?

That it was a very distant place that I did not know and I am a curious person. Distant and isolated, like the most mythical within the exotic paradises. The most sclerotized and stagnant, the most virgin and the most corrupt at the same time. He gave me many things that I liked, because I make it a point to avoid cliché and if there is something that everyone likes, I intend to hate it.

And what did he hate about Polynesia?

To the people. They are parasites of the state. They are like the North American Indians, who put a reservation on them and got drunk. You cannot have the same vision of colonization as twenty years ago. Although look, what interests me is the artistic result, I think that in this way more justice is done to reality, indirectly, without wanting or intending it.

In fact, it is a super alcoholic movie.

I wanted to capture stagnation, and when you get stuck you have to drink, it’s the only refuge.

Why did you come up with the topic of the nuclear threat?

I do not know, that’s the truth. Because of the issue of paranoia, because of trying to create new images and because it was a forgotten topic. There was a plot in the film starring Sergi López that was linked to real estate corruption and I removed it, because it reminded me of some series, that has already been done. However, the nuclear was something more spectral, more mysterious.

He has left a very pandemic movie too.

Yes, because it speaks of stagnation, of not being able to get out of there. This is what Houellebecq says, that the pandemic has aggravated the symptoms that were already developing: loneliness, selfishness, the absence of utopia, the lack of community spirit.

I represent a form of idealism

Do references bother you?

There are those who are reminded of ‘Under the volcano’, because of the diplomat going around. Diplomacy by definition is the art of inactivity. But in general I’m not interested in influences, because they’re from another world, from another time. I am only interested in what is mine, what corresponds to my world and my personal situation. What interests me is auteur cinema. I represent a form of idealism. Everything I say is not out of personal interest, but because I feel the need to defend a space of what I believe corresponds to true auteur cinema against attacks or dismissals from ignorant commercial cinema or false auteur cinema.

What is fake auteur cinema for you?

Those who, instead of concentrating exclusively on the formal and aesthetic search, make certain decisions because they are seduced by success. Unfortunately, in Spain I am the only one who represents true auteur cinema. At the international level there are many, honest people with maximum dedication, rigorous, serious.

Do you respect someone from Spanish cinema?

No. I only respect Almodóvar, who seems to me to be the most beautiful example of achieving success by imposing his style on people, not the other way around. And he has two Oscars, practically no one in European cinema has achieved that.

What is the last movie you have seen that you liked the most?

Rimini by Ulrich Seidl. He should have won the Berlin Golden Bear.

What I call the moving dream of social democracy has evaporated, because it has not solved any problem, but rather has aggravated them all

Do you consider yourself an iconoclast?

I like the midpoint between iconoclasm and respect, which is the most difficult. What happens is that the very world we live in is a mockery. And that has had very fucked up real consequences. Because those who seemed the most clowns have become the most dangerous, like Trump or Putin. And, in between, what I call the moving dream of social democracy has evaporated, because it has not solved any problem, but rather has aggravated them all. And the difference between rich and poor is greater than ever. And who takes advantage of that? The usual ones.

Compared to ‘Liberté’, there is little sex in this movie.

I couldn’t fit it all in. What do you want, it lasts almost three hours. What comes out is the best, the ‘greatest hits’. I shot 540 hours.


And so much. And seven months of assembly, seven days a week, not even half a day off. It is what it is. That’s why I have no imitators, or followers, or anything, that’s why I’m the best, because I’m the one who works the most with a difference of light years compared to the others, that’s what’s said.

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What has ‘Pacifiction’ meant to you?

Well, it’s very important to me. After twenty years I was in competition at Cannes. The film deserves it, it has no concessions, it is incorruptible. And it is important for auteur cinema that it was there, because it speaks to the meaning of images at a time when this debate is more relevant than ever to differentiate it from platform cinema. That ‘Pacifiction’ was in the official section of Cannes is important not for me, but for everyone. It wouldn’t have the same meaning if Sorogoyen had been there, it doesn’t have the same reading for the good of humanity. Where is the subtlety, the creativity, the intelligence, the courage in Spanish cinema? Well that.

The article is in Spanish

Tags: imitators followers works

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