with his documentary Esquece Monelos (Forget Monelos)the filmmaker and director angeles orchard (Gijón, 1974) has already opened a direct path for us to the whims of memory and the intricacies of the mind through metaphors and living testimonies about the urban evolution of the southeast of A Coruña.
Five years later and after having won notable recognition with his aforementioned work (obtaining the Special Mention of the Jury in the Documentamadrid contest and being a finalist in the 2016 Feroz Awards in the Best Documentary category), Huerta tries his luck in the world of feature films. of fiction with his first work titled O Corpo Aberto (Open Body)a horror film set in deep Galicia at the beginning of the 20th century and partially based on the stories of the Galician politician and writer Xose Luis Mendez Ferrin.
Interview with Ángeles Huerta, director of O Corpo Aberto
First fiction feature film, Angeles. Are there nerves?
Well, you can imagine. It’s all quite uncertain, there’s a lot of competition this year, and there’s also that feeling of not considering that the job is completely finished until the movie hits theaters. There is a certain relief when you see your project accepted at certain festivals and so on, but where you really risk it is there, at the premiere.
I know that you are Asturian, but settled in Galicia for many years. You already let us see your inclinations for this land of yours in ‘Esquece Monelos’ and now we see it again, bringing you closer to the narrative of Xosé Luis Méndez Ferrín.
Well, look, speaking of him, just before the interview began, my producer confirmed that we have several presentation dates for the film in which we want him to be present, since I am very excited that he can see the final version of the movie. He was terribly generous giving us his work, that generosity that only the great have. He is one of the last remaining living classics in Galician literature and one of the most important writers of the second half of the century. In addition, he is a great cinephile and he perfectly understands what a cinematographic work is and what a literary story is, and I think that this has given me personally great freedom to expand on some parallel plots or introduce characters that were not there initially. It sounds ironic, but to tell the truth, the story is most anti-cinema since it was originally an epistolary story, a resource that I only keep at the beginning and end of the film. We were constantly in contact with him, we gave him a first version of the script and a last one, because we didn’t want to abuse his attention either. There came a time when he simply told me “fai or whatever you want, but fai unha boa película” [risas].
And by the way, what are those presentation dates?
Well, we start presenting in Santiago on December 9, on the 10th we do Ferrol in the morning and A Coruña at night, and on Sunday the 11th we do Vigo.
He is known for being a very representative author within Galician letters, and for your part, you already made it clear to us in ‘Esquece Monelos’ that you like to tint what you do with a certain claim. Would you say that on this occasion there is a certain linguistic demand?
I am going to give you an answer, which may seem contradictory a priori, but believe me, it is not so contradictory. Was he looking to claim something? No. I didn’t try to with ‘Esquece Monelos’, where I only wanted to tell about my father’s process of dementia and the history of the city, nor did I try to do so in ‘O Corpo Oberto’, which is a very passionate film, and much more passionate However, the cinema we make reflects the people we are, and also the country we love. Thank God, I believe that the country portrayed in Spanish cinema is much better than the one we see on the news and has much more to do with the country we really have. A country of contrasts, full of delicious nuances that contradict each other and are wonderful. In addition, in this film, above all, the intention was to reflect the language that is spoken on a border, which is the one that is wanted and the one that can best be used, using it for what it really serves, which is to communicate, and not to throw it at no one’s head But that purpose is later, of course, and the initial intention was merely artistic.
What was it like to sell a film in three different languages to foreign investors?
It is a condemnation to which independent cinema is already accustomed, and sadly, it is a reality that practically no film of this nature is capable of financing itself if you do not co-produce it or take it to international laboratories for young producers and things. for the style We take it as the one that adapts to the weather conditions during filming, incorporating them into our project and enriching it with what the fact of taking the proposal from here to there has given us. It has been slow cooking, like Galician stew or fabada. And as for languages, they honestly didn’t care.
Less reluctance there than here?
I think that in matters of bilingualism, or trilingualism, as in our case, we have made a lot of progress, all you have to do is watch movies that hit the Goya Awards at the time, such as ‘Pa Negre’, ‘Handia’, or ‘Estiu 1993’. But do you know what I miss in these situations? That these films be broadcast in their original version when they are also released on television. I don’t know, I think that if we were more used to seeing movies in co-official languages, certain exclusive discourses would have much less depth.
Speaking of the film, we find Mercedes Peón on the Soundtrack.
Well, she’s the fucking best.
However, the use of music in the film is practically minimal.
Don’t believe it, huh? Perhaps the fact that you have that perception is because the music is well used and has a very powerful organic value. The film is still a story that speaks of the ineffable and of what cannot be seen, which is why we wanted to bet on a film that can be understood without seeing it, only by hearing it, and for this reason its sound value is so important. Not only the atmospheric one, but even the one that the master himself hears in his head. And if you stop to look closely at the minutes that are set to music in the total length of the film, you’d be surprised to see how much music this one actually has. Especially the second part. But what stands out the most about this is the fact of what it was like to work with Mercedes. She and Méndez Ferrín are like demigods of contemporary Galician culture, and even so, they showed absolute humility when they worked with us. Mercedes, who is a creator with enormous capacity and charisma, was super-clear at all times that she was working for the image and the definitive meaning of the film, leaving aside those very typical nonsense that directors do to composers, how to cut, move, or loop your pieces. Far from being upset, it was wonderful to see her good reception with our way of manipulating and working with her music. From the outside she may seem like a very strong woman with a lot of character, but in person she is one of the sweetest countrymen there is.
Even though it’s your first film, you dare with that commonplace that all directors fear is working with children and animals. In your case, how was that experience?
Really, when you are in that trance and immersed in the vortex of the shoot, you are not aware of all the decisions you make, but the fears and reservations come to you afterwards, when in editing you realize the puddles in which you have tucked in Although the topic is known to all, I was very naive and did not know the movement I was getting into until I had it in front of me. Luckily, we have a wonderful children’s coach who did a great job, with a lot of experience in theater pedagogy and working with them from the body. And of course, with many hours of rehearsal so that everything would go well.
The bees, the tree, the outcome of Martín, Don Miguel’s nervous itching… the film leaves quite a few loose ends and bets on a very subjective terror. Do you like to suggest more than give everything chewed up?
As a spectator, I particularly like being treated like an adult, so when I have to be on the other side, I try to treat the spectators that way as well. There is something very poetic in the story, and it is precisely those loose ends that you mention, not fully knowing the origin and outcome of some characters… We are not talking about characters who die physically, but spiritually. And as for the bees, I’ll tell you… There is a tradition from rural Galicia, called the danza do abellón, dating from the early 20th century, where attendees at wakes held each other’s hands and made a kind of “potato run” around the coffin of the deceased in question, while they emulated the buzz of bees. They entered a kind of collective trance that helped them digest the pain, and which was also complemented with the particular note that the first to sit down or stop their pertinent hum would be the next to die. I found it fascinating and I really liked the idea of incorporating it into the restlessness that the film generates. I don’t know if the reference will be understood beyond certain points in Galicia, but hey, whoever wants to understand should understand.
In the film we see that Don Miguel represents rationality and skepticism in the face of that paranormal mysticism that exists in the imagination of the villagers. How are you in front of this type of legends and contexts? Are you skeptical or do you like to get carried away by what is not seen and what is not well known how to explain it?
As a daughter of my time, I am crossed by reason and rationalism. That is why the character of Miguel is the one who guides us during the film, and through his eyes and his body we live everything that is happening and we transform to his rhythm. That said, if I didn’t have a spiritual part, I wouldn’t have made this movie. We may mistakenly think that the terms “atavistic” or “rural” are associated with something pejorative, and in the film we do not speak of a backward society, but of a non-secularized environment that is more connected to the spiritual. Without falling into the error of romanticizing life in a village, with all the harshness that is attached to it, I believe that we have a lot to learn from the rural. There is that dichotomy that we show in the film, between the rational and the spiritual, and I personally believe that the healthiest thing would be to integrate both worlds together. Part of the contemporary suffering that we have comes to us precisely because we have set aside certain beliefs and because of that hyper-secularization that we suffer. We are orphans of spirituality.
With ‘Esquece Monelos’ certain lines of connection could be established between the story you narrated and your personal life. Would you say that, despite being a fantastic fiction, ‘O Corpo Aberto’ also contains certain traces of autobiography?
We are the questions we ask ourselves, and I think the film raises many questions that can say a lot about ourselves. Questions about gender, with regard to the character of Obdulia, questions about the social construction of desire, questions about how locked up we are… It is still a poetic elaboration of feelings that are inside. Even though they are not concrete facts, they do not stop being less painful. Without that own connection and with oneself, it is very difficult to make a film.