Mount, shadows and a relationship between father and son that plunges into the abyss

“El Monte”, a film starring Gustavo Garzón and which premieres tomorrow in cinemas around the country, was born as a film that was only going to deal with the relationship between a father and a son, but it became more and more involved in the fantasy genre with the physical and mental demands of filming in the Formosan mountains,

“Usually I don’t build the whole story in my head, but start writing and see what comes up. In that exploration, the fantasy streak began to appear, which assaulted the genre in the script. I wanted to write a drama, but I couldn’t resist and he ended up grabbing the fantastic, just as in the film he grabs Garzón el monte”, the director and screenwriter of the film, Sebastián Caulier, explained to Télam about the genesis of the project.

Although the story is not based on any specific rural myth or legend, Caulier, a native of Formosa and a Buenos Aires by adoption for 20 years, brushes in the film some of the stories that circulate in his homeland. They talk about the power that the mountain has over some people, who lose their reason and get lost, precisely, within nature so as not to have contact with other people again.

Garzón’s character, a doctor from Buenos Aires who went to live in Formosa, has escaped from his office and daily routine to live without electricity or drinking water in a half-ruined shack near the river. There he spends his days bathing, cutting wood and hunting what he will eat; routine that is interrupted when his son (Juan Barberini) arrives to try to recover the vestiges of sanity that still remain.

“I approached that relationship under the idea that it was not going to be a reconciliation, but as a defense of the disagreement. There is no obligation to understand each other so much, that is why they do not end up reconciled. The idea was to work on the conflict itself, which is unsolvable, and what is done with that insoluble conflict and with the insurmountable distances that we have with people,” said Caulier.

If filming in any country in the world is already a daring thing, doing it and having the filming interrupted by a pandemic makes it even more heroic. In full quarantine, “El monte” had a moment of exposure when Garzón came out in various media to say that he was trapped in Formosa, unable to leave due to sanitary restrictions. Two and a half years later, the film reaches theaters, but with a substantial change in the plot, forced by the impediment of being able to reunite the cast.

“We ended up filming some interiors in Buenos Aires -said the director-. We rebuilt parts of the house, we brought the windows; with panels we rebuilt parts of the scenery with the help of short shots and darkness; there are scenes that are mix filmed in Formosa and some exteriors using small shots in the Pereyra Iraola Park. We had to rule out a secondary plot because, due to restrictions, we couldn’t bring the actors, nor could we travel ourselves due to the isolation we had to comply with.”

Télam: Did you ever think that the film was not going to be finished?

Sebastián Caulier: Yes, for much of 2020. Despite that, with the editor we began to edit the material, which was 70 percent. We had this scene yes, this scene no, this scene yes, this scene no… it was impossible to finish it. It’s not that he could put together something with what he had and make a movie out of it, key scenes were missing for the articulation of the plot. It was around November 2020 that the possibility of resuming filming could be glimpsed. There was a light of hope.

T: What was it like filming in the bush?

SC: Very difficult, very hot, many mosquitoes. Difficult, because to film in places that are far from urban centers you have to bring everything and everything is an extra complication. It’s not that the combi left us there and we filmed from three meters away, but rather we had to walk 500 meters into the mountains, set up a path to clear weeds, always be aware that no jarara or anything appeared… It was difficult.

T: The mountain is the protagonist, but the essence of the story remains.

SC: I worked a lot in the sense that it is not a diabolical evil mount but rather it is an unknown behavior of nature that the characters do not understand and that is why they fear it, but it is not the cursed mount. If a jarara appears you will be afraid of it, but the bug is a bug, it will do what it knows how to do, bite you. I wanted to work on it from a more spiritual side, if you will, with the spirituality of the environment and these rational human characters in the face of that and with the fear of what they do not know.

T: There is also a bit of “vos sos porteño”, which can be linked to your life.

SC: I literally thought of it that way, I wanted to make that cross between the father who is a Buenos Aires man who left Buenos Aires to live in Formosa and the son who is a Formosan but went to live in Buenos Aires. His identity is in the middle of the bus or plane trip, it is a transgeographical identity, which is a bit with which I look at my province because I live here. That slightly own and slightly foreign look that the character has is mine, that’s why I approached it from there.

T: Why did you choose for the son to study philosophy and the father to be a doctor?

SC: Philosophy is the mother of all sciences, but that is totally lost. Now someone who studies philosophy is considered to be doing something that is not going to help him at all. He wanted the son to be as opposed to that environment as possible, to have that intellectual, academic, rational aspect. The transformation that the son undergoes is a bit of letting go of that… he goes through a first stage in which he seems to believe that what is happening to the father is crazy and little by little he begins to negotiate this transfer from logos to myths, he does the opposite path to the one that humanity made from myths to logos. He starts out very rational and unlearns all that as the mountain begins to show him his reality, he begins to manifest himself, until he ends up assuming that new reality. The same thing that we did do with the editor during the filming was that in the original texts the son ended up talking about the mountain, in the montage we eliminated all verbalization of the son regarding the mountain, as the son, despite accepting that, never puts into words this supernatural situation that is happening. The only thing he says is “you know what is happening here, help me”, but he never says what the locals say. He negotiates his reasoning a bit, but that’s it. (Telam)

Mount, shadows and a relationship between father and son that plunges into the abyss