News from the Locarno Festival

Alcaine: "The Secret Lies in the Natural Light"

Vision Award TicinoModa

Alcaine: "The Secret Lies in the Natural Light"



You work with light and you've always said that the main thing is to look for "the credibility" of light, compared to its most artificial uses. What are the secrets to finding the right light, always using it for the benefit of the film and then varying the models depending on the genre in which they fit?  

The secret lies in the observation of natural light, which can come from the window, from the sun or from the moon; you always have to take care of the work on set, so that it can play a role in transmitting the feeling you want depending on the film. It is important to carefully consider the lamps present on set; in this we must be helped by the art designer, because in the planning of the lamp location there is already almost the film's environment. This is very noticeable in science fiction films, where the sets are often made to measure and therefore you can choose from the beginning the basic light that the work must have. 


Among the many directors with whom you've worked, one certainly stands out: your collaboration with Pedro Almodóvar. How did this meeting come about and how was it possible to create that visual symbiosis between the director's will and your cinematography that has become an immediately recognizable stylistic figure? 

I have to say that I try to adapt to the directors totally. Pedro always cares about the environment, the scenery, the colours, among which there is continuity in all his films. And I follow him with the kind of cinematography that reflects his vision of the world. But no doubt Pedro's films stand out from all the others I've worked on. If you look at Las 13 Rosas, Altamira or Passion, you see that my work is different in each. Once Bigas Luna asked me how it was possible that I, having finished a movie on Saturday, started on Monday with a completely different one. I replied, "It's because I have no memory." I do some sort of imposition of not thinking about what I did in the previous film, and the results are pretty good. 


In recent years you have established a fruitful collaboration with a writer of the calibre of Brian De Palma. From Hitchcockian Passion to the new challenge, still undergoing work, of Domino

We work very well because we understand each other very well. A curiosity: when we started working on Passion, I asked him: "Why did you call me?" He replied: "The truth is that I have seen so many of your films and you are one of the few living players who really cares to bring out the beauty of the interpreters." 


From films of historical reconstruction to the auteur films (Aranda, Erice) passing by comedies or more commercial dramas: you assisted from a privileged position to the whole evolution of Spanish cinema in almost half a century of history. What kind of changes were there?  

The change is not only in Spanish cinema. Talking about national trends was possible when I started working in the 1970s, but now cinema is a universal conglomerate. It has changed the vision that the new filmmakers have. Why? Basically for the new forms of filming, which they've come up with to enable filmmakers to study all the films that were made until today. As a result, a filmmaker who wants to make a film – for example on the Second World War – can see a lot on the subject. So the filmmakers are trained by referring to the cinema of others, while those beforehand were more original in some way, more pure. They cared mostly about the stories, which were very human. Today they are influenced by films of the past, and this is good for action movies: you can go and see the best car accidents of the past decade and imitate them, maybe adding something. But with regard to showing emotions, the human side, that is one thing that cannot be imitated, one must create it: it comes from the contact between actors and filmmaker... and this is missing now. An impoverishment, for the cinema. 


One last curiosity: you claim that the famous Guernica painting by Pablo Picasso was inspired by the film A Farewell to Arms by Frank Borzage. What is the importance of rereading the classics in all their artistic tendencies?  

Like painting, sculpture and graphics, cinema belongs to a culture that is not studied as it should be: the culture of the picture. Beginning with the Egyptians, in the last 20 years it has gained an incredible importance: almost every inhabitant of Europe has photographs on his phone. An image culture has been created, with a process comparable to the rise of literature after the invention of the printing press. I think it is necessary to elaborate a total study of the image.

Iria López

Follow us