News from the Locarno Festival
Conversation with Víctor Erice
I’m thinking about an Alfred Hitchcock quote which says that cinema should not necessarily be the first thing coming to mind. In order to tell a universal story one has to start from a specific place in the world. In your film this idea looks very clear to me. There is no need to give it a name or to put it on a map, nevertheless in your films this act of definition of a starting point appears to be important.
I agree with you. I also agree with Alfred Hitchcock. A cinematographic work most of times starts from the particular and widens to the general. Certainly it is not about a concrete territory but a place from which, as filmmakers, we project our own look on the world.
A director usually starts with short films and moves onto full-length feature films, or from documentary to fiction. In your career you chose instead to work on different lengths and discourses without a fixed hierarchy.
It was not premeditated. Things happened this way, naturally, based on the means that a large part of those works, of diverse formal style, are the result of the circumstances: low budget, the need to shoot films in reality, without grants. I just tried to adapt as much as possible the means to the targets.
Is it important for you a story tied to your own experience, your autobiography? Is there on the other hand any relation with the necessity to transcend the biographic details?
In most of my films - conventionally denoted such as “authorship’s work” – there is usually a certain amount of autobiography, in one way or another. There are some works where the biographic features come to the surface of the image; on the other hand there are others where the autobiography remains in a subterranean way. I have shot films that could be included in both categories. It’s important to me that images are somehow tied to my personal experience. I have always been involved in my movies writing stage; having said that the autobiographic nature is not in itself a quality but a starting point. The filmmaker’s work is to make of his own intimate, particular story the story of all of us.
What kind of connection do you maintain with the new generations of filmmakers? In Spain there is a new wave which has decided to shoot different films using you as a role model: I’m thinking about directors like José Luis Guerin, Mercedes Alvarez, Albert Serra, Izaki Lacuesta…
I am very glad to hear your words, because sometimes I have the feeling that I have done so little… It is good to know that at least has it served some purpose. With some of these filmmakers I have maintained a constant friendship over the years. It seems to me that all of them have a common quality: they work on the fringes of the industry, with modest means, far away from the institutionalized models that have their headquarters in the television industry. The most interesting thing about cinema produced in Spain today happens to be on the margins; this of course doesn’t mean those filmmakers have a stated vocation to be marginal.
How much is the history of cinema important in your activity as a filmmaker and its preservation through the re-reading process and the interpretation of the films produced by other filmmakers?
The history of cinema has been so important in my personal experience. It couldn’t have been any other way! What remains most over time is our own experience as spectators. I belong to a generation to whom producing a film went along with reflecting over Cinema. Modestly, in the background, one had simply tried to answer the question put by André Bazin: “Qu’est-ce que le cinema?” What is cinema? A question that any new generation should inescapably always ask themselves.
“Qu’est-ce que c’est le cinéma” for Víctor Erice?
A means of knowledge: about oneself and the others.