Pedro Costa: the trembling moment

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So when you give directions, or when you discuss things, do you ask them, as a director, if it is better to ask the actor/person to do something, than to think a certain way and move with the thought. Which brings out the better result for you?

There's a lot of them, or there's a lot of people in the film. It's very collective, although Ventura is the center of that universe. Well, the story of the film, one of the stories of the film is that he has a lot of children. (laugh) That was a way for us to create a never ending story if he has 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 children, then the film will never end, and there will always be another child coming. We could go on filming forever. (laugh) But it's really a collective thing. With every one of them. What I asked of them was to bring me.., it's almost like accepting cinema, like a letter, like writing a letter to someone. So I said, imagine that you are going to write a letter, read a letter, so you think about to whom you want to address the letter. And that's going to be your part in the film. You will write something for somebody. Take cinema as this message, this medium, and that's what they did. One of them wanted to talk about the mother that she had rejected him a little bit. He wanted to address his mother he hadn't seen for 15 years. So we did two things with him. Just around that. The other was about her child, the other was about the father and the other was about something else. And so we started with that. And they go very deep inside of them, of course, because they are very tough things that they want to say. Very problematic things. So then, we start working. We start at the table like that, and they want to say this, this, this and this, and then I say, okay, let's concentrate just on this. Don't go in other directions, on other roads. Let's keep on this road, so let's take a week rehearsing this scene, then let's start filming this scene for a week or more. We have no deadlines. The only luxury we have is time. We have time to do things.

But having more people on set for this film doesn't get in the way?

More people, but we were four, so it's not really much. We are four here now, so... It was me, a friend of mine with the camera, with mirrors, because we used natural light. So we built this very poor mirror thing. Another friend who did sound and another guy helped us with everything else. So it's not a lot of people. It can be done with four. It's also a film that needs this kind of intimacy. The films have a bit of secret and it's the secret between us, when they come to a talk show or somewhere where there are no secrets anymore. While we were doing it, it was very amongst us.

Would Vanda?fs Room have worked with more people?

No, probably not, because the film is what it is. No, that film needed that kind of network. Vanda's Room was growing off an almost very unconscious or irresponsible desire I had of making something alone against... Because I had done films with 50, 60 people, with this whole street filled with trucks.

Cave of Lava was like that?

Yes, and all the others. Cables everywhere, and police would stop everyone. Assistants saying silence. I was so tired of that that I needed something where cinema could be invisible. The guy with the camera. Like photography. I feel very close to photography because it?'s something you can do, even the world in the streets. Cinema is beginning to be not possible, it's so many stuff, and preparation, and sometimes stupid preparation. Because you see shooting going on, and they would shooting in a corner and would occupy three blocks in American films. It's like a military operation. So cinema lost this very simple way of believing in the streets. That's terrible I think, because if you see it in the film after Colossal Youth. Nothing is like that. You see the films today. The majority of films done today, especially the American films, you see sounds, images, but they are not of this world. It's okay, but I prefer to be in this world. Because, my tradition is still in what I'm telling you about. A very simple image of what exists. That should be cinema. It is the only chance to survive. To keep cinema in the streets, in the small shops, and small houses, with small people.

How do you see the extras in the films, pretending to be bystanders in the background?

We don't have extras in our films because every one of them is already an extra. I mean, they stand in for a lot of people. Ventura is not standing alone by himself. He's standing in for a lot of people. He's there for his friends, for every Ventura who has been a Ventura. Actually, this kind of film is so rewarding for me, because when I show the film, finally when I put the sound and edit it and everything is complete, and the final print comes back from the lab, I do the screening. The first screening of the film is for them, and a lot of people come, of course, and it's amazing. Everything is the same, but first screenings are a bit like what you imagine what films were like in the beginning, and all the people are there, and they are shouting, saying, that's my friend, and my cousin, and they comment. They say, oh yes, you are right, what people used to do in film theaters. (laugh) Stop, stop, oh, no, no, no, yeh, yeh, yeh. They talk. It's very alive. And after the screening, I always like to have a sort of Q&A with them. Well it's not a Q&A because they are friends, but I want to have all the comments I can have from them, and for this film, what I felt, I think, I wasn't wrong. They were very proud of the film. Not artistically. That is something else. The artistic qualities of the film are for us. But just the fact that Ventura stands tall in the film. They were very proud of that. What they said was very funny. “But Ventura, I see you every day in the bar, in the street, and you?fre always this guy, you're nothing, you're just hanging out, we've known you for years, and you're just a guy like that, but then in the film, you're so tall, so bright. So when they say that, I have the feeling, like you're standing for us, representing us, standing in this beautiful way. And they say thank you. First to Ventura, and not to me, but this is very rewarding. So this is why it's so rewarding for me, more than before. More than the other films I made. I feel so complete. I feel useful. This is a bit stupid. We know that a film, photography or painting is not that useful. It's not going to change anything, but somewhere in the back of your mind, you always have a dream that somebody will see this thing and perhaps it will touch this person. So, I feel more with this film than the others I made.

When you have people talk in your film, this guy says you have different gods speaking. Like a vehicle for the gods.

I never thought that way. (laugh) That is very interesting. You talk about that. Yes, I think we are going back. The way we are doing films. And that's very good for me. We don't think, and we are not thinking like other people, going forward, like let's think of something different, let's think of something original, let's get some more effects. This idea of more and more, that is always in films. Again, the American films are full of that. You have to go beyond something. You make a dinosaur and then you have dinosaurs plus, prehistoric dinosaurs and then warriors. There has to be development. More and more. I think we are going back, back to the origin. Telling a story, or the origin of how it starts. And who do you tell the story. Actually, we go back because it's always about memory. That's our script. It's always about memory, their memory, so we have to go back back back. And somewhere perhaps, we are going somewhere, to very ancient places we are speaking, almost like you say, I'm not sure, but I think it's becoming more simple, we need almost nothing to make a film. It's a very comfortable feeling. Again, there's this kind of freedom to what you could do. I'm very jealous of photography. It's one of the great art forms. I really respect photography, because there's a freedom there. Nobody can steal photography from you. If you have film, it's very easy to be stolen of film. Film is, just like that (clapping his hand). You have the wrong idea, or somebody says, why don't you make something... And it's minutes away. So I'm beginning to have this very nice feeling. I need people to make films. I could not make a film just with images of landscapes. I don?'t think I could do that. But that's my problem. I need people to show us a space, or people to design the space of the film. I have to be inside. Just a girl, boy, a man or almost nothing. As this film, we have no props, I don't think. We bought a card deck for them to play cards with because they didn't have one at the moment. (laugh) And nothing else. It's almost like Ozu. If you are Ozu, a film is four guys drinking at a table. It's amazing.

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