One of the most disturbing filmmakers in Spanish cinema, Agustí Villaronga, presented yesterday in the Official Section ‘El ventre del mar’, a film version of a literary text by Alessandro Baricco that Villaronga had adapted as a monologue between two people for worse theater that ended up turned into a film after the stage projects fell apart with the outbreak of the pandemic. but the pandemic arrived and the projects collapsed.
‘El ventre del mar’ is inspired by a real event: after the sinking of a ship, 147 men tried to save themselves, confined in a raft adrift in the middle of the sea, but only two succeeded. The incident was immortalized by Théodore Géricault in the famous canvas The Raft of the Medusa and later by Baricco in his story Oceano mare. Villaronga presents a work inherited from literature and theater, playing with the three narrative systems and alternating black and white and color.
-Shooting a story like this in the middle of the pandemic and doing it in such a unique way is an exercise in courage. How did this way of telling this story come about?
-Of limitations we made virtue. At the time of writing the script we were somewhat scared because we proposed unconventional narration systems, changing places and ways of telling the story at all times, using flashbacks, flashforwards, adding and subtracting theatrical moments … But this was the The way I wanted to tell ‘El ventre del mar’, and the only thing that matters to me is that it reaches the viewer’s heart, more than anywhere else.
-Can the sea in this film be seen as a reflection of society?
-Or as the spiritual part of people, where you can talk about God, nature, everything that makes you reflect. I believe that the sea in The Belly of the Sea is a mirror where you can reflect yourself, capable of showing your most spiritual part; a private place away from everything, like the uterus. In the film it is said: “The sea was everything.”
-The characters are everything in the movie. Not only because they tell us the story and we live it through their skin, but also because we end up getting into their thoughts thanks to a successful staging that shows what they think and feel at all times.
-The film is about the confrontation between two people, who remember, feel and express the same events differently. You are in command and you must impose discipline to save the greatest number of lives; the other only thinks from the most emotional part, he is closer to the dead that fall and suffering than to survival. The actors themselves resist seeing their characters as good and bad and I understand that. In the end, they are both survivors, wounded for life after what happened. The truth is found in the most extreme situations and that is where they have been, in truth.
-The Malaga Festival is characterized by its approach to a more commercial cinema and the world of first operas, but it also proposes scenarios such as that provided by a filmmaker of his size.
-I like that a lot. Malaga is a popular festival with a vocation for commercial cinema, to say the least, but it has the ability to put more experimental films like Flash bravío or ours on the grill. And we appreciate the dissemination that is offered to us, because Malaga gives a visibility that other festivals do not have. I think it can become a very important Spanish language festival with its proposal to host a different type of cinema while still paying attention to the rest.
-Actually, you say that, in some way, ‘El ventre del mar’ is a first film.
Yes, because the way of doing it has been very free. The film and the circumstances that surrounded it only allowed us to make the film in one way and it was through illusion, like that of a debutante.
-Does it bother you that you have always been considered a poet of cruelty?
-No, but I don’t think the word is cruel. Perhaps at first I did want to approach what I wanted with a dark look, but even in those cases I never stopped talking about the value of the human and of our essence, of what we are made of. I try to transcend towards the poetic, avoiding denunciation, because that is already done by another cinema; exploring the wound of the human being and reflecting on it.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.