The acting career of Pau Durà has included some of the most relevant titles in film and television of the last decades. Series like Siete vidas, Plats bruts, Crematorio, El príncipe or feature films like Krámpack, Cosas que hacen que la vida merezca la pena and Todos queremos lo mejor para ella, back the career of this Alicante-born actor with a gaze that can change from kind to angry, as the role requires. His role as a director, however, is less-known to the audience. He has already directed six short films and now Durà has just completed the filming of his first fiction feature film. It is a story in which he has selected actor José Sacristán to embody the main character, Samuel, an old hippie that moved to Formentera during the 70s and gets by playing the banjo in dark venues, with hardly any possessions, thanks to friends and old lovers. But Samuel’s luck changes when his daughter, whom he hasn’t seen for years, asks him to take care of his grandson. The child will make him reexamine his past and his responsibilities.
What is your personal interest in this story?
It originated in a moment in which I was about to be a dad. In fact, the story has a lot to do with fatherhood. I was about to be a father and I was going to acquire one of the great responsibilities you get in life. I got the news when I was in Formentera, with my pregnant wife, and I started to think about the conflicts that could have taken place with the hippies that arrived there in the 70s and lived far away from responsibilities. From there onwards, I started to dream up the character, Samuel, but I wanted to give him a second chance. That it, I thought it was more interesting to tell the story of a dude that one day avoided his responsibilities as a father in the 70s hippie Formentera, and that now, in his old age, has to be a grandad to his grandson. And here you have it.
The film seems to offer a closing to a way of seeing the world.
Of course, with the passing of time that feeling, that pain, is felt more acutely because, in the end, as Kundera considers, “nostalgia is like the pain for the impossibility of going back [in time]” and it is a definition that I feel close. Ulysses was the first nostalgic character in story-telling. The fact that Samuel’s car is called Ulysses is not a coincidence. This man has been living in the sidelines of many things, sheltered in Formentera island and his hippie ideology, not needing anything more than his banjo and three or four more things. Isolated in an island inside of an island, something which he does to try to escape this nostalgia. That is the journey I am most interested in in this movie, the journey inside of this man who, like Ulysses, reaches a certain type of peace, that is able to come to terms with himself more than with any other or with his daughter. He is finally going to have to make sacrifices for someone and he fights against this during the film but this, let’s say, problem, ends up being something positive for him.
You’ve selected Jose Sacristan as the main character. How was the experience of working with him?
What can I say? Wonderful! He is a man that is an absolute pleasure to have as an actor and even more as a person throughout this process, which is a very intense one. I would say it is a dream come true. I mean, he is a legend. He has been in over a hundred movies and the fact that he came forward, that he read the script and that two days later he called me up and said “ok, let’s do it” for me is one of the most amazing pieces of news I’ve ever received by phone. Everything that came afterwards was magnificent. I would start again tomorrow. I would prepare another script, to be with him, to work and stay late after meals, to listen to him, to laugh, because he has an amazing sense of humor. You can ask the team, they all love him. It has been a great experience, yes.
As both of you are actors, how was the experience of directing him?
Well, when I direct actors I would say that there is a very easy side to it, as we both speak the same language and from the same position. I can understand their problems, their concerns and their needs. The first step is a good selection and surrounding myself with great actors. The second step is to understand where everything is going, what we want to tell, how we want to treat the characters. And then, we have to create a good working and filming atmosphere. Almost all the actors are also friends, some are very close friends. This makes things easier: the understanding, the fun, which is also very important in a movie like this, that has its dramas but also its humor and tender moments. Also, the peculiarities of the characters.
I wanted to ask you about the relationship between Sacristán and Sandro Ballesteros, the child who interprets Marc, Samuel’s fictional grandson. How was the experience of directing them both?
It was very positive. Working with Sandro has been wonderful, because, after a casting with children, we realized he was perfect for the role. The spontaneity of this relationship was also important, it is all related. You put a ten-year-old by a guy like Sacristán in a shooting, well… they didn’t know each other and that was good, because the storyline actually portrays this, the unfamiliarity of both characters. The kid is the problem the main character has, and then he becomes the main character’s salvation. And then we had to work on the point of view, because the kids looks more than he speaks. He observes his surroundings and suffers this character, this grandfather, while, at the same time, he ends up being fond of him. We are actually speaking about a journey as well. A mature journey, but also an initiation one, because they both end up learning things.
Throughout your relation with the characters, did you change your perspective of what story you wanted to tell?
Yes, of course. A script is never finished, it is impossible, because a script is always a step prior to another thing, which is a film. A script is a note towards what will come later. The work with the actors was very interesting. With Pepe [Sacristán] who is the main character of the film, as well. His reticence, his doubts, we really worked with them. During the filming I am very open to dialogue because, in the end, the script is a guide to what happens, how it happens and how it’s said, which should be very open. With characters like Jordi Sánchez’s, how am I going to say “say this”? No, we work and see what happens. There was a certain amount of freedom in the filming and I think it was very interesting. The movie was filmed with a hand-held camera and when the story flies, the camera flies, when the filming and the story are at the same level. Then, in the editing, you are still writing, you are still making the story up. It has been a long and cool journey, because you realize that, up until the very end, you can change many things. The interesting thing is that, since I started to write this story, the soul of the film has never changed, we’ve never lost sight of it, and I think the film is a reflection of what I thought it should be.
Although you had already directed several fictional short-films, this is your first feature film. What has been more difficult?
I always get the feeling that the difficulties come before the filming, with the financing and achieving the elements to film the movie. Filming in itself went very well, as I feel I already have a certain degree of experience. I had done a TV-movie for the Catalonian and Valencian television with this same length. So, I don’t come directly from short-films. But, as I mentioned, the shooting went well in spite of the commute, because we’ve had to move a lot between the peninsula and the island. But at the same time, the filming in the peninsula gave me a certain type of cool freedom. When we were shooting in the island, it was empty, and we really used that freedom to improvise many things that are logical in a shooting and that can be seen in the film.
The landscape is another character of the film. How did you achieve this?
I think there is a parallelism between the character of Samuel and the island. We never wanted to make postcards out of the film, and I don’t think they are there, but the beauty of the island always appears. We perhaps had to fight against it so it didn’t overwhelm us: the color of the sea, the landscapes, the arid paths. We stayed with that, trying to show the depth of the scenes sometimes, but also not too much. At the end of the day, we were speaking about an island that could’ve been the character’s ideology, his way of seeing the world, and it can also become a prison. What I mean is, being headstrong about certain things that happened in the past, when he let his wife and daughter leave to the peninsula, his way of staying, these are, in a way, a self-chosen cage. Every island is also many islands, and we’ve decided to limit it by showing the intimacy of his island: the tavern, some paths, the beach where he lives and little more. This personal space is like a small area where the hippie says “I’m staying here. I don’t need much to live, but I want to live in the margins of conventions and responsibilities” and there are the shadows we’ve been looking for.
Music is very important in the film.
Yes, music is very important in the film. The soundtrack, but also the diegetic music that appears. For example, the song Formentera Lady, by King Crimson, from which we get our title. I wanted to tell the story of how this man actually met them to display in a visual and musical way the importance of the 70s. The 70s of the film are that idyllic past, the beginning of his stagnation, of his peace, of his life, and it coincides with his arrival to Formentera and the emergence of the hippy movement. But it is also that paradise lost, which is something that took place with the hippie movement. It dissolved after certain things entered society, drugs and, well, society itself. It was an unachievable dream. It was achieved at certain moments and in certain places, but then society moved elsewhere. And the song really worked out in the film.
Your film has already been screened with audience. How has the feedback been?
Very positive. People get really inside the story, it is simple and honest, and I think this is highly appreciated. During the screening, I’ve felt people are drawn into the story, they are entertained by its eccentricity, its conflict touches them, it’s wonderful. The screening we did in Formentera to show our gratitude towards the island was very special. Not just our gratitude towards the institutions, but also how the people treated us. People appreciated it and they showed it by coming en masse. That was one of our most special screenings.
After Cinema Jove you’ll celebrate the commercial opening. There it’s all in. Are you scared?
(laughter) No, because now it’s all about luck, and hoping that people feel like going to see it. It is true that we have to work on the promotion and do everything possible to get people to go. I think it is appealing because of Sacristan and because of the story. We already have that. Now, we need people to go to the movie theatres. And most of the film will be screened in its original version. Actually, I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens (laughs).