When speaking about director Borja Soler we must address his feature film Stockholm, which he co-directed with Rodrigo Sorogoyen, and which became one of the unquestionable surprises in the recent Spanish film industry, receiving a Goya Award, a Premio Feroz and three awards at the Málaga Film Festival in 2013. Before entering the production of his first solo feature film, Soler visits Cinema Jove with his latest work, short-film Ahora seremos felices; a short piece in two acts that tells a story about love, falling out of love, the passing of time and the hopes we deposit. During the first act, a couple narrates the process of their relationship, from the fervour of the initial passion to their break up. In the second act, two ex-lovers run into each other in the street and briefly speak about their lives. What has happened? Where are they now? Where are the yheading? And, if nobody seems to be that happy, why does the title mean ‘Now we will be happy’?
The title of the short-film already hides a mystery. How did you come up with it? What inspired you?
We thought a lot about the title. Probably because the title of the book from which I extracted the two short stories was very relevant, it was La vida privada de los héroes. (The private life of heroes). It is a title that I love and I didn’t want to lose it, but after considering several ideas that included the concept of heroes, I realized we were losing the spirit of both stories which I had selected to represent a diptych of a broken relationship. What I was interested in is the fact that the couple in each of the stories could be the same couple. In the first part we witness how the relationship breaks and in the second part, after time has passed, they run into each other. The idea of how a relationship breaks up and the memories one has about it years later was what interested me the most. For this reason we selected that title, where the temporary component, the now, was present.
There is something interesting in the first part of the story and it is that there is no explanation about the break up, no reason why. It seems the ‘why’ is not as relevant as trying to display a feeling. Was this intentional? What were you looking for?
Exactly, that is exactly what drew me to the story. A couple that makes all the efforts required to be ok, to enjoy their last weekend together and yet there is something ominous that they can’t stop. It is like a tragic destiny story, but includes all the irony that was in the text. After all, most relationships end like that, just because… regardless of how many reasons we try to look for.
As you’ve already mentioned, the short-film is based upon the book La vida privada de los héroes, by Daniel Jiménez. What does the film version keep of the original text?
I think I’ve been faithful to the stories. In fact, the voice of the narrator and the dialogues of the second story have been transferred to the script with hardly any changes. The main difference is that most of the stories in the book are clearly located in central places of Madrid, and I wanted to completely modify the urban atmosphere that I was so close to. This is why I transferred the stories to a place that was completely unknown to me, the Azores Islands, which gave the stories a fascinating filming atmosphere.
The second act is more static tan the first. The characters’ personalities are revealed through the dialogues, and yet the melancholic depths of their lives apper very clearly. It is something that is not directly addressed, but is present. How did you work with the actors?
We hardly rehearsed, I worked with them separately and we strived to understand the characters, ask ourselves what kind of relationship they had lived together, and those types of issues, instead of working on the details of the dialogues or the staging. It was also a coincidence that Raúl [Prieto] and Maggie [Civantos] had worked together a long time ago. So that reunion both characters have in the story, they also had during the filming, ten years later. It might be that this coincidence helped create the magical atmosphere that appears between them, but I think it mostly has to do with the fact that they are some of the best actors of their generation. It was an honor to be able to work with them.
The moment that these two past lovers meet is a crossroads between the past and what is to come. “The future” he calls it, but what does it mean?
It was all about referring back to the idea that saturates the film: how we live a breakup in the present and how we remember it, and what we expect of the ones which are still to come. Clara’s character adopts a naïve discourse, holding on to what could’ve been and reasserting herself “I’m ok now”. Daniel, on the contrary, seems to have given up. But his discourse is more than just pessimistic, it is a survivor discourse. I think, once we get to a certain age, we’ve all been in either of these two positions. The tragic and funny part of it is that, given time, we fall in love again, and this all starts again.
Tell us about the cave that opens and closes the story.
At a formal level, I was very interested in giving everything that tone of a classical tragedy, that is why it is divided in acts, it includes classical music, it has an omnipresent narrator and it follows a literary style. This deliberate way of telling two stories that address something so common, through such anodyne characters, was meant to represent how we normally confront break-ups. The tragedy of the end of a love in which we’ve fallen is very romantic, pathetic and funny at a time. If the cave hadn’t existed, Daniel would’ve returned home after running into Clara, as he does in the book. So I loved the idea that, to close the short-film, our ‘hero’ returns exhausted to his cave.
Before this short-film you co-directed Stockholm with Rodrigo Sorogoyen. How is it to make a film with another person?
It was an incredible and intense experience. We had twelve days to film the movie, there was no money for an extension, so we had to prepare a very thorough planning in which we clearly stated who had which role. I focused on the image production, working closely with Rodrigo and Álex de Pablo, the director of photography. With such demanding time frames and conditions, this distribution of responsibilities helped Rodrigo preserve a general vision of the film.
Do you find a relationship between the characters of Stockholm and Ahora serenos felices?
I had actually never thought about that. I don’t see the relationship, I think both proposals are very different, even if both have couples as the main characters. In Stockholm there is a clear intention of taking the relationship between two strangers to the limit, to the ‘I love you, now’. In ASF, we could say there is an opposite intention, time makes all of the craziness of love fade into a story they have trouble remembering.
You are already working on your first solo feature film, Spanien. The title sounds promising. Could you give us any information about it?
Spanien takes us to a near future in which our country, after various bailouts, has been absorbed by Germany. Marisol, the mayor of Benidorm, decides to proclaim the independence of her city after the Catholic Kings appear to her in a dream and entrust her with the mission of reconquering the country. It is a very Mediterranean political satire, written with Daniel Remón, and which, taking into account the current political conext, seems to be becoming a documentary.