Buzz Uncut: Carlos Reygadas

New auteur on the block Carlos Reygadas talks sex, spirituality and Sleeping Beauty...

Buzz: You shot Silent Light in a real-life community of Mennonites. Had any of them even seen a film before?

Reygadas: Most have never seen a film. Most don't own a television; it's meant to be forbidden. But the levels of orthodoxy are different, so some do. Cornelio [Wall, who plays Johan] for instance, does. He watches it and doesn't care about any opinions. His father [Peter Wall, who also plays Johan's father in the film] doesn't. He has never watched anything. But he now wants a DVD of Silent Light and he's going to watch it in Cornelio's house.

Buzz: So how did Peter react when he saw the rushes?

CR: Bewildered. Shocked. But positively. He was happy. He saw the finished film in Cannes for the first time. He was really pleased and happy and at the same time somehow detached.

Buzz: How did you direct your 'actors'? There are naturalistic moments, but there are also times when they really have to perform, to cry even...

CR: What I want to do is capture the energy of the human being rather than seeing them represent a character and deploy all this technique. So it's very easy just to ask them to be there, and say the things, and be free. Free in the sense of not trying to represent anything, not in the sense of moving or timing, because that is very strict. We do practice... rehearse very clearly what we have to do technically. And then usually most of the shots... the shots you've seen, are first or second takes. I very rarely do more than three takes. Basically... when he cries, I just said "You go up on the stool, you stop the clock, then you come down, then you sit, then you play with the spoon, and then, when I give you a sign, you start feeling... just sadness." And then he'd try to cry. That's all.

Buzz: Your films are concerned with the theme of spirituality...

CR: Basically, we're too far from our own spirits. I don't want to get so deep, I'd just say that, now, our main purpose for action is fear. A lot of people have friends because they're afraid of being alone, a lot of people go out on Friday and get completely drunk because they're afraid of being freaks, instead of staying at home. We have jobs because we're afraid of being unemployed... but then we're unhappy because we're afraid of wasting our lives at the same time as we're working because we're afraid of not working. We want to be normal, we want to consume, we want to be good looking because we're afraid of not having girls in our beds, and stupid things like that. We're mostly afraid. We're afraid of others, we're afraid of speaking our minds, we don't even want to have our own minds anymore so we don't have to speak them. I don't want to sound apocalyptic or anything... Still, probably the world has always been like that, but the sad thing is that it doesn't get better. It should get better, and it doesn't.

Buzz: Your films also all contain sex, sometimes graphically so. Some viewers were scandalised by Battle In Heaven's blow-job scene...

CR: I've said it ten thousand times. Some people believe me and some don't and I can't do anything about it, but... I don't put things there to create shock value or to call attention. I do it because I think they're important for the film. The only limit is taste. Personal taste. In cinema there's freedom of expression and the only limit is my own taste. Of course, I won't do certain things because I don't believe they're important or necessary or truthful or whatever, but as long as I believe they're necessary or truthful I'll do them.

In Silent Light there's no visual sex because it's not necessary. In this case the sex, although it's a film about adultery, was only necessary from a narrative point of view. In the other films... Battle In Heaven is about flesh, about animated flesh doing things, so the bodies were necessary - the way they moved, the way they have sex, they way they eat, it was necessary. And in Japon it was necessary to see the sex because it's during the sex that the man understands what's going on. You see the way he understands, and through the visuals, the act of seeing, you understand deeper things rather than the act of hearing a dialogue. This film [Silent Light]... the only part of the sex I showed was the conversation, which is important after sex, and during sex. I show things that may mean something; I won't show them if  they don't mean anything.

Buzz: There is a great spiritual moment in the film. Some critics have dismissed it as being a rip-off of another film that will go unmentioned here for fear of spoiling the scene for viewers...

CR: I neither mind nor appreciate people dismissing it. It's fine. I don't care. I believe that everything we do comes from somewhere, and of course you always have your influences, and when you're young, when you're starting your job, always you will try to be... put, or placed, in a certain current. But eventually, you'll only be yourself and things can take place naturally. So I don't mind. The philosophy of my film is completely different [to the film that critics are referencing], although there is a direct dialogue. Of course there's a dialogue. But there's also a dialogue with Sleeping Beauty! [laughs]. And in my opinion, it's closer to /Sleeping Beauty/ than anything else!

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