Interview: Dir. Amat Escalante, La Région Salvaje | The Untamed (2016)

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 4/5. Read my film review of this film by clicking > here <

Interview by: Feargal Agard|Director: Amat Escalante|Film: La Région Salvaje (2016).

Introduction: “My name is Feargal Agard. I recently, about two months ago started a blog/website called Humans of Film Amsterdam. I want to thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to interview you. And I have to say that I really liked your film. I like It a lot. I was basically sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time. Just so you know.” – Feargal

“Thank you.” – Amat

“You’re welcome.” – Feargal

Q: “What I wanted to know is how were you inspired to come up with this film? Like with this entire idea. It is very unique.” – Feargal

A: “I guess it kind of comes in two parts. First, I had this idea that was inspired by something that I saw in the newspaper in the town Guanajuato where I live in Mexico. Where we filmed the movie as well. The newspaper had an image of this man that had drowned. He was in the river and it had a big headline that was kind of meant to sell. It was very derogatory towards the person that had drowned. It said that they had found a drowned ‘faggot’. At least if you literally translate it. It kind of impressed me when I looked at it and it turned out that a friend of my last movie was friends with this man who got murdered and this happened in my town. Nobody even said anything about that headline. That was what especially impressed me the most. That this was allowed to be said.”

“That is something about society that I find inspiring to talk about. How there is violence towards people who have different sexual orientations and preferences and how that also had to do with violence towards women coming from men and even men who are violent with other men. Which is also a subject from my last film Heli (2013).”

“So, first that and then I tried to come up with a story with these elements, because I wasn’t able to find a clear answer or anything that was satisfying in that way. It is not an investigation or a journalistic approach that I have. It’s more intuitive and about seeing what I find. I kind of started to feel unsatisfied with what I came up with.” – Amat

Q: “It did not give you the right closure?” – Feargal

A: “Yes, what is this going to do? What’s the purpose of this? Because everything kind of seemed obvious in many ways. So, that’s when the idea of something from another planet came. Somehow that explained things and gave everything more sense. This thing represents what I was trying to show within the people. It ends up being something kind of ambiguous and difficult to pinpoint, but basically this creature is what they desire and what they are rejecting at the same time. The fear that they have towards this thing is at the same time what attracts them to it. Once that element was in place I was able to kind of find a place for everybody and it made more sense. That’s why after two drafts of the screenplay the element of science-fiction came into the story.” – Amat

Q: “Because this is the first time that you incorporated a science-fiction element in your films? Right?” – Feargal

A: “Yeah, I’ve always kind of … at some point in my last version of the script I had these crazy ideas, but they are mostly used as exercises. And I have always been attracted to …” – Amat

Q: “Science-fiction?” – Feargal

A: “Well, I don’t know if it should be referred to as science-fiction, but more like horror. For me that is maybe more precise, but it is also science-fiction. Also, the way that I film reality even though it’s very realistic, I like to approach it in an almost strange way. So, this new movie kind of made sense for me.” –Amat

Q: “That’s great. You kind of already spoke about the creature. I did have a more specific question. Why did you choose for an alien creature? It could have been anything. It could have been a Godzilla kind of creature or something else that’s more from this planet, but still kind of weird. How did you come up with an alien? what does it mean and what does it say?” – Feargal

A: “I guess it’s in a way somewhat pessimistic maybe, because I don’t see anything else that’s going to move us enough or that can make us change easily here on earth, at least radically. I think that’s why I felt it had to be different. It had to be real in the sense that it could not be magical. I did not want it to be a magic thing it had to make some type of sense that it came from another planet, because if it came from earth it becomes much more fantasy-like. Also, when it was being designed, we we’re thinking about how it had to look in order for it to be having sex with people. In the beginning, the shapes weren’t so flexible. It took a long time and a lot of changes from the beginning till what it ended up being. It was all just based on what needed to happen with it and with the humans. We had to be careful that it did not look too much like something else from another movie. It is very difficult, because at the same time this creature in a way is from other films, but it was more about what it symbolized than making it into a very particular special character in itself. So, it’s kind of just functional and it had to look real and integrated. This happened in part with the help of the co-production that we did with our visual effects supervisor in Denmark. They helped with the design and the digital effects were done over there. Just so you know, a lot of the budget was used for this creature. If the creature did not look well, the whole thing would have failed.” – Amat

Q: “Another question that I had. What are you trying to say with this film, because I started to analyze the film as from the firtst minute. I haven’t come with any good analysis yet, but I started analyzing it because it feels that there is a hidden story to it or something philosophical or thematical. Could you elaborate on it more?” – Feargal

A: “Well, I had something interesting to say when you first said it, but now I already forgot it. You know it’s difficult for me to explain, because they are really quite up in the air in many ways. They come together and they make sense after the movie is done or maybe after the screenplay in some way, but mostly after the film is done. I can see some patterns. With this movie in particular, it’s been difficult to explain or answer a lot of questions, more than in any other of my films. This is the fourth movie and all my movies are all about certain subjects, but this one since the subject matter is very personal. Not that it is personal to me, but it is about people. It is about the inside of people and their most basic desires and fears. That is what I wanted to explore; the fear, being afraid of so many things that are just inside of oneself. Where does this come from? Is it from family or friends?” – Amat

“Another thing that I like about making movies is that there is certain ambiguity that makes it special and unique. I like ambiguity because you could even find the movie to be against what you might think is a pro or a con. For example, I live in a very conservative state in Mexico and the movie is a little bit of a reaction to conservatism, but a conservative person could also watch the movie and think that it reinforces their view. You know what I mean? I like to play around. I like to leave it open. The second movie that I made was about immigrants in Mexico and it’s called Los Bastardos (2008). It is also a bit ambiguous. When I was making this film I said I wanted to make a movie that people against immigration could maybe even like. But in the end of the day, my view is that people should be free and liberated and do whatever they want with their body and with their mind, etc. And you have to be truthful, because if you’re not you would live very badly yourself and affect everybody around you. So, that is my view, but in the movie I did not want to preach that. I find it more interesting and somehow also a little bit more dangerous in that it plays with those ideas.” – Amat

Q: “As if you are provoking?” – Feargal

A: “Yes, I guess so, but I’m saying this because of your initial question about why and what I want to say. Not that I don’t know what I want to say, but what I want to say is not so important. I play around with what I want to say, unconsciously. I have my point of view and that’s always going to be very much there, I think, but I also like to question and provoke that same point of view. You know what I mean?” – Amat

“I know, I understand. It’s like challenging yourself and questioning yourself” – Feargal

“Yeah, because that’s how the world is. I mean otherwise everything would be pretty fine and nothing would happen. If the views of everybody were the same, but because there are so many contradictions even with every point of view, that’s some of the richness of life. I like to approach that in this movie. I don’t know if this somewhat answered your question?” – Amat

“It answered the question. I can get that.” – Feargal

Q: “I have another question, because this is just probably me thinking too far. I saw this poster in the film and I don’t know if I can ask the question, it could be too specific or a spoiler. There was a poster and it said ‘OFU island’ in the background behind Simone Bucio. I looked at it and I thought it must mean something, did it mean something?” – Feargal

A: “No. We did have an idea in the writing that she dreamt about being somewhere else, because that is where she wants to escape to. That is why she had these maps, and that’s what we wanted to convey. The writer Gibrán Portela had a little book of maps of islands. It was an interesting book and each island had a story and I think that must have been one of the pages and we made it bigger from what I remember.” – Amat

“Because if you turn it around it says ufo.” – Feargal

“Ah ok. Ofu, ufo, that’s a good one.” – Amat

Q: “This does not particularly pertain to your film, but who inspires you? Any filmmaker or any other person? How does that personally effect you and how does that work on a personal level.” – Feargal

A: “When I was growing up and I had decided that I wanted to make movies. I was about 15 years old. I did take a few inspirations and examples of other filmmakers that had done something that I liked or admired, and that was in particular Werner Herzog. When he was 15 years old he also started to make movies and he quit school. I did not quit school because of that, but it was important to me to have these examples. I think that is important for everybody who wants to do a job which isn’t like being a doctor or a banker. It’s nice to have an inspiration and somebody to analyze and look at as an example. So, that was someone who was really important to me. And then in this film in particular once this creature was part of it, there is a film called Possession (1981) by Andrzej Zulawski. It also involves a creature that has sex with some people, but a very different style. Anyway my creature somehow pays an hommage to it. The filmmaker died this past year and I placed his name in the credits as a memory or a dedication to him, because it was an influence to me from growing up. We will never know if I would have had the creature without that movie existing. That is one of those things that you’ll never know for sure, but it could be directly referenced with this film. Not only filmmakers, but also a lot of music has inspired me. Especially when I was developing and writing. For example, Gary Numan. The first things that he was doing in the 70’s and then with the last movie I was listening a lot to Joy Division. With each film, when I’m writing it ends up in the films somehow as inspirations.” – Amat

Q: “Do you feel your film has any alignment with your previous films?” – Feargal

A: “Yeah, I mean somehow it ends up being in the same world in many ways. The subjects I end up wanting to get involved with, the people, the way the families are portrayed and the houses. Yes, I can see how it is what I’m attracted to. It’s now the fourth film and it is more clear and it all takes place in the same universe. That is what I feel.” – Amat

Q: “Do you mean as in country or?” – Feargal

A: “Most of my films are in the same country, but I meant that the vision of their world is the same in all of them. And thinking of that I can sense there is something about home and couches and watching television. This happens in all my movies and to pinpoint that and analyze it, is something interesting. I am not sure if this happens a lot in this film, but there is always a television which is the dynamic of their homes. I’m interested in the conflicts in certain family dynamics. They are basically falling apart in my movies. I guess it is because of the experiences that I have seen in real life. This is something that I like to show, but one has to find a lot to keep on trying to do new things. It would be stupid for me to conciously be like, “ok, now I need to do a scene with a couch and a TV”, you know what I mean? Then I would feel bad and it would be stupid somehow, but these dynamics are something that come up when you analyze it. That is how it basically works, but when I’m writing and making a movi. I’m just thinking about that movie and what works with the story and such.” – Amat

Q: “I am also a filmmaker. Well, an aspiring filmmaker. What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker?” – Feargal

A: “Well, I think that one should in a practical way watch a lot of movies and do many exercises. Even if it’s with a small camera and learn the technical things. But the most important thing is, I think for a filmmaker or for anybody who does art or music. Is to be in touch with the unique part of yourself. That everybody has, just as each person has their own fingerprint. It is the same thing with the interior of each person. So, the more that you are in touch with your unique self, linked to art, the more unique and original your movies will be. Or whatever you do in movies and that gives you a better chance to become known.” – Amat

End: “Thank you.” – Feargal

Photo taken by Feargal Agard

Interview written by Feargal Agard

In Dutch theatres as from the 15th of June 2017.

Genre: Drama (thriller) | Language: Spanish | Dutch Distributor: Cinéart Nederland BV.

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