INTERVIEW – LET THE LIGHTS MOVE AWAY / DEJA QUE LAS LUCES SE ALEJEN
Let the lights move away confronts two solitudes : the solitude of your friend and main character and yours filming him ? What was the starting point of this film, your first impulse ?
What prompted me to make this film was a reunion with friends that I had not seen for many years. I traveled to Manatiales, a nature reserve in the mountains of Córdoba, to visit them. I thought that the meeting would be cold and distant because of the time that had passed, but on the contrary, it was very warm and as soon as we saw each other I noticed that the bond that we had created in our youth remained intact. During those days we spent in the mountains remembering our stories, I experienced a very deep feeling of nostalgia. The exercise of memory and the landscape that surrounded me were very stimulating; I realized that I could organize a film based on those emotions.
Can you tell us about this solitary shooting ? What guided you through it, how did it evolve, according to which principles, or discoveries ?
The film had several stages of shooting. At first I traveled with my friend Raúl and we started a documentary record of Rapa’s activities in the mountains. I didn’t have a script, just some notes and ideas to guide me. In this type of shooting, time becomes the main ally. I had the opportunity to spend almost two months in the mountains and gradually find a way to shoot the film. During all that time, situations appeared outside of Rapa’s routine that changed the dynamics of the shooting. The film expanded its horizon and blurred the limits between documentary and fiction. With that material, I returned to Buenos Aires and began to work on the editing. After months of work, I wrote several scenes that allowed me to build a more solid structure and I went back to shoot again. Although this time I had a short script, the approach to filming was the same as in my first trip.
You chose to depict Rapa’s solitary routine in a very fragmentary way, through details, close ups on gestures, objects. Can you comment on this choice ?
I found in these resources the way to expand the space beyond the shot. The narrative potential of offscreen sound is often underestimated. I filmed in a fragmented way knowing that this universe would be completed with sound design. I also felt that this resource could work to move the film away from its original documentary imprint and slowly enter a zone where the limits between the imaginary and the real disappears. Listening to the character’s actions while focusing the image on the objects or on the landscape ends up building a spectral sensation that favors this progressive transformation. It is fascinating to discover how objects can awaken memory. Objects have that power to remind us of what we were. They are witnesses of our past and in the film they are a way to evoke the character’s past.
The sound plays an important role in this progressive transformation. Can you tell us about its design ? With whom did you work on sound, and how ?
We worked on the sound design with Nahuel Palenque. It was a long process since we did not have financial resources. Whenever he finished a project and had a few weeks off, we sat down to work on the film. We went like this for more than a year. The level of detail with which Nahuel worked the ambiances and the offscreen sound was astonishing and ended up creating that little cosmos. Sound makes a fundamental contribution to the progressive estrangement of space.
The scene with the forest fire at night is very impressive. How did you conceive and shoot it ? And can you comment on this idea of expressing the return of souvenirs as a nocturnal forest fire ?
Several years ago I experienced an epiphany. From one second to the other I became aware of the passage of time and my perception of the world changed completely. I suppose it happens to all people at some point in their life. When I faced that revelation I experienced a burning sensation, a desire to recover things, to live every minute. Looking for an image that could represent that urgency, that sensation, I came up with the sequence of the nocturnal fire. Perhaps the idea sounds a bit poetic, but it is only an intention. Surely the viewer can find interpretations much more interesting than mine for that sequence. The way it was filmed was very natural. In the mountains of Córdoba, forest fires are frequent. Rapa participated on several occasions in manoeuvres with the firefighters to contain a fire that was dangerously close to his house. During my stay in the mountains, I could see the distant lights of the fire trucks patrolling the entire reserve area. One day I spoke to them and they gave me an hour of their time, and in that hour I shot the entire sequence. It was almost a miracle, all the shots I filmed are in the film.
Can you comment on the presence of the cat, and on the importance you give to its perception ?
The cat accompanies Rapa in the mountain, it is his connection with emotions in that solitude. From the beginning I knew the cat had to lead me to the character and that’s why the film starts that way. After days observing his behavior in nature, I thought that it could be beautiful to have a scene from the cat’s point of view, to see with his eyes the space, the birds, the universe that surrounded us.
Mainly mutic, the film opens up to two important blocks of speech, a monologue and a dialogue. How did you write them, and why this very contrasted relation to speech in the narration ?
At first I thought that the film was not going to have dialogues. But in the editing room I realized that there was something I could not transmit only with the images, so I decided to include those two moments where the word takes center stage. It was a challenge to include them without abandoning the narration way the film proposes from its beginning. But finally those two blocks became fundamental pieces within its structure.
A glowing and almost eerie footage appears in the end. Who shot it ? Was it in your possession, or how did you find it ? What were your intentions in editing it ?
Many of those images were shot by Martín Donalisio, a friend who also acts in the film. Most of them are from the house that is referred to in the dialogue scene and the rest of those VHS videos were shot by me around that same time. In these images we see young Rapa and the whole group of friends. I came across this material when I was finishing the montage. I was surprised by the similarity in the way of filming things, I could see something in that archive that could organically be mixed with the film I was working on. They worked like a mirror, as if I had built my film on that archive. I liked that idea.
Can you tell us about the way the film was produced, financed ?
The film was financed with small personal contributions and the help of friends who lent me equipment and hours of their time and work. Once the editing was finished, we were able to get the support of some funds from Argentina to complete the Post-Production.
Interviewed by Cyril Neyrat