• International Competition

El espiritu de la araña

The spirit of the spider

Antonia Rossi

Who, as a child, has never played the solitary demiurge, arranging figurines and characters in a makeshift theatre? Who is this person manipulating the shadows in a disused factory where there’s barely any daylight? With El espíritu de la araña, making worlds and making a film find an identity of their own in a flexible adventure flowing organically between the qualities of the shots, the blurring and sharpness, shadows and reflections, image-making techniques and iconographic collections. And all this in a radical silence that brings the living creature closer to the animal world. Antonia Rossi’s camera accompanies rather than observes these actions of creation, everyday rituals in the hushed atmosphere of this abandoned and ostensibly hostile place. Its inhabitant makes a kind of lichen grow, and covers herself with it – a literal way of taking root. Sprouted seeds become a landscape in which a hand, filmed in close-up, slides like a futuristic slug. El espíritu de la araña is the unfolding of a mutation via the experimental fabrication of a different way of living. Living like a spider. The outside is spied on and kept at a distance. This dichotomy constructed with an interior is less a separation of space than of time. Urban visions could be the ruins of a before, and this interior, another form of ruin (here industrial), a future as an opportunity to reconfigure images and symbols, and produce new narratives… and therefore new worlds. The cinematic space is, then, the ideal place for the Chthulucene (a name whose first source is a small Californian spider) to occur, a parallel space-time invented by Donna Haraway, where “the possibilities of living in the ruins of capitalism” are gingerly created, precious, secret possibilities that are constantly threatened by the destructive appetite of cranes.

Claire Lasolle

With El espiritu de la araña, you are continuing the experimentation with images that began with El eco de las Canciones (FID 2010) and Una Vez La noche (FID 2018). How did this project come about? What was your working process?

Since university I have felt uncomfortable with the traditional aspect of filmmaking. With the way in which they taught us to make films, to represent reality or construct fiction. Generally, this implied films with a cause and effect, linear narratives, rigid scripts and very pyramidal production systems. I quickly understood that I had to find my own way to feel comfortable. I approached the visual arts to integrate other materialities and understand other languages, and thus be able to combine them with what interested me in cinema. This resulted in experimentation in general terms. Not only in the images, but also in sound, script and production, calling into question the effectiveness and meaning of realist codes, the objective of this questioning being to change the way we look at the world, what we know and the way we come to knowledge, among other things, using artistic practice itself as a means and an instrument of discovery.
Now, the most important thing for me in practical terms is the creative process itself. I always take on very long processes (7 or 8 years) wherein the creative team and I integrate, piece by piece, everything that appears in it. The initial theme and the film’s eventual form change. Each film will result in different materializations depending on the themes we address and the people we interact with. Accompanying me in this process is Roberto Contador, who has been my main collaborator. He has acted as co-writer and editor, among other roles, on my previous films.

The actress Maria Garcia plays a woman who makes her nest in a disused factory, between everyday gestures and creative gestures. A solitary demiurge, she recreates a miniature city, a shadow theatre. Can you tell us more about this gesture? Was it a work specifically conceived for the film or did it pre-exist the project?

The film takes the city and women as its starting point.
How do we as women see ourselves in relation to an androcentrically built city? How do we inhabit it and abound in it? What is our space really?
I approached different women, their lives and their practices, including feminist groups focused on a new kind of architecture. Their testimonies and tasks brought to light the idea of women as shadows that inhabit the world, which translated into an experimentation regarding materialization through silhouettes, and the realm of ghost as another layer of everyday existence.
Based on this premise, I began to wonder what it would be like to give shape to that displaced feminine. What would it be like to live in another form, changing the time and space of that form? Everything in the film is sorcery, a ritual from the beginning. A self-investigation to create one’s own narrative, one’s own way of inhabiting. Through ritual we seek to expand time and space, give it another density, another cadence.
Movement is created from the inside out, in the certainty of intuition.
The character delves into herself to find the images, breaking and giving way to the birth of new things, just as I also search within myself and other women who were part of the process. Out of this movement emerge the element of nature, the idea of animality, and “A Room of One’s Own” as a means to create. An intimate conversation with our own mystery and our own way of discovering.

El espiritu de la araña draws on a whole repertoire of figures and images of women that seem to have their origins in horror films, fortune-telling, the American advertising world of the 50s and horrific tales, and shifts a certain pop fetishism. What is you interest in this iconography? How did you select this material?

I have always been interested in archival images. Rescuing them from oblivion and giving them new meaning. This was the case in El eco de las Canciones and it is also the case in El espiritu de la araña. In the latter I found erotic material on Super 8 from the 80s and earlier. I was interested in rescuing and re-seeing the representations of those women, of those bodies, of those activities, as part of the history that we bear. The character salvages all these images in a kind of spiritism, or self-spiritism. We could say that they are all the women who inhabit her. It is her imagination and her material of creation.

Why the spider? How did this animal inspire you for the film?

I am very interested in our relationship with animals in general, their way of living and feeling. I think we have a lot to learn in our coexistence with them.
The spider in particular interested me because it weaves its own world. It builds an environment from something that it generates itself. An interweaving that results in its own unique habitat with enormous expressive value.
Because it usually lives in the dark, in the corners of houses, it hides and watches from afar.

The film has no dialogue or textual anchoring. Why this radical choice? How did you work on the soundtrack?

In the beginning the film had some texts. Not many, but it had a couple of paragraphs with voice-over by the actress. Once we had progressed with the editing, we realized that they did not contribute. They were poetic texts, but they did not contribute to the open interpretation that we wanted to achieve. It seemed to us that the word was moving away from those new forms of expression that we wanted to investigate, away from those materialities that involve other senses, other parts of the body. What we ultimately wanted was to give shape to different forms of non-written communication, theatrical performance, photography, drawing, collage, body gestures.
We always wanted the film to be an experience rather than a rational idea.
The soundtrack is built along this line, emphasizing the atmospheric, the intimate, but also the tensile relationship of a city that is collapsing “out there”, and that she sees with a distant perspective.

Interview by Claire Lasolle

  • International Competition
14:1528 June 2024Artplexe 2
09:3029 June 2024Artplexe 2
16:0030 June 2024Vidéodrome 2

Technical sheet

Chile / 2024 / Colour and B&W / 63'

Original version: No dialogue
Subtitles: No subtitles
Script: Antonia Rossi, Roberto Contador
Photography: Antonia Rossi, Roberto Contador
Editing: Antonia Rossi, Roberto Contador
Music: Roberto  Contador, Jonathan Darch, Merce  Jara Muns
Sound: Jonathan Darch
Cast: Maria Garcia

Production: Roberto Contador (Malaparte), Antonia Rossi (Malaparte)
Contact: Antonia Rossi (Malaparte)


Short fiction films:
Coming Home (2000);
Midafternoon (2001);
Hitchhiking (2003); and
Interval (2005)

Experimental feature films
Essay” (2005)
Echo of the Songs (2010)
Once the Night (2018)
The spirit of the spider (2024)