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LOCARNO 2019 Competition

Eloy Enciso • Director of Endless Night

“Cinema is a vehicle for exploration as well as storytelling”

by 

- Galician director Eloy Enciso, competing at the Locarno International Film Festival with his second feature, Endless Night, gives us the inside story on his evocative new film

Eloy Enciso  • Director of Endless Night

Seven years after Arraianos [+see also:
trailer
interview: Eloy Enciso and Carlos Esbert
film profile
]
was selected for the Filmmakers of the Present section here at the Locarno International Film Festival, Galician director Eloy Enciso has returned with a powerful new film, Endless Night [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Eloy Enciso
film profile
]
: a sensorial journey into the open wound of Francoist repression in Spain. We sat down with him to find out more.

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Cineuropa: What inspired you to make this film?
Eloy Enciso
: Two reasons, each complementing the other. One was artistic — I wanted to make a nocturnal film, an exploration of darkness and the limits of perception in a cinema setting. Often today’s films give audiences far too much information and everything is well lit. I thought it would be interesting to go in the opposite direction. The other was an idea that stemmed from the Spanish economic and political crisis and my interest in how it came about. I focused on the Transition, but I found that, the further back I went, the more I felt drawn to the stories I was reading. I came to the conclusion that perhaps the most crucial period for understanding Spain as it is today was the first decade of the Franco regime. I began to read memoires and prisoners’ letters, and I knew I was onto something. There’s a quote that Jean-Marie Straub borrowed: “making the revolution is putting very old but forgotten things back in their place ”. It occurred to me that to understand the present we would have to talk about the past — not so much in a historicist sense, but rather to find out how these things happened.

And were these the texts you used as a basis for the film?
Yes. I got to a point where I had a lot of very diverse material. I didn’t want to write a conventional screenplay with a tight plot, so I picked out different elements that could be brought together in a single project. I knew that I would have a character who would serve to guide the viewer through different spaces as he made his way back to the town where he was born after the end of the Civil War. I worked in quite an intuitive way, without worrying too much about how things should be ordered. I gradually developed a set of characters, vignettes and voices that built up an image of how things were, or at least how they were experienced by many people at the time.

It’s interesting that you incorporate existing written accounts into your films, rather than using your own words. Is it daunting to write from scratch about such a weighty subject as history?
It’s not so much that it’s daunting, but rather that these stories have already been written, and written wonderfully, by those who experienced them first hand. In fact, in early drafts I made more use of certain things that are actually linked to my own family history, but as soon as I started my research, I quickly realised that my way of looking at it was a little simplistic. The more I read, the more I saw that the reality was very complex.

Did you find the process of researching, developing and producing the film straightforward?
In general people were overjoyed that someone was taking an interest in these documents, which are virtually all unpublished or published in a very limited way. I worked particularly closely with people responsible for administering the authors’ estates, foundations, etc. I also spent some time at the Radcliffe Institute in Harvard, where I completed a fellowship  focused on the processes of researching and writing, and on more technical aspects related to the film’s formal qualities. Production is never easy, but we designed a project of a size we could work with given the support that we would have access to.

The film has a clear cinematic identity that aligns it both with the influence of filmmakers that have come before you and a certain leaning towards more novel stylistic choices in contemporary cinema. Could you tell us a little about your artistic choices?
I don’t think these two ideas are unrelated. There’s a whole heap of influences on my work, but the reality is that similarities arise because you have approached the work in a particular way, and not from any conscious decision. Very often, I’m influenced by things that aren’t even related to cinema. For this film, I actually remember talking to my director of photography Mauro Herce about contemporary visual artists, like James Turrell or Anish Kapoor. It’s something that shows that making films is not an inward-looking process. Working with people who come to filmmaking from a different angle, like non-professional actors from amateur theatre, for example, tends to break down boundaries. Cinema is a vehicle for exploration as well as storytelling. There are lots of ways to trigger an emotion; one is through narration, but there are other possibilities. Cinema is an art that is capable of consolidating multiple approaches and disciplines, but even after over a hundred years it is still very much shackled to a literary narrative model. Although the core themes are almost always the same, I like to approach them in an alternative way that makes us see things in a new light.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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