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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2019 Competition

Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño and José Mari Goenaga • Directors of The Endless Trench

“Fear could turn any of us into moles"

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- Basque trio Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño and José Mari Goenaga are in San Sebastián to present The Endless Trench, a sensitive, moving film rich in metaphor starring Antonio de la Torre and Belén Cuesta

Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño and José Mari Goenaga • Directors of The Endless Trench
Jon Garaño, Aitor Arregi and José Mari Goenaga (© Lorenzo Pascasio)

As with their four previous films, Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño and José Mari Goenaga are competing on home turf. The Endless Trench [+see also:
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interview: Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño an…
film profile
]
is a portrait of the suffocating lives of so-called “moles”: Spanish men who hid themselves away for years on end, fearing the wrath of the Franco dictatorship. Cineuropa caught up with them during the 67th San Sebastián International Film Festival, where the film, starring Antonio de la Torre and Belén Cuesta, has been selected for the official competition.

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Cineuropa: Alejandro Amenábar’s film, While at War [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Alejandro Amenábar
film profile
]
, also explores the Franco era, and there are a number of other projects in the pipeline on the same theme. What drew you to the subject of the civil war?
Aitor Arregi
: I don’t know whether there is something in the current climate that triggers that preoccupation; you can never really know. We feel that the civil war was such a complex, powerful and contradictory period, which is what makes it a rich source of narrative material for filmmakers. Despite what some people say, we don’t think that there have been too many films about the war; there is still a great deal more to be said. We don’t get bored of seeing films about the Second World War, and there are clearly many more of those. There is also something about the discomfort that this subject tends to produce; it’s an interesting project because the raw material is so good.

José Mari Goenaga: It’s no coincidence that so many films about the civil war are being made right now. Both Almenábar’s film and ours have been in the works for quite some time, and when they were originally conceived the social debate around the Franco era was less vigorous than it is now. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell whether it’s pure chance, or a response to a certain energy in the air, but these films are certainly being released in a year when all of these issues have a lot of resonance.

We need to remember that peace is fragile, and hatred can erupt into torrents that can’t be stopped, as you show in your film.
J.M.G.:
Yes, the film is a testament to that. We wanted to put the “moles” on the front line of history while also creating an allegory about fear and the effect it has on people. This metaphorical and psychological element was more appealing to us than making a purely historical civil war film.

In your previous film, Giant [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Aitor Arregi and Jon Garaño
film profile
]
, you achieved an impressive reconstruction of a certain period in time, but used it to tell a personal story. The same is true of The Endless Trench, which shows us the repercussions of the “moles’” seclusion on their loved ones.
Jon Garaño:
Yes, we have a particular interest in psychological films and we see a lot of interconnections between our films. In Giant, we meet people who have to leave home in order to live and support themselves, whereas in The Endless Trench the characters are forced to imprison themselves in their own homes to have a chance at survival.

You wrote the screenplay in partnership with Luiso Berdejo. What did he bring to your already well-established team?
J.M.G.:
Luiso was massively important. The original idea dates back to 2011, but the earliest versions of the screenplay were not completed until 2015, when we were busy working on the production for Giant. We felt that with his experience, he would be a good fit for the story. He liked the idea and wrote out the first few premises and ellipses and the first treatment. After that we worked on polishing the screenplay and getting everything pointing in the right direction.

At the start of the film, the camera is very mobile, but later it seems to settle down.
J.G.:
We wanted the audience to be able to feel what the characters were feeling. The opening scenes of the film are disorienting, so we wanted it to have a certain nervous energy, with more over-the-shoulder shots. Very gradually, the characters fall into a routine and the camera becomes more contemplative and still, documenting their lives together.

Finally, as the film shows, how awful must it be to have to live inside a wardrobe! You’d go mad, wouldn’t you?
J.M.G.:
That’s the film’s main theme: fear of taking the first step. There are parallels here to other kinds of confinement, and to the idea of something that has become so much a part of you, an internal force that stops you from taking the first step towards freedom. The film has echoes of various psychological fears that people might suffer from. Fear can turn any of us into “moles”. It can also be read as an allegory about the fear of coming out of the closet: the loss of freedom because of something external or internal to ourselves.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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