Marc Vigil • Director of The Swamp’s Silence
“The films we see end up becoming part of us”
- Marc Vigil directs his first feature film with The Swamp’s Silence, now showing at the Seville European Film Festival following its premiere in Busan
After cutting his teeth in the world of TV drama, Marc Vigil (Avilés, 1975) has made his first foray into directing for the big screen with The Swamp's Silence [+see also:
interview: Marc Vigil
film profile], adapted from the novel of the same name by Juan José Braulio Sánchez. First unveiled at the Busan International Film Festival, it is now screening out of competition at the 16th Seville European Film Festival.
Cineuropa: What was it about the original novel that spoke to you, to the extent of inspiring your first cinema project?
Marc Vigil: I didn’t want to do what many of my friends had done, which was to begin by making short films and working on personal projects. Television appealed to me because it allowed me to really get to grips with directing, which is a bit like conducting an orchestra, what with working with actors and managing a whole host of things all at once. Working in television really helped me grow, whereas cinema, which is something I’m passionate about, fell by the wayside. The thing that attracted me to The Swamp’s Silence was the prospect of making a genre film; the opportunity arose at the perfect moment. I had the chance to make the leap into cinema some years ago, but I didn’t take it because I didn’t have the time; I was involved in too many other things. When Zeta Cinema introduced me to the novel, I suddenly had another opportunity. It’s a novel about corruption and adapting it was quite a challenge, which is what hooked my interest.
What did you have to sacrifice or let go of in adapting the novel for cinema?
The film is quite different from the book. I like the fact that the main character finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, like in a classic western. There are two stories in the novel: the writer’s story, and the story he himself is writing. I kept the essence of the book — a successful writer, harbouring a secret, which turns out to be that he’s also a murderer. Everything starts to go wrong when someone even worse than he is arrives on the scene, and he suddenly becomes the target. I was intrigued by this shifting dynamic, and the idea was to make a film more in the style of Brian de Palma or Alfred Hitchcock, where the viewer gradually makes a series of discoveries that lead up to the conclusion, but can’t be sure whether what they are seeing is real or part of the story that the character is writing.
Some of the scenes in this film are reminiscent of American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron, who adapted it from Bret Easton Ellis’s best-selling novel. What other filmmakers do you admire, other than those we’ve already mentioned?
For many years now I’ve been fascinated by the work coming out of South Korea. I’m also a big admirer of David Fincher; every film he makes is a classic, each more accomplished than the last. I’m crazy about John Huston, Sam Peckinpah and Sidney Lumet as well. We soak up this whole cinematic world, and it ends up becoming part of us; there are traces of all of those filmmakers in what I tried to do in this film.
Was switching from television to film like having to work in a different language, or is there not much difference between the two at this stage?
I didn’t need to alter my way of working, because I fought so hard to change the prevailing approach to making television. There’s no such thing as an original concept, but when I first started working, the emphasis in television was still on production, and from a narrative point of view that had little interest for me. On the other hand, it was a fantastic opportunity to surround myself with great actors and work alongside them. As your career progresses, you either invent new ways of doing things or you try to emulate the BBC or HBO. Over the years there have been a lot of changes; as the production-based model has given way to a focus on series, the director is now in the driving seat and stories are told through their eyes, which gives them a tighter focus. I spent a few years in Mexico, and when I got back, I filmed the series The Ministry of Time. We started to play with this kind of narrative style, within the limits of the resources we had. We began to come up with more cinematic ways of telling a story, mixing all kinds of genres and making episodes that gave a nod to Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder. Because of that whole experience, the transition to filmmaking was fairly straightforward. The hard part is getting used to having much more time. In television, you’re trained to wrap things up quickly because your resources are more limited. TV teaches you to solve problems, and that’s an excellent skill to have when you’re telling stories. With a film, you step into the editing room and create a whole new version.
(Translated from Spanish)
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