Polo Menárguez • Director of The Plan
"There are some very dangerous ways of understanding masculinity "
- With his feature debut, The Plan, which is released today in Spanish cinemas, Polo Menárguez has brought Ignasi Vidal’s successful stage play of the same name to the big screen
Polo Menárguez is finally releasing his feature debut, The Plan [+see also:
interview: Polo Menárguez
film profile], in Spanish movie theatres this Friday 21 February, courtesy of Filmax. It stars only three actors, Antonio de la Torre, Raúl Arévalo and Chema del Barco, who also breathed life into his character, that of Ramón, in the stage play of the same name, written by Ignasi Vidal, which garnered wild acclaim when it was performed on the boards. The movie was selected for the most recent editions of Seminci in Valladolid and the Seville European Film Festival.
Cineuropa: What previous experience do you have, given that this is your first fiction feature?
Polo Menárguez: In 2011, when I finished university, I went to a town near Soria with a camera and two actors, and I shot a film [Dos amigos] in five days that had a lot of improvisation and documentary elements, but had fictionalised parts, too. Many people inform me that that was my first film, but it wasn’t released in theatres, although it was shown in the Resistances section of the Seville Film Festival. But I consider The Plan to be my first work of fiction because it’s an adaptation and it’s my first bit of professional output. Also, it started off with a decent budget and with the idea that it would be distributed, be released and enjoy a run in commercial cinemas. After Dos amigos, I made a documentary that didn’t get released in theatres either, Invierno en Europa, although it was screened at Seminci. But I would like to reiterate that The Plan, because of what it means for my career, is my first film.
Practically all of the action unfolds in one sole location: a flat. Did you have to pare down the crew much in order to fit into such a tight space?
The crew was as small as we could possibly get away with because it was a real flat: that represented added value because I think that when you film in spaces like that, in small places, there’s something special that gets conveyed to the camera. We had a crew that believed unwaveringly in the project, and even though at the start we were scared of feeling smothered because there were 30 of us crammed in there for three weeks, we started to create our own ecosystem, where we ended up feeling right at home.
Not a single woman appears in the film: they are only referred to by name. Why did you pick such a closed, masculine universe for your debut?
That’s a topic that I’m gradually exploring in my body of work: it was already there in Dos amigos, where two old buddies were constantly challenging one another to see who was stronger and who had the most manly features, according to the classic criteria. Then I made three short films, all of which were in black and white, all of them with men wearing a two-piece suit and a tie. These men expressed their frustrations, feelings of powerlessness and insecurities within this misunderstood masculinity, always talking about a woman who we never see. In all of these works, I try to analyse aspects of my own masculinity as well as that of my friends so that we can understand ourselves a little better and comprehend what role we play in our relationships. It’s all about looking ourselves in the eye and seeing which traits of masculinity are harmful and toxic, how they affect us, and how they have an impact on women and on society. When I saw the stage play The Plan, by Ignasi Vidal, it was crystal clear to me: these three profiles can be sketched out so well in any old group of friends! The – apparently harmless – macho behaviour oozes out of every word of the text and suddenly explodes: at that moment, we see how we turn a blind eye to ways of understanding masculinity that are very dangerous and are lurking inside everyone.
Were there any changes to the dialogue or the pace of the film version of The Plan, compared to the original stage play?
The film is quite faithful to the stage play in terms of its structure and in some of the monologues as well. Almost all of the dialogues have been tweaked, in an attempt to make them more cinematic and, above all, to make them suitable for each actor. But there were a couple of important changes: in the stage play, the protagonists were not security guards, and the ending is a bit different. I tried to make the plot darker and to take it to a more sinister place. That feeling of oppression was not present in the original. I plan things meticulously: I like to know what I’m going to shoot, and why. I study all of that with the DoP, and at the same time, I like the actors to feel free and not constrained by the camera. That preparation and those prior rehearsals allow me to fine-tune any kind of improvisation more easily when we arrive on set with the actors.
(Translated from Spanish)
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