In his first feature, Tomás de Leone chooses to portray a story built from the inside of his character, towards the deep outside of an indifferent town. Pablo, the main character, works as cook apprentice, which is the only retreat for his dreams. With a complex family and friends who earn their living doing dirty business, Pablo is in two minds about acceptance of his fate and fear of his desires. With brilliant and subtle performances, El aprendiz displays an unfathomable observation about the mind hesitations before jumping into the void.
How was your approach to the matter of the film?
I started writing the script with the same perspective of the world that the protagonist has; much desire, much enthusiasm, but the impossibility to put all this into action and take the first step. At that time I traveled to Quequén –where the film takes place- and seeing those scenarios that combine the wilderness and the industrial made me think that I found the setting of the film. The story was born with the first impressions I had there; a windy and somewhat uninhabited port town. I’ve had an immediate connection because those images set a sensation I had within me. When I had the place, the next step was to follow the main character and his wanderer ways. And I say wander not because of walking without any destination, but because his lack of road map.
Your film works on a persistent violence, the conflicts between a protagonist in search of his identity and the disruptions he faces. Which elements did you take into account when writing the script to achieve this?
I wanted the dialogues were not a verbalization of what happens with the characters. I wanted to avoid those shortcuts. I wanted the narration in itself to tell what happens to them. That is why there are a series of situations in the film that could seem daily, common and wild, but crossed by violence but in a muted drama. In fact, I think the film is a muted drama. The characters make a great use of their energy to repress what is happening and the main character, Pablo, is deep inside that logic until Mercedes –Malena Sánchez- shows up and proposes some other way. A different way to exist and link with the world and this is very subversive for him. Choosing the way in which we relate to the others is a big exercise of compromise with oneself. I think that Pablo travels through the way of surrendering to give himself to others, which is no other thing that an exercise of self-affirmation.
The environments are suffocating but built over minimalist principles with few but eloquent dialogues. How was that search and what technical decisions you took to accompany this principle?
The work with what we understand by Environments appears when we choose to build the cinematographic tale depriving ourselves from the most explicative of the dialogues. Half the phrases of the film were stolen from my teenager friends. That speaking without saying anything we refer to. You can understand it as illusive dialogue but it is not. It is a really strong dialogue, very expressive and works as a cohesive and coercive element of the groups. Once those dialogues are present, the film has to enhance esthetic axes to keep building in that sense: I make the spectator feel but also retain information. This film has a quite classic narrative, but the thing I wanted was to make these environments a trampoline for the plot and not the mere sound or the framing of the action.
How was the experience of the shooting of your debut feature?
Harsh and positive; It cannot be another way.
In what way did you work with the actors to achieve such realistic interpretations?
From the casting I already knew that you cannot work with actors in just one way because you do not relate with friends in the same way. There are actors who ask for a lot of information, there are actors who improve with reshooting and some others need to be guided. Once more I think that directing is knowing when to accept things as they come and when to stop and say "not that way”. If the actor is clever he realizes fast enough that you are only there to improve his performance.