3 questions for Malena Solarz
The director of Álbum para la juventud talks to us in detail about her film, which is part of the International Competition.
The story takes place at a very precise moment in the lives of the protagonists. Why did you decide to explore that context? What interested you about using that to build this story?
The truth is that that moment in the lives of the characters was not the starting point of the film, but I was also discovering it while I was writing the script. The first thing I thought of was the first scene, and there is something about the age of the characters that interested me there: they are young people who may have some autonomy to move around the city, have plans or interests of their own, but they also depend on their families financially, or for other issues such as their studies or taking care of themselves. In the process of making the film, I had a growing curiosity about what those characters were like together with others, whom they also sometimes take care of or accompany in different ways, but also in their moments alone, in which they take the time to investigate their own curiosities, related to their future or their childhood. And this is true for adolescents as well as for older generations: everyone has things coming ahead, but they can also look back.
The performances are central in the construction of subjectivity and the relationships between the characters. What was the work with the actors and the script like to bring that universe to life?
Perhaps the most particular part of the process was the decision of who would play these parts. Some roles I wrote specifically for people I knew, and many of them were not actors, but I was confident that they could be in front of the camera with some ease. Others were a little riskier bets, like the two main characters, but with both of them I sensed that their natural ways of being could be rich materials for the film. We did several rehearsals and that helped me to rewrite scenes, but I think we ended up finding a way to work on it during the shoot itself. It was important to gauge how much room there was for improvisation and when it was necessary to trust what was written. Since we filmed in two stages, and in the middle I was watching and editing the material, I modified a bit the way I approached certain scenes. I realized that sometimes a body position or a way of speaking were more expressive than a precise word, and we had that in mind when doing the second part of the shoot.
The music is undoubtedly fundamental in the film not only because of the title and the vocation of the protagonist, but also because of the formal weight it has in relation to the structure and the montage. How did you think about and work on these elements?
Music is another element that was becoming more and more important during the process. It occurred to me that the character would be reviewing those recordings of childhood piano lessons, because I had saved those cassettes from my own childhood. It was a personal recorded material and I was interested in seeing what it might generate in a fictional character. From there, the idea was born that Sol would have a teacher, who is also played by my brother Julián, who wrote the pieces that we hear throughout the film. The piano in particular and music in general were very important in my life and in my relationship with my brother and my entire family, and I think that working with the idea of those "pieces for learning" (to which the title refers) was something that came spontaneously from my musical memory. Later on, Julián had the difficult task of taking those cassettes and translating some of it into musical language without invading the audiovisual. It took several months of watching and listening to examples, testing and searching, but it was a process that I thoroughly enjoyed.