Latin American Competition - Out of Competition

3 questions for Manuel Nieto Zas

The director of El empleado y el patrón talks in detail about his film that is part of the Latin American Competition – Out of Competition.
3 questions for Manuel Nieto Zas

What particularly attracted you to that rural universe and the conflicts that emerge from there?
The rural world, its characters, landscapes and conflicts had already been explored in my previous film, El lugar del hijo. It is an inspiring universe for me, much more than the urban and coastal universes –better known and more traveled by films. Thinking about films in the countryside is an adventure for me: getting out of the city, investigating, looking for everything. And when you find it, it is like making a discovery. Also, with the perspective that I bring from the city, I feel freer to put together a story or choose the elements that serve me over those that do not. I am always left with the feeling that there is something good in the rural world. Life passes in a simpler, clearer or pure way and I think that this gives the conflicts more depth.

The characters of the film work as mirrors for each other, in contrast, something that is already hinted at from the title and that occurs not only between the protagonists but also with the characters that surround them and the situations they are going through. What was it about this peculiar construction that interested you?

I can say that this construction was born with the very idea of the film. I never thought of another kind of dramatic construction between employee and employer. And, as this is the dominant construction, to preserve the shape and coherence of the film, it was also applied to the rest of the characters. One detail that falls out of this question is the idea and the fact that the employee's world is entirely constructed / performed by non-professional actors that we found at the locations where we film, mostly near the Uruguay-Brazil border. In opposition to this, the boss's world is constructed, interpreted by a recognized Argentine / international professional cast, by Nahuel Pérez Biscayart. For me, this was an important wager to make in terms of its shape and in terms of the result of this contrast. Perhaps because we are more used to seeing characters close to the world of the boss in the cinema, I assumed that it would be good to build it with a professional cast. On the other hand, to achieve the verisimilitude of the rural world, I needed authentic characters, to work with the same essence of the world that we were going to describe, by their faces, their paucity and their innocence in front of the camera, but also because they dominate the rural work in a natural way. Filming performances that had the same tone was the hardest thing to do. I was constantly asking Nahuel, Justina and Jean Pierre to take things out of their interpretations, to perform at the level of non-professional actors. And for them at one point that was like not acting: they had to let themselves be carried away by that journey, that is, to stay in front of the camera and watch.

Throughout the story, a whole game with identification and point of view unfolds: the film does not allow us to place ourselves comfortably on the side of any of the characters. How did you consider and work on this aspect?

Points of view change as the film unfolds, and this change in perspective contributes to the effect of making it difficult for the viewer to judge the characters unequivocally. Intuition told me that I had to start the film with the boss and his world, perhaps because they are characters better known by the audience. The world of the employee, in contrast, is more distant, more difficult, and so are the characters who embody it. The alternation between one character and another, between one world and another, becomes shorter and shorter until at one point the two characters begin to travel the film together. On the other hand, I think that both characters betray the viewer in terms of what she or he expects of them. This, I think, makes them more complex and it does the same to the relationship that the film builds, which is dialectical. I think it works because in terms of submission (according to Hegel) they both alternate, they are victims and victimizers, have compassionate feelings, and also selfishness and ambitions.