Must-Sees - Master Class: Albert Serra

Must-Sees - Master Class: Albert Serra

A new Master Class was held. This time the great guest was Albert Serra, one of the most original and outstanding voices of Catalan cinema of all time, who spoke with the Director of the Festival, Cecilia Barrionuevo, in a meeting in which he gave notes about some characteristics on the way he works, his tastes and his training.

Before the beginning of the meeting, he recalled his time at the Festival years ago, and stated that in Mar del Plata he lived “some of the funniest days of his life”. Later, he began to break down various concepts about how he chooses the topics he addresses in his films: “A bit by chance; they are ideas that come from afar, they never come from deep personal interest, I have no obsessions with any particular topic. They can arise from a location, or fantasies, ideas that cross the mind. The casting also has a lot on influence: we have no rehearsals; none of them has read the script of any film –except Jean-Pierre Léaud–. The decision of choosing an actor already implies a very great fatality, in the sense that I do not believe in progressive work with actors, because I have no expectations or anything to say to them. On the contrary, what I like is to see what happens without any preference. There is an aesthetic sense and a premise, but with the adventure of embarking on something quite radical. I don’t even know what we are doing or in which direction it’s going. What the film ‘says’ to the spectator is the result of absolute chance”.

Serra described the peculiarities of his behavior on a shooting: “The human eye and the eye of the camera see totally different things, so it’s not much useful to look at what’s happening or intervene too much. To avoid reducing the complexity that the eye of the camera proposes, I choose to direct from a distance. I don’t usually watch or listen to what happens on the set.

After shooting, the process of making the film continues in the editing room, another moment in which Serra addresses a very personal system: “I look at all the images I took and select the ones I like; I pay attention to discover things that the camera captured and that I couldn’t see: they can be an image, an atmosphere, a color, something that is said, a gesture... I follow my instincts without any guidance. Then with three editors we work on what I chose. What that result means or expresses is something that nobody considers. So, it’s a strange work, half scientific, creative and fanciful; you do not think about characters or plots. I try to preserve the idea of performance and chaotic arbitrariness”.

When talking about the time of his training or pointing out influences, the Catalan director surprised by saying: “I never studied cinema at all. Everything I know I have learned by myself. It was a kind of distillation of constants that have to do with patterns of my character, or to the playful aspect that is at the core of everything we do: working without rehearsals, without reference shots ... Basically because it’s very boring to do all that. Since I never attended any shooting, the only influence I had is the analysis of the films. And by reading Manny Farber I found very advanced ideas about working with actors and their interpretation, such as the idea that they are being filmed without realizing it, for example: he mentions the dispersion of the mise-en-scène, comparing the films of Laurel and Hardy and contrasting them with those of Buster Keaton. I established my training in that absence of academicism and discovering what these people raised very lucidly”.

The conversation can be accessed with this link with simultaneous translation into English or below, in Spanish