Fresh off its highly successful North American premiere at The Telluride
Film Festival, Gloria was Special Presentation at the Toronto Int’l Film Festival.
I was lucky to be able to spend an hour speaking with director Sebastián Lelio and
2013 Berlin Film Festival Best Actress Award winner Paulina Garcia, the film’s star.
Paulina Garcia in real life barely resembled Gloria who is a seemingly comfortable “woman of a certain age” who still feels young…like me, and also like
me, she enjoys dancing. Her children have lives of their own as does her former husband, she has a job and while comfortable, she is a bit at a loss for a
place and for love. I had not realized that in fact those people I dance with are perhaps also looking for love – all I ever see them do is dance.
But like Gloria, though lonely, they are making the best of their situation. Her fragile happiness changes the day she meets Rodolfo. Their intense
passion, to which Gloria gives her all, leaves her vacillating between hope and despair – until she uncovers a new strength and realizes that, in her
golden years, she can shine brighter than ever.
Speaking with Paulina Garcia, I was first struck with how unlike the character Gloria she was. Sophisticated and refined, speaking perfect English, we
related on a different level from how I related to her in the film, and I had related intimately; I had identified completely with Gloria and I had thought
I would, in fact, be meeting Gloria herself.
Paulina told me how unusual it is to be in every scene. Playing such a character focused so deeply into life forced her to move the center of herself to a
different point. After the movie had been shot, she felt the pain in her very bones from the different positions and motions of Gloria’s person. When it
was over, she felt like she had emerged from a very deep ocean dive. Acting is on the surface, but the character played is really more like an iceberg.
Sebastian added that the relationship between Gloria and everyone else is not the action but in the air around them. It is the anti-matter you experience
in the film, not the plot. The spotlight was always upon her. There was not a single frame in which Gloria’s body was not present. Every single scene is
about how she is feeling about people, things and the world. And she reflects the world, as it is today in Santiago, Chile – discontented and seeking ways
to take action against the discontent.
The relationship built between Sebastian and Paulina prior to filming was not based on the film, but on aligning their minds. It was an unusual friendship
that was built between the director and actress. He gave her things to read unrelated to the film, she read Cassavetes on Cassavetes, (the name
Gloria was not spurious); he gave her quotes, information on vortexes and whatever else interested him in those days. He was very clear about how personal
the film would be, creating layers of emotion and artistry. Once they began working together, they shared a sort of mindful shorthand. He might say, “Do
your own vortex” and she would define the world in her own terms so she could do her part. Paulina/Gloria was the point of the film and everything had to
go around her, as if she were the vortex.
The other character in the film – whom we did not discuss at all, but who was an extraordinary counterweight to Gloria, was Sergio Hernandez who played
Rodolfo. Very sexy and very soulful, he is dogged in his pursuit of Gloria and is dogged by his “ex-wife” and daughters. He has played in Sebastian Lelio’s
previous films La Sagrada Familia in 2006 which I caught during my first trip to Chile as an guest of the Valdivia Film Festival in ‘05
and in El Ano del Tigre, his third film which played Locarno in 2011. Both these were also “insistent observations of characters going
through evolutionary crossroads: family as a sacred trap; the interest in the tension that exists between a person and character; and the conviction that
film is a face-on battle”, to quote Sebastian.
La Sagrada Familia
was shot in 3 days in 35mm, a true indie film. It was a sort of “punk” film and it met with great success and so Sebastian could access national funds to
make his second film Navidad which along with some private investment was finally paid off two months ago. Navidad was
about teenage runaways going through a sort of initiation into the carney world. He directed Year of the Tiger just after Chile’s major
earthquake and Fabula put in the money ($100,000) for this urgent film. It is a testament to the Year Zero and was shot in 12 days. It went on to play
Toronto and Locarno. These are all available along with interviews on Festival Scope.
The year 2005 was the year that a new generation of filmmakers was beginning to create Chilean cinema as we know it today. Not only Sebastian Lelio withLa Sagrada Familia, but the producer of Gloria and Year of the Tiger, Fabula’s Pablo Larrain
(along with his brother Juan de Dios Larrain) was developing his breakout film, Tony Manero and had just finished Fuga.
Pablo also wrote and directed
El año del tigre
, produced and directed
and produced this year’s Sundance hit Crystal Fairy. It was Diego Izquierdo whose Sexo con Amor we were repping who brought us to Valdivia that year as he was working on
El rey de los huevones
. It was the year En la Cama by Matias Bizes (
La vida de los peces
) was the most popular film in Chile and films were finally breaking from the post-Pinochet trauma. The “other Sebastian”, Sebastian Silva,
was the inspiration behind the writers of Mala Leche and La Sagrada Familia, and was writing the first film he would also
La vida me mata
(Life Kills Me).
was such a fine work of art that it was developed in the Cannes Residency (Cinefondation) program and garnered national funds for its production. It was
screened as a Work in Progress first in Chile’s SANFIC and then in San Sebastian in 2012 where it won the Cine in Construccion Award. Sebastian has
recently received a Guggenheim fellowship and support of the DAAD Berliner Kunstlerprogram for the development of his new projects.
To be witness to Chile’s spectacular growth in the international business gives me such a thrill. I can’t wait to see Sebastian’s next film which he is
working on now in the Berlinale Residency (September – December), writing it with an eye toward co-production. The new film explores masculine emotions.
Perhaps it will once again star Paulina Garcia.
Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
TIFF 2013 – SPECIAL PRESENTATION
Chile – 109 minutes – In Spanish with English subtitles
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Starring: Paulina García
Producer: Fabula – Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín
TIFF 2013: Special Presentation
U.S. Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Canadian Distributor: Mongrel Media
The film will be released by Roadside Attractions and is being sold internationally by Funny Balloons, who has already sold it to