Interview with Matías Meyer
Matías Meyer has participated in six editions of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM). At the 2nd FICM with El pasajero (2004), at the 4th FICM with Verde (2006), at the 6th FICM with Wadley (2008), at the 7th FICM with Calambre (2009) and at the 9th FICM with Los últimos cristeros (2011), a film that was shown in more than 20 film festivals around the world. Finally, his latest fiction feature film, Yo (2015), was part of the Official Selection of the 13th FICM, where it won the Award for Mexican Feature Film.
Your three feature films are literary adaptations. Could you tell us more about your interest in literature?
I would say that my desire comes more from the camera than from literature. I prefer to hold a camera between my hands, or a painting, than a pencil and a notebook. But to film I need an idea or an image. This is what I found in the writings of Gao Xingjian, Antonio Estrada and J.M.G. Le Clézio. While reading these books for the first time, I would get excited thinking that the images they described could be filmed. Now we are writing an original script, with two other screenwriters, and I am really enjoying the experience of not doing an adaptation.
How do you make sure your films take on a life of their own and are not limited to a transcription of a story or a novel?
When I write the screenplay, I put the images and sounds on paper in a very concrete way, with actions, to describe an emotional reality. When I film, all the decisions I make are about filmmaking: locations, casting, mise-en-scène, acting, photography, colors, etc… until the day of the premiere when the film is finally born. It takes years of work and passion.
In your films, nature or the landscape, for example the road or the river in Yo, appear as another character in the film, they are an essential part of the story. Is it important for you to show something with the landscapes? How do you choose these places?
In cinema space is king, it is the light. Sound accompanies it. Space then is a sensory experience, like you say, it’s another character. What surrounds us, defines us. Every element in the frame is narrative. There is a preoccupation with nature in my films, man must regain his balance with Mother Nature. A lot of times, I search for my locations on the Internet, through Google Earth I can see the scenery and think about the production needs (that the locations are not too isolated, that there is somewhere for the crew to stay, etc.). Next I do a formal scouting and define the locations, then the framing of the film begins to take a concrete form. In the case of the restaurant, the main location, my producer showed me the pictures from a scouting for another project, I liked La Colmena, I saw it from Google Earth and it all seemed to work. On one side, I wanted the presence of the highway, modernity, and on the other side, nature. The intervention of man in the landscape. I also wanted a continuous flow of cars passing by in the distance.
How do you work with the actors? Do they have previous training? Do you discuss the character or do you simply guide them during filming?
I don’t give the script to the actors (non-professional), I give them their lines, which aren’t many. We rehearse, read the dialogue, they read it to each other, and they enter into the film’s dynamic. The camera is always present, everything is for the eye of the camera. A relationship is also formed with the actors, and that is very important at the time of directing them: to gain their trust, to love them and have them love you back.
In general, what do you wish to convey through your cinema?
Emotions and personal reflections based on image and sound. My characters go through conflicts or situations and finally, after a learning experience, they feel free and at peace. I want the spectator to feel the same way. I visualize my characters as prisoners inside a bubble they manage to break out of at the end. Even if it is to find themselves inside a slightly larger bubble. They evolve spiritually.
Let’s talk about the process of making Yo. How did the idea for the film emerge? How was the process of shooting and editing the film?
I read the story in the fall of 2012 and that was the spark that turned the cinematographic engine on. I wrote the script with Alexandre Auger in three months, we wrote it in French and then I translated it to Spanish. A year and a half later we were filming. The four week shooting happened in the spring of 2014. During editing, an eight month long process, we rewrote the script and then we premiered at the festival in the fall of 2015. It was all pretty quick and without setbacks.
Lastly, you have practically presented all of your work at FICM. Last year Yo won the Award for Mexican Feature Film. How has your experience in the festival been throughout the years?
It has always been a very gratifying and exciting experience. I have grown with the festival, my first short film was shown here 12 years ago, when I was still a student at the CCC. So it was a long time ago. It’s strange to see how time passes. The festival has grown because Mexican cinema has grown and is having a good moment. The festival has done a lot of work in favor of our cinematography.