- M. Night Shyamalan reflected on the ephemerality of life in ‘Viejos’, starring Gael García Bernal, for whom it was an acting challenge.
MARIO ABNER COLINA AND MAURICIO ÁNGEL / AGENCIA REFORMA
MEXICO CITY.- Director M. Night Shyamalan is terrified of getting old as an artist, that his work will expire, be discarded and forgotten.
Old (Old), his latest film, starring Gael Garcia Bernalfollows a family trapped on a tropical beach that, incomprehensibly, accelerates their aging process. Life slips away from them like sand through their fingers.
The director of El Sexto Sentido y El Protegido thinks of the project, which opens today, as a meditation in the key of terror on the ephemerality of existence, on the imminence of death. A reflection, in his case, on his father, old and sick, and his children, who in a heartbeat became adults.
It is also a look at the artistic work, his, with a filmography of 14 feature films and enough ambition to transcend. In the opinion of the master of the endings with surprising twists, whom some consider a genius and others a creator with delusions of grandeur, he is not going astray.
“I am amazed at the way my films are aging. If you have a soda, you often think that the one you like the most is the one with the most sugar. But you usually take the other one home with you, because it is more balanced.
“I want people to take my movies home. I am looking for balance and not sugar. People are still interested and talking about La Aldea, Signs, El Protegido. They write to me and stop me on the street to tell me about things I did 15 years ago. It’s amazing, ”he says in a video call.
Although the Indian director usually prefers the original films, Viejos is one of the exceptions of his filmography, along with The Last Airbender. It is the adaptation of the graphic novel “Sand Castle”, by Frederik Peeters and Pierre Oscar Levy.
Some critics have compared the film to the tone of Luis Buñuel’s El Ángel Exterminador, about a lavish dinner whose guests cannot leave. The filmmaker sees more echoes of The Twilight Zone.
“Just when I opened the graphic novel, it got me. It was mysterious, sensual. I dealt with emotions and people who were already a little lost before going to that beach.
“In adapting it, I tried to find the balance of the plot and make sure to move it the way I wanted with all the characters. It is an uncomfortable, funny, strange, irreverent story, but with formality ”.
Gael García Bernal is the protagonist, the father of the family in this incomprehensible nightmare, with a deformed reality. Shyamalan admits that he has admired the Mexican for a long time, and wanted to have him in his first film filmed far from Philadelphia, in the Dominican Republic.
“I think Gael is an unusual talent, one that can cross any type of culture. He is a sweet, funny man, and yet he is capable of doing dark things, of expressing emotional torments, things that I asked of him ”.
The filming of Viejos was one of the first to continue as the world plunged into the Covid pandemic. For those involved, it was a contrast to draw characters that fill in wrinkles in minutes when time on the planet seemed to have stopped by quarantines.
More accustomed to smaller and more realistic Latin American projects, García Bernal says that he approached the feature film as a constant acting challenge. Shyamalan opened up to him and the cast to bring possibilities to the story and to appropriate the roles for whom death stalks.
“All we did was grab the characters, let go of the adventure of thinking what would happen to this shock (of aging rapidly). There was nothing I could grab onto to figure out how to do it.
“In a sense it was a very free and poetic collective creation. We threw something up front and the director was there to organize it. We were deciding when something was terrible, if something that had just occurred to us was a bad idea, if something that we came up with was good ”, says the actor.
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