EL VIRUS DE LA POR, VENTURA PONS

 

A young drama student interviews three great actresses: an international diva, a television star and a dubbing director, and she discovers, in their memories, the grandeur and the misery of theatre: a real metaphor of life.

VENTURA PONS

1996
ACTRESSES
ACTRESSES

A young drama student interviews three great actresses: an international diva, a television star and a dubbing director, and she discovers, in their memories, the grandeur and the misery of theatre: a real metaphor of life.

EL VIRUS DE LA POR  VENTURA PONS
EL VIRUS DE LA POR  VENTURA PONS
 
ACTRESSES
VO/

MAKING OF (ENG. SUBT.)

 
ACTRESSES

LA MIRADA LIBRE

Extracte del llibre d’Anabel Campo Vidal

             

Cada película te lleva a la siguiente y se convierte en una consecuencia de la anterior. Después de la densidad de quince historias, con sus variaciones narrativas, el cuerpo me pedía una película intimista con pocos actores y decorados, muy diferente de la anterior. Un trabajo cerrado, concentrado. Otro tipo de propuesta que me apasiona. Recurrí por primera vez a un texto teatral, “E. R.” de Josep Maria Benet i Jornet, estrenado en el Teatre Lliure, que lo transformé en Actrius. Me sirvió para zambullirme en un mundo que estimo y adoro: el teatro y la profesión del actor, en este caso el de las actrices. Poder hablar del teatro y del teatro como metáfora de la vida.

 

Me apeteció conservar la estructura de los actos teatrales, evidentemente condensando el texto original, para potenciar la esencia de la obra. Una batalla entre dos mundos enfrentados, el de quien sirve a la colectividad con su trabajo y el de quien lo utiliza exclusivamente para sus propios fines e intereses. Y en medio, un testigo casi mudo, una escenificación de los que, por una u otra razón, no tienen derecho ni a voz ni a voto. También es una encuesta, una forma de arañar en la memoria, en los grandes mitos de la juventud. Tan importante es lo que cuentan como lo que intuimos que flota en la mente de las tres antiguas estudiantes: la continua presencia de Ribera, la diva; de Ana, la compañera desaparecida, y de Ifigenia. Apasionante. Temáticamente, me interesaba mucho y me permitía montar un ejercicio estilístico “piano, piano” cuidadoso, meticuloso. Esta película no tiene nada que ver con El perquè..., pero sin ella no se entiende, y yo soy el mismo en las dos. Yo me noto en ambas y me parece que se encuentra mi mirada tanto en una como en otra.

 

Lo más difícil era crear aquellas mujeres tan potentes. Trabajo atractivo, porque la base literaria era excepcional, Benet es un maestro en la creación de personajes densos y maravillosos, pero hay que vigilar su excelsa complejidad dramática. Y luego la dificultad de cohesionar unos personajes que no se ven, pero que acaban siendo la clave de referencia entre todas ellas. Esos fantasmas alrededor de nuestras vidas; gente que nos acompañará siempre a pesar de su ausencia. Actrius se rodó con cuatro actrices impresionantes, que me brindaron un trabajo de una intensidad tal que dentro de unos años, cuando se quiera saber quiénes eran ellas, habrá que recurrir obligatoriamente a esta película, porque son cuatro lecciones de interpretación de primerísima categoría. Pusieron su talento en mis manos, al servicio de mi película, confiaron en mí y me parece que no se han arrepentido. Son todas ellas, a excepción de Mercè Pons, que encarna a la estudiante, actrices y directoras de teatro que saben de la disciplina de la composición interior. Quizás Núria Espert fue la más difícil, porque llevaba veintiún años apartada del cine, por malas experiencias pasadas, y al principio, le costó confiar interiormente en el proyecto, pero envuelta en la ceremonia del rodaje (Sardà ayudó mucho, siempre se lo agradeceremos), fue entrando en el clima requerido y el resultado fue espléndido. Hay momentos de Núria que te transportan, parece que esté en trance. Con el personaje de la Sardà tampoco lo teníamos fácil. En cierta manera, Benet había introducido algún rasgo que tenía algo que ver con ella y eso hacía la interpretación mucho más difícil. Pero es una actriz como ninguna otra, capaz de pasar de la emoción que le produce la lectura de las palabras de Ifigenia a la lucidez de la crítica interpretativa: final de la secuencia de su casa. Y para rematar el trío, los silencios de Anna Lizarán al acecho de asaltar a sus humillantes y prepotentes amigas. ¡Cómo expresa el desencanto y el resentimiento que lleva acumulado en su interior al final de la cena en el jardín! Y la Pons, tan precisa, acumulando encuesta y testimonio del mundo que ambiciona alcanzar. ¡Vaya disfrute nos pegamos todo el equipo en el rodaje y vaya regalo para el espectador!

 

Desgraciadamente, la película con los años tan mitifficada, no tuvo mucho público. Y se entiende, porque los que van al cine son mayoritariamente jóvenes. ¿Quién se ha encargado de hacerles comprender o gozar con una historia de unas actrices mayores, de teatro, alrededor de la memoria, del sentido de la vida y del trabajo? Entiendo que no entren en este juego, nadie se ha preocupado de alimentarles culturalmente para ello, pero a mí, que quizás vengo de otro mundo, me interesaba enormemente.

 

En mis películas me gusta apostar por un tipo de historias de base más bien humanista aunque sé, de antemano, que pierdo la posibilidad de obtener un público masivo. Como narrador me atrae más el lado humanista de los personajes que el dictado de los cánones materialistas que mandan en el mundo contemporáneo. Si todos nos dejamos arrastrar por una carrera en la que manda la competitividad, la inmediatez del éxito por el éxito, dejaremos al margen los valores del hombre, las cuatro cosas por las cuales vale la pena vivir. Es una actitud que quizás no está de moda pero me parece que vale la pena intentar rescatar historias relacionadas con el valor ínttimo de los personajes inmersos en sus contradicciones y en sus luchas. Pienso que en la vida, como mínimo, tenemos el derecho de expresarnos y de luchar por nuestros ideales, y esto comporta una actitud ante el cine que se refleja en unas temáticas, como la que se aborda en esta película, que pueden ser menos rentables pero que nos afectan, que gozamos explicándolas y, básicamente, tienen sentido. Allí quedarán.

 

Con esta película empiezo a hacer un cine con el que obtengo muy buenas críticas, pero a costa de ir perdiendo público. Mi relación con este tipo de trabajos cada vez me interesa más, me importa que lo que hago tenga un sentido, que sea el fruto lógico, razonable y honesto de mi pasión por el cine de “contenido”. Actrius ganó unos cuantos premios y se vio en muchos festivales de cine. Con la Sardà hemos visto la reacción del público caribeño (Cartagena de Indias y La Habana) y del chino (sí, viajamos a Shangai). Se ha estrenado en algunos países, siempre de una forma modesta, en cines de lo que antes llamábamos arte y ensayo, que me ayudan a irme posicionando en el mundo, de forma que, si algún día tengo algún gran éxito, me conozcan más o menos. Una labor larga y paciente.

 

Ventura Pons

 

 

 
ACTRESSES

 

DIRECTED and PRODUCED by

VENTURA PONS

 

SCREENPLAY

VENTURA PONS and J.M. BENET I JORNET

 

Based on the play "E.R." of

Josep Maria Benet i Jornet

 

DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION

XAVIER BASTÉ

 

MUSIC

CARLES CASES

 

PHOTOGRAPHY

TOMÀS PLADEVALL

 

EDITOR

PERE ABADAL

 

ART DIRECTOR

ROSA ROS

 

DIRECT SOUND

BORIS S. ZAPATA

 

A Els Films de la Rambla, S.A. PRODUCTION with the participation of Televisión Española, S.A. and Canal Plus.

 

 
ACTRESSES
GLÒRIA
NÚRIA ESPERT
ASSUMPTA
ROSA MARIA SARDÀ
MARIA
ANNA LIZARAN
ESTUDIANT
MERCÈ PONS
 
 
 
 
ACTRESSES

Cartagena de Indias (Colombia)

Montreal & Vancouver (Canada)

Shanghai & Pekin (China)

Seattle, Chicago, Cleveland, Puerto Rico, AC/Los Angeles & LC/New York (USA)

Stockholm (Sweden)

Luxembourg (Luxembourg)

Espoo (Finland)

Dijon, Amiens & Annecy (France)

London, Cork & Manchester (UK)

La Habana (Cuba)

Milano & Roma (Italy)

Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Thessaloniki (Greece)

Istanbul (Turkey)

Caracas (Venezuela)

Tel-Aviv, Haifa & Jerusalem (Israel)

Warsaw (Poland)

Belgrade (Serbia)

Valdivia (Chile)

Porto (Portugal)

Brussels (Belgium)

Montevideo (Uruguay)

Huesca, Sitges, Valencia, San Sebastián & Cádiz (Spain)

Mexico D.F. (Mexico)

Viena (Austria)

Zúrich (Suïssa)

Zagreb (Croacia)

Leipzig (Germany)

Instituto Cervantes (Argelia)

 

Awards:

Special Jury Award and Best Screenplay (Cartagena de Indias).

Nominations 1996 Goya Awards: Ventura Pons & J.M. Benet i Jornet (Best Screenplay)

 

 
ACTRESSES

A young drama student auditioning for a part playing the legendary actress Empar Ribera decides to get some insights into her character by interviewing three of Ribera's former pupils, all life-long friends who are now middle-aged. Glòria Marc has become a distinguished tragedienne in her own right and romanticises the theatre. Assumpta Roca has found great success as a salty popular comedian on television. Maria Caminal renounced her profession in order to direct dubbing sessions in the film and television industry. Maria would like to see Glòria and Assumpta act together but their rivalry is so great they cannot even share a stage.

When the three were students, each of them vied for the role of Iphigenia in the last production Ribera would direct. To show which competitor had won the part, Ribera sent a miniature theatre to the winner: Ana, a collegue and fourth member of the clique of friends, won. But Ana died two weeks before the play was to open. Ribera asked the other three to decide among themselves who was to play Iphigenia. Maria found competing over her dead friend's role distasteful and bowed out. However, Glòria and Assumpta decided to go for the part.

In the present, Maria learns she has cancer and subsequently dies. The drama student does not get the role of Ribera and Glòria and Assumpta learn how to value their friendship, live with their rivalry and share a stage.

In Actresses, a toy theatre acts as a metaphor for the film's main theme. The theatre, glamurously ornate, lushly painted in purple and gold, and complete with miniature performers, is given to the young drama-student protagonist as a child, but when she loses the figurines, she loses interest. At the end of the film, the object whose possession symbolised each of the protagonists' aspirations is rejected and burned. In the film´s terms, reducing this theatre to ashes is a laying to rest of the past. But it is also a symbol that there is no theatre without actors, the people who breathe life into it.

A romantic notion, but it's not one without truth. One can imagine great cinema without actors (think of documentary, animation the avant garde) but the theatre can't go on without performers. However, Actresses is not about actors in general. Acting for film and television is barely mentiones and is, not unexpectedly, dismissed with disdain (this film was based on a play).

The thematic grist here is embedded in debates around particular types of theatre ( the classic versus the popular) and a particular kind of performer (the diva).

It is a premise so hoary one remembers when the art form in question was literature (1943's Old Acquaintance, for exemple). However, perhaps because it offers great opportunities for actresses, such a premise remains appealing, particularly when it is realised with the kind of charm and skill one finds here.

The film is structured as a kind of investigation. In finding information about the legendary Empar Ribera, the drama student is also finding out about what happaned one fateful summer when the protagonists were young, what types of actresses they turned out to be and what types of women they turned into. Actresses are found of quoting the olde adage that actors are something less than men and actresses are something more than women. The implication is that being an actress, particularly a star, is somehow in conflict with being a woman. Films such as All about Eve (1950) often uncritically take this as read. This means they often also function as inquiries into the nature of femininity which can be tinged with misogyny and facile camp. Thankfully, Actresses has the good taste to frame its loving and admiring look with admirable restraint.

Ventura Pons, the famed Catalan director, has resisted the temptation to invent external settings for the action. Instead he delicately opens up what is essentially a theatrical chamber piece by creating a sense of movement within particular interiors, often through almost surreptitious camera moves on faces. The same skill, taste and restraint is visible in the direction of the actors. Núria Espert as Glòria Marc and Rosa Maria Sardà as Assumpta Roca downplay the potential bitchiness of the excelent dialogue and choose economy of voice and gesture over the emotional pyrotechnics for which less subtle actresses might have won plaudits.

This is a more difficult and more rewarding route. What emerges is a film that is a closely observed character study of three women who love acting and each other. While they put the past to rest, we get to watch them show off for each other, savour the skill with which they can inflect their line readings and share their joy in the literature they speak.

José Arroyo

SIGHT AND SOUND

(...) Actresses, the last Ventura Pons film and the unquestionable masterpiece of his filmography (...). It is neither All about Eve, nor Dames, it is simply, Actresses, the best work of a director prepared to preserve from the time erosion the best work of a dramatist who is in a state of grace. (...)

Jordi Costa

Avui

(...) Splendid adaptation of E.R., a play of Benet i Jornet that won the National Theatre Award, two years ago: a honest, fine and intelligent, held, even though dramatic peripetia of four women, three veteran actresses and one candidate to become one; a sensacional duel of performances (...). With this work, the director embroides a visual speech very personal, without forgetting the theatre, but with an intelligent and convincing use of the cinematographic tools. (...) The glorious confirmation of a great talent. (...)

M. Torreiro

El País

THEATRE DAMES

"E.R." is one of the best comedies of Benet i Jornet; "Actresses", based on this text doubly theatrical, is, with no doubt, the best film of Ventura Pons. Also doubly: because it is a maturity work, that the director films with as much serenity as elegance, and because Ventura is (has always been) a man of the theatre, who loves without mesure that exciting and contradictory universe where coexist, in an inextricable way, art, terror and exhibitionism.

At first sight, "Actresses" can remind us "All about Eve". There is a young candidate to become actress who want to obtain the main role of a play about the life and miracles of the great Empar Ribera, as mythical as apocryphal, and she turns to her favourite disciples - Glòria Marc, an international diva; Assumpta Roca, a panther domesticated by the television, and Maria Caminal, exiled at the dubbing rooms - researching information and "something else", a "something else" that makes up the essence of the film... and the theatre. But while in "All about Eve" several narrators explain successives fragments of a same story, "Actresses" (not to leave Mankiewicz) would be closer to "Letter to three wifes", where a same story is narrated from three different angles, at first opposites and at the end complementaries.

As a minimalist "Follies", without songs but with the same acidity, "Actresses" is, simultaneously, the chronicle of lost illusions and the story (much more complex than its smooth surface suggests) of a vampiric inoculation: the poison of theatre to stand the poison of life. "Actresses" is a bitter comedy, very funny and (rara avis, in our theatre and in our cinema), deeply adult; a major piece from one of our best dramatist, and a gift. A gift that Ventura Pons has done to himself and to the adult public, that public who will change with pleasure the usual tons of special effects for a magnificent story of three characters and three superlatives performances. Núria Espert, Rosa Maria Sardà, Anna Lizaran and Mercè Pons, ultraconscious of the bite offered and splendidly directed, run here a "cross-country" of intensities and achieve the finishing line with a millimetric difference.

It is not difficult to foretell all the awards of the year for the artistic film unit of "Actresses", playing (not without risks: the balance between sublimity and ridicule of Núria Espert, the passion under the cynicism of Rosa Maria Sardà, the terminal wisdom of Anna Lizaran, the journey from innocence to knowledge of Mercè Pons) cheek to cheek in the Great League of the Great Actresses.

Marcos Ordoñez

(...) Actresses overflows of great cinema, pure cinema. Actresses has all the elements that shape a masterpiece: the solidity of a text out of the ordinary, remarkably constructed and dialogued with master hand; a director, Ventura Pons, with a genuine theatre soul and a real cinema heart (...). And a subject, a Great Subject in Actresses: Life, no more else, with capital letters, seen through a profession where coexist friendship and jealousy, fortune and failure, success and frustration, ilusions that have disappeared but are ready to revive, always, this is the energic strength that feeds them. An inexhaustible movie, to be seen and tasted more than once.

 

Jordi Batlle

Caminal

(...) (...) To its exquisite visual elegance, the film adds dialogues with an uncommon consistence. Moreover, the director has the complicity of dream actresses. He may have been the only one to obtain that Nuria Espert and Rosa Maria Sardà make a moderate and intelligent parody of themselves. The quartet of actresses breaths into a passionate veracity in a movie as theatrical as alive. Difficult, happy balance, reached by Ventura Pons.

Lluis Bonet

La Vanguadria

(...) (...) I have difficulties to find another movie as welldone, perfectionist and perfect, or simply exciting, as this adaptation of E.R. of Benet i Jornet(...). Ventura Pons (...) has surpassed himself, without making concessions and being always an excellent theatre director, he knows which are the peculiarities and requests of the cinematographic dramaturgy, he solves them with grace and generosity, he shows us the profit of having known how to see cinema during all his life.

Alex Gorina

Guía del Ocio

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© 2015 ELS FILMS DE LA RAMBLA S.A. ||  VENTURA PONS