Ferran is twenty years old and cannot find his place in the Spain of the late Franco era in the seventies. It all changes when he meets Chino, a card player who shows him how to survive a life on the edge.

 

VENTURA PONS

2006
LIFE ON THE EDGE
LIFE ON THE EDGE

1980. In a luxurious mansion in some Central European principality, a number of guests, are celebrating the New Year. Everybody’s gaze falls upon a very elegantly dressed man. They offer him a revolver. He loads it with one bullet. He casts his eye over all the faces watching him. The barrel rests against his temple. He closes his eyes.

1972. Ferran is a young man of twenty-one. His grey life consists of living rather poorly off a few sporadic jobs and playing cards. At a game he meets Chino, a professional player of striking appearance. Ferran is left owing him money. Chino invites the boy for a drink in a brothel and introduces him to Rosa, a twenty-year-old girl.

Chino and Ferran become friends. The games take place more and more frequently and Chino comes with an idea: to form two ghost companies that will trade false bills of exchange in order to be able to raise some cash. Ferran frequents the best restaurants, the best gambling dens… and he turns into a complete night owl.

A historic game takes place. Ferran asks Chino to be a bit careful. A player sets a trap for Chino and walks off with the whole lot. For the following week Chino does a disappearing act, doesn’t stop playing until he have bankrupted the cheating player. He gambles on everything and against everybody. A ploughman goes bust while playing against Chino. The family has no money and the distraught ploughman offers them a load of bird shit.

In an illegal casino Chino surprises everybody by reciting a poem about Rosa. Right away he begins to rake in profits at a frantic rate. The police interrupt the game. They arrest everyone and confiscate all the money. Ferran cannot stand any more.

They go to Madrid by car. In a a villa Chino plays a game with a vast amount of money at stake. For three consecutive nights he wins an awful lot of money. Back in Valencia Chino disappears. The boy looks for him for several weeks but nobody knows anything about him.

2006. Ferran takes part in a game where he meets a man whose life has been ruined by gambling. They end up talking about Chino. He became a popular figure in Madrid where he made a large fortune. He became so famous that even foreigners were clamouring for him to risk his life playing Russian roulette.

1980. Everybody’s gaze falls upon Chino in the Central European mansion. The barrel rests against his mouth. He closes his eyes. A shot rings out.

 
LIFE ON THE EDGE
VO/
 

MAKING OF

 
LIFE ON THE EDGE

The Reason for LA VIDA ABISMAL (LIFE ON THE EDGE)

 

I use LA VIDA ABISMAL (LIFE ON THE EDGE) as a way to investigate and to reveal part of the memory of a generation, my generation, which lived in circumstances radically different from those of today. In my opinion it is well worth the effort of converting Ferran Torrent’s most recent book into cinematographic narrative. This splendid novel which is indeed almost autobiographical is set in the early seventies . For me at least it has a great deal of significance. My aim and ambition with this film is to observe, with a certain sense of humour and without nostalgia, the adolescent years of our all-too-inadequate upbringing as people, with all the frustrations as well as the hopes that we experienced during the last decade of the Franco era. Those never-ending, long-drawn-out years of darkness in which the principals of those in power had become corrupted by time but nevertheless had a strong hold on everyday life, and with which we had to put up with whether we liked it or not. They were the years of our struggle, partly illusory but nonetheless full of enthusiasm, when we sought social and personal freedom from the most seriously repressive elements of the establishment – bureaucrats, the military, officials and priests, obstinate and intransigent to a man, who were bent on putting a spoke in the wheel of the country’s evolution. Ours was a backward country that observed in astonishment and with envy events beyond our borders although still close proximity to us, such as Britain at the beginning of the sixties with its “angry” generation, France during May 1968 and even Portugal with its 1974 Carnation Revolution. Old regimes were collapsing as were those defenders of every kind of taboo arising from the petty and utterly forgettable history that they had strived to perpetuate. And as for us, we were waiting. Waiting and enduring.

 

From today’s perspective, if we look closely and concentrate on the early seventies, during which a good part of the action takes place, many of these characters of the Spanish so-called “soft” dictatorship), and although these grotesque creatures seemingly from another planet make us laugh – and it’s good for us to laugh –the truth is that we did have to suffer them. And anyone who doubts this should ask the people who were left to rot in prison because of the stupidities of the courts, or enquire about the last victims to be executed by the regime which – let’s not forget – although slowly withering away, was still imposing the death penalty right up its very end. Several years later, with the arrival of democracy, things began to change and change radically. The democratic freedoms attained during the last few decades are undeniable, as is also the lack or loss of memory that has taken hold of us. This country seems like any other but I fear that many people, especially the young, think that the freedom they enjoy was bestowed on us through divine grace, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, especially now that the Spanish “ferocious beast” is once again showing its claws with its time-worn mantra that is trying to get us to turn the clock back. The caudillo bade us farewell from his bed but his heirs have remained amongst us ready to take up the reins as eternal witnesses. And take a look at how a lot of them are. Frightening!

 

The story told by LA VIDA ABISMAL (LIFE ON THE EDGE), in this context of real-life events, serves primarily to let me present a young man’s journey of initiation; he is a rebel who isn’t too sure of what he wants and whose encounter with a character who lives his life to the limit, on the edge of the abyss, allows him to begin to discover a life that is very different from the routine of those sad years. To a certain extent this theme, waking up to life, seeing how the world can have another meaning, is one that I had already touched on in Food of Love through the relationship struck up by the student who acts as a page-turner for the pianist, but Ferran Torrent’s tale allows me to explore it more deeply. There is nothing in this story, not even the smallest anecdote, that to me doesn’t smack of life itself, that doesn’t seem familiar to me. Every one of the episodes about the police, about sex, about the church…are all very recognizable. It also enables me to thoroughly observe the limits of passion, and the point at which the delirium of an obsession turns into a sick state of mind. It is a theme that fascinates me, as I think it must fascinate anyone with a high degree of involvement in creative work. I would like it understood that for me the game (any kind of game) that we show is an excuse to talk about the feeling of passion for life, like some kind of parable about our capabilities. And finally the big theme - friendship. The relationship through which we choose to form a new quasi family nucleus.

 

All three principal themes – friendship, the discovery of life, and the craving to live it – lend themselves to a whole range of possibilities, both dramatically and aesthetically. As for the staging, in spite of the fact that the script follows a structure that is not chronological, I endeavour to present the first two themes to the audience in a tidy, simple and close-up way, and the third one with some visual references that serve to explain the folly which can afflict each and every one of us in our search to go beyond the limits, to live on the edge of the abyss. In this connection, filming for the first time in HD (high definition) will help me greatly with the definitive visualisation; especially thanks to the opportunities offered to me by digital filming.

 

Without the collaboration of a group of actors and a crew blessed by the grace of one of the good Olympian God, and they do exist, this would not have been possible. No words can adequately express my gratitude to the magnificent and unsettling Òscar Jaenada, to the serene José Sospedra making his first appearance, to Antoni Valero, Juli Mira, Pepa Lòpez – in other words, to the tremendous cast of Valencian actors who are a credit to their excellent reputation. Once again I have worked with my habitual (and increasingly so) confidantes: Mario Montero as Cinematographer; Carles Cases as composer; Pere Abadal as Editor ; Bel·lo Torras as Art Director; Aintza Serra in charge of Production... We know each other well after having worked together on the many and very different stories, that it has been my pleasure to present over these last few years. Without their support it would not have been possible.

 

Ventura Pons

 
LIFE ON THE EDGE

CREW

Screenplay, Direction and Production

VENTURA PONS

 

Based on

LA VIDA EN L’ABISME by FERRAN TORRENT

 

Line Producer

AINTZA SERRA

 

Music

CARLES CASES

 

Director of Photography

MARIO MONTERO

 

Editor

PERE ABADAL

 

Art Director

BEL·LO TORRAS

 

Direct sound

NATXO ORTÚZAR

 

Laboratory

IMAGE FILM, S.A.

 

Editing Studio

AMADEUS POSTPRODUCCIÓN, S.L.

 

A ELS FILMS DE LA RAMBLA, S.A.

production with the participation of

TELEVISIÓN ESPAÑOLA, S.A.

TELEVISIÓ DE CATALUNYA, S.A.

 

distributed by FILMAX

 
THE LIFE ON THE EDGE

CREW

 
THE LIFE ON THE EDGE

Festivals:

Cartagena de Indias (Colombia)

Haifa (Israel)

Seattle (US)

Varsow (Poland)

Valdivia (Chile)

Galway (Ireland)

Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)

Aix-en-provence, Amiens, Grenoble, Reims, Lille, Paris, Lyon & Montpellier (France)

Frankfurt & Wiesbaden (Germany)

Mexico D.F. (Mexico)

 

Premis:

GENERALITAT DE CATALUNYA’ SANT JORDI cross

 

 

THE LIFE ON THE EDGE

OPINIONS

La La vida en joc

 

Pel·lícules com El buscavidas, House of Games, El rei del joc i El jugador han abordat les perilloses conseqüències de fer del joc una forma de vida. En la seva nova pel·lícula Ventura Pons adapta aquesta tradició al món mediterrani, la qual cosa li resta una mica de dramatisme i tragèdia i l'acosta a una concepció més picaresca de la vida.

 

La prosa veloç de Ferran Torrent ha seduït prèviament directors com Francesc Bellmunt i Sigfrid Monleón. Expert en adaptacions literàries, Pons s'ha fixat en La vida abismal, la novel·la finalista al Premi Planeta del 2004: un relat iniciàtic que té com a eix la relació entre un alter ego juvenil del mateix Torrent i un cínic, carismàtic jugador professional al qual Óscar Jaenada -l'as a la màniga del film- aporta el seu exultant magnetisme.

 

Ambientada a les acaballes del franquisme, Pons i Torrent mostren el joc com una via d'evasió, rebel·lia i inconformisme, un petit espai de llibertat i triomf en un context gris i depriment. El disseny de producció reprodueix amb exactitud els anys 70, però, lluny de la nostàlgia agredolça de Cuéntame, el cineasta subratlla la claustrofòbia i opressió del món en què viuen els protagonistes, entre puticlubs llardosos i timbes sòrdides.

 

Pons aconsegueix fer la història intel·ligible per a qui sigui inexpert en l'ús dels naips i signa una de les seves pel·lícules més clàssiques dels últims temps, tot i experimentar amb alguna pirotècnia visual en les escenes de les partides. Fidel a la lletra i a l'esperit de l'original, el que se li pot retreure és precisament una transposició excessivament literal del text, que reverteix en algun diàleg massa barroc i una abundància de veu en off, i també un to massa monòton en la progressió dramàtica i el look de la pel·lícula.

Xavier Roc

Avui

Cuando el mundo era clandestino

 

Rastreador de novelas y piezas teatrales autóctonas, no por comodidad creativa sino porque sabe que toda buena película sólo puede fraguarse a partir de una buena historia, Ventura Pons, en La vida abismal, hace suyo un material literario con el que generacionalmente se sentía identificado.

 

Adaptado al cine por Francesc Bellmunt (Un negre amb un saxo, Gràcies per la propina) y Sigfrid Monleón (L’illa de l’holandès), el escritor valenciano Ferran Torrent ha encontrado en Ventura Pons un transcriptor visual de lujo. Con un detalle imprescindible en la siempre complicada relación entre cine y literatura: obviar la simple recreación caligráfica, llevando la novela y su meollo argumental al terreno fílmico y –por ello- creativo.

 

Ahora que se celebra el año Rusiñol cabe recordar lo que tan proteico artista aseveraba respecto a uno de los temas fundamentales contenidos en La vida abismal: “El juego es altamente moral. Sirve para arruinar a los imbéciles”. Es lo que debe pensar el Chino, un joven tahúr surgido de y encaminado hacia la nada, que se erige en tutor –y llave que abre las puertas de un mundo inimaginable- de otro joven, Ferran, cuyo universo personal se reduce a ganar algún dinero limpiando acequias y sobrellevar un mediocre ambiente familiar.

 

Ventura Pons juega hábilmente con los recursos narrativos del medio cinematográfico, aunque tal vez abuse de la voz en off, y arranca la película con un Ferran adulto (Antonio Valero) que rememora lo que tal vez fue un sueño: la existencia del Chino, que finalmente descifrará como real en un pasado que no puede olvidar. El recurso del flash-back permite reconstruir los tiempos en que el Chino adentró a su pupilo en escenarios que parecían fascinantes: el juego clandestino y las barras americanas donde hallar compañía y desahogo en lechos provisionales.

 

A pesar de algunas escenas cuyo tono caricaturesco se desmadra, caso del cura de pueblo e inquisidor local, La vida abismal se revela como una de las mejores películas de Ventura Pons. Depara escenas impagables y una impecable recreación de la época, partiendo de detalles nada nimios (la estantería con el libro de Sadoul sobre la Historia del cine, el tocadiscos y el elepé de Raimon). Como hay, asimismo, un gran trabajo actoral de Óscar Jaenada (hablando en catalán con acento valenciano), extraordinario camaleón interpretativo al que da oportuna réplica el debutante José Sospedra, toda una relevación.

Lluís Bonet

La Vanguardia

Una historia de iniciación y naipes

 

Veloces travellings de 360 grados, esmoquins blancos de solapas gigantes, monumentales partidas de póker, chulos de barrio, fachas de provincias, whisky Dyc, prostitutas obesas y una letanía jazzística que inyecta ritmo a la película... ¿De verdad que ése es el aspecto de lo nuevo de Ventura Pons?

 

Pues sí. La vida abismal (estreno el viernes), el nuevo filme del cineasta barcelonés, es una historia frenética que retrata la vida y la muerte de El Chino, un tahúr de los arrabales de Valencia en los últimos años del franquismo. Sus desventuras transcurren a veces con maneras de noir afrancesado y, a veces, con aires de blaxploitation. Y, sin embargo, la película lleva marca de la casa Pons.

 

«Esta historia», explica el director, «me interesó porque habla de la amistad, de la iniciación a la vida, de la muerte y la autodestrucción». O sea, tres temas recurrentes en la cinematografía del autor de Ocaña, retrato intermitente. A Pons, el alimento le viene esta vez de las páginas de una novela, La vida en el abismo, del valenciano Ferran Torrent. Fue allí donde nació El Chino -El Roget en la novela-, un jugador kamikaze, aficionado al doble o nada en los casinos y en la vida. Un tipo que recita versos de amor ridículos antes de descubrir una jugada ganadora igual que estafa a los bancos. Es decir: el papel perfecto para un actor con las facciones y el deje pendenciero de Oscar Jaenada.

 

«Descubrí a Oscar en un pase de Camarón y me quedé sin palabras», recuerda Pons. «Tenía que ser él». Y él, Jaenada en persona, sentado a su lado, enjoyado y bigotudo como un buen tahúr, esboza su sonrisa de canalla. «El Chino es un perdedor, por mucho que gane partidas a lo largo de la película. Es incapaz de conservar nada; corre y corre hacia su destrucción», explicó el actor.

 

Ese viaje al abismo tiene un testigo en Ferran (José Sospedra), el clásico chico inocente y melancólico de las historias de iniciación, al que le arrasa un vendaval de vida. Ahora quiere ligar sin pagar, proclama tras toparse con una turista francesa «guapa, culta y liberada». Él mismo, 30 años después, intenta dar sentido a la historia. «¿Me inventé el personaje para escapar de ese mundo?», se pregunta el Ferran adulto, interpretado por Antonio Valero.

Lluís Alemany

El Mundo

Sobrevivir (o no)

 

Basado en la novela de Ferran Torrent, cargada de referencias autobiográficas, La vida abismal es un nuevo film de Ventura Pons fiel a sus habituales planteamientos, esta vez con el afán de supervivencia y el riesgo en primer término y con una reconstrucción y reflexión constante sobre la España, mas concretamente la Valencia rural, de los años setenta, en las postrimerías de un franquismo que parecía que no iba a acabar nunca. Complementaria, en cierto modo, de las espléndidas –novela y película- Gràcies per la propina, la mirada de Ventura y Torrent observa el mediocre ambiente social y familiar en el que vive el protagonista y lo interfiere con ese torrente de apuestas y retos que supone el insólito personaje del Chino.

 

Por eso, La vida abismal constituye, ante todo, un relato de admiración y de iniciación, de extraña o precaria amistad entre quien parece haberse desprendido de todos sus lazos y quien, todavía, los mantiene prácticamente al completo. Desde una puesta en escena que rehuye el mero decorativismo o, simplemente, el realismo anecdótico, La vida abismal, aún contando con una excelente ambientación, sobrepasa la crónica puntual de una época para erigirse en metáfora sobre la vida, la libertad y el azar. Claro que, no obstante o precisamente por ello, la contextualización del relato conlleva suculentas anotaciones: la familia, el cura del pueblo, los locales de alterne, las pelotas bancarias, la economía rural, el encuentro con la chica francesa, los detenidos en una redada, el juego clandestino, etc.

 

Un contexto que conocemos bien y que vale la pena conocer mejor, que explicita la carencia de unas expectativas de vida y de libertad y justifica la fascinación que el protagonista siente por la inexplicable personalidad de su amigo, dispuesto a jugárselo todo a una carta. Nunca mejor dicho.

 

 

Antonio Llorens

Cartelera Turia

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