The film is the story of a very spiritual girl who, about to turn 33, decides to spend the summer in a Madrid filled with partying, possible or impossible love and unexpected friends
On August 15th, Jonás Trueba (Madrid, 1981) premieres “The August Virgin“, his new film after titles including “Every Song Is About Me”, for which he was nominated for the Goya for Best New Director, “The Wishful Thinkers”, “Los exiliados románticos” and “The Reconquest”. Co-written by the director and his female protagonist, Itsaso Arana, the film is the story of a very spiritual girl who, about to turn 33, decides to spend the summer in a Madrid filled with partying, possible or impossible love and unexpected friend.
The main character of The August Virgin, so pure, innocent and kind, reminded me of the protagonist of a recent Italian film, Happy as Lazzaro, by Alice Rohrwacher
I’ve never been told that, but it’s true that there is something in common. It’s very difficult to talk about someone kind, and in that sense, they are similar. With Itsaso we talked about making a movie about a character who is white, who is good and even tries to help others. And it was difficult, because evil is much more cinematic.
In a story with so many biblical and religious resonances, the protagonist is called Eva. Is it a coincidence or is it something premeditated?
Like the titles, the names of the characters are very important to me. And it’s not always easy to find them! We played about with her name for a long time, because she had to have a name that suited her, that would stick well to her body: her name is Eva and she meets two girls named Maria. Itsaso says that the name Eva is a great way to define her purity.
Is this a film about cynicism? This concept is discussed, at least on a couple of occasions.
If I’ve avoided anything in my movies, it’s cynicism, which, in a way, is the cancer of many things. Eva runs away from prejudices and opens up to a series of characters with whom, at the beginning, she would never have considered having a relationship.
At one point in The August Virgin, they push Eva into the water. It is as if, suddenly, they removed a breastplate, and others decided for her. Up until that point, Eva was the one in control of situations.
Yes, the river scene is essential, and it’s also at the center of a story that is divided into 15 days. And there, on the river, Eva’s voice emerges, which is not exactly a voiceover. The water comes to release it, it’s a kind of forced baptism for Eva.
The sequence of the stars is not only beautiful, but it’s the most “Rohmerian” of all. Is the shadow of director Éric Rohmer, the “Rohmerian” label, still accompanying you?
I’m ok with that, and I hope that, when I die, they’ll say about me: “A young man has died or, better yet, an old Spanish director very influenced by Éric Rohmer.” In fact, with Itsaso we watched “The green ray” (1986), by Rohmer again, a film with which we wanted to talk in a direct way, as some painters have done with pictures of others throughout history. They have repainted them to reinterpret them. In cinema, there have been much better and much smarter directors than you, and you have to try to learn from them. Starting out from them to, obviously, reach your own destination.
And, do you also enter into dialogue with your earlier movies?
Yes, but, rather than talking to myself, which is more boring, what I like are the variations on the same thing or topic. Even to return to the same streets or spaces, but then never film the same as before: you put the camera somewhere else, and the place is no longer the same. Every time I understand cinema in a way, if you want, more basic, more primitive, more like the Lumière brothers. What did they do? Turned the camera on, and observed what people were doing. I set up the tripod, put the characters in front of it and try to get them not to move from there.
In the press pass of The August Virgin, a couple of journalists spent time consulting their mobile phones. What’s your feeling on that? Is it simply a sign of the times? Attention deficit? Cultural misery?
Itsaso would add that it is “spiritual misery.” When I do film workshops, I propose to my students that, during those three hours, they completely forget their cell phones. And I even do it. It’s about looking into each other’s eyes, chatting and watching movie clips. And sometimes they look at me as if I were crazy!
Or a psycho…
What’s more, right now, going to a movie theater is more revolutionary than ever. Going to the movies and turning off the phone for two hours is an act of resistance, of concentration, of faith in what you have gone to see
By the way, what kind of cinema do you discuss with your students? What interests and motivates them?
Most times, when you talk to them about a Yasujiro Ozu movie, it turns out that they have never seen an Ozu movie. Or they don’t know who Bresson is, or they haven’t seen anything by Buñuel. And you’re talking about all of them to back up your explanations. It impacts me, of course, but I take it well, because I answer: “Well, you’re lucky, because his movies are there and you can see them whenever you want.” The cinema that interests me is the one that has been made by people who have something exceptional, extraordinary, like Rossellini, Truffaut, Rohmer, Renoir, Hitchcock, Ford and Murnau. These were people who were curious about the world and had unique personalities. Apart from being good technically, they had a special way of being and relating to the world. Now there are too many people who want to make movies just for the sake of making a movie, but they’re not interested in the world.
Could we speak, then, of humanism in your cinema?
Yes, hopefully. Filmmakers that interest me are the ones that make you want to leave home, to fall in love, to meet people, to read. Directors who encourage you to do things. I think of my films as a possibility that I have to share the things I love with the public.