Retrospective Albert Serra


Catalonia artist and enfant terrible is the face of the contemporary cinema

Cervantes's Don Quixote is much more than just a character; he is an icon of world literature. But for Albert Serra, the dreamer seems to be a cantankerous old man, full of quirks and in control of his faithful squire and servant Sancho Panza: a one-way relationship, without dilettantism. By observing Honor de CavallerŪa's two characters from a certain distance we are gradually transported to another time and space. By keeping such distance, Serra makes us see them in a singular way. He demystifies and destroys the myth to save the human side of something that has already been frozen in time. It is as if Don Quixote were reborn again. Likewise, Casanova appears old and decadent in HistÚria de la Meva Mort; Serra observes his eccentricities and excesses and turns him into a much more human character. In conjunction with Casanova, an imaginary Dracula emerges even more violent and sexual, less realist, in order to raise questions about desire.

Albert Serra's films produce this kind of logic, they create new universes for characters that are practically beaten by meanings and reshape their micro stories in his own way, transporting us to such diegesis or fiction, as if suddenly the reading of an old book had become very interesting again. It is impossible not to play the game of meanings proposed by him. It is impossible not to swim in the river, ride a horse and feel the burning sun or the smell of banquets. Behind an extensive research, we find a strong sensorial tone and sail along; thus, the journey of The Three Kings seems as visceral and poetic as El Cant des Ocells. We would never have thought of these Knights wandering around filled with silence and doubt in such beautiful and semiarid landscapes.

Albert Serra does not seem to fear words, neither filmmaking. Friction and chaos are two words that could define his creative process. A process that begins with the choice of non-professional actors and discussions with the crew (we can observe such process closely in the film El Senyor ha Fet en Mi Meravelles), passes through the rereading of literature or world iconography's classic characters and arrives in the reinvention of a cinematography ó a unique writing in which he works like crazy, editing, assembling, reissuing infinitely, and filled with enough breath to restore his visual poetics.

Many other words also define this Spaniard, born in Banyoles, Girona, in Catalonia in 1975, who went to Barcelona at the age of 18 to study (Hispanic Philology and Spanish Literary Theory; his metalinguistic dialogues probably come from such studies). Determination, experimentation, recreation and an ability to communicate bluntly are just some of his abilities. Serra has recently won the Golden Leopard at Locarno Film Festival (2013) for HistÚria de la Meva Mort.

In this interview to Cinema Scope magazine, Albert Serra tells us about his choices within the creative process, his ideas, his free and polemical spirit and how he deals with international criticism in terms of his definition of the "unfunckable".

(Original version here)

(Francesca Azzi)

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