Writer/director Caetano Gotardo talks about the creative process behind THE MOVING CREATURES:
Caetano Gotardo: Between 2005 and 2007, I discovered three tragic (and very moving) stories about parents and sons in the Brazilian media. As time went by, these stories kept coming back to my mind, and when I thought about one of them, the other two would always come to surface as well. So I noticed that these stories were somehow connected, and that together, they sort of illuminated each other in really interesting ways. So I began thinking about creating a film that would take them as an inspiration.
I knew that didn’t want to go back to the real stories and make a faithful portrait of what happened; what interested me was to imagine the characters and observe them in their everyday life, dealing with time and affect. So I started writing the screenplay without going back to read the original stories, just so I could feel totally free to create the characters and situations while staying true to the feelings I had when I first encountered these stories.
Q: You’ve directed five short films before making your feature debut with THE MOVING CREATURES. What are the main differences between your short films and this work?
Caetano Gotardo: One of my main interests in cinema is to think about time, the duration of things, the experience of being in the present. So a feature film allowed me to deepen this research. In this film, I was able to tackle different scene rhythms and also, be more faithful to a character’s experience of time. It was also interesting to deal with a longer structure; even though the three stories are independent, the film was conceived as a single piece, with an emotional structure that moves from one segment to the other. But as far as the shooting experience goes, I’ve tried (as much as I could) to stay close to what I did with my short films. I certainly didn’t want to feel tense or rushed. Instead, I wanted the crew to stay focused and create the right conditions for the actors. And we had a great experience that way.
Q: The songs play a major role in the film. How did you go about writing, editing, and choosing a place for them in each segment?
Caetano Gotardo: When I decided to create a film dealing with these stories, I knew I didn’t want to have a fatalistic take on the characters. Even though they go through some tragic events, I wanted to give room for them to exist beyond these events. We’re never just one thing; one event in our lives can never fully define us. That’s one of the film’s themes, I think, so I wanted to look at these characters in some simple, everyday situations. I wanted to see how they experience joy, even though they experience sadness in a deep way as well. And that same feeling made me want to create something lyrical for the most tragic moments. The three mothers have to deal with a lot of pain, and the only way for them to express themselves in these moments is singing. I wanted the film to overflow from the most naturalistic representation of pain to some possibility of lyrical representation. Because those things are, in some way, impossible to reproduce; they are beyond representation. I wanted to assume that, and the songs came from that assumption.
So I wrote the lyrics as if they were part of the dialogues, but at the same time, they say things that the characters wouldn’t say in any other way. After that, I’ve worked with Marco Dutra, the composer, to find the mood for each song. I thought about the characters and the specific moments in the film. And then we recorded the voices live, during the shooting. We couldn’t imagine those songs being dubbed, since the scenes are driven by emotions.
Q: Your characters take time to think, consider the facts, elements, and space around then, and even stay silent. How did you work with the actors to achieve such a consistent tone?
Caetano Gotardo: I love working with the actors. It’s always one of my main pleasures as a director. In this film, we rehearsed during the month before the shooting, and most important thing for me was to creating a connection between the different actors of each segment, and to let them start getting close to their characters.
We’ve improvised some scenes from the screenplay and also, some moments that are not in the film. I proposed some banal activities to them, so they could experience simple actions. I did a series of simple interviews, in which they had to answer as their characters, just to help create a subjective universe for them. And when the shooting started, the set was organized around the work of the actors.
We also had some time, in the set, to work before shooting started. That was an important part of the process of finding the inner rhythms of each character and scene. I wanted to see those characters thinking, looking at things, doing nothing… I wanted to construct them through action and inaction, for we are not in activity all the time.