Movie : Gratification
Director : Andrés Hernández Covarrubias
Sir, how would you define Gratification? Keeping the significance of the word in the movie away for a second.
Andrés – For me, this word has a double-edged meaning. Loaded with everyday life and existentialism. It symbolises a simple act of love to reach stability and reconciliation, and at the same time a utopia, something that anyone would like to achieve, a representation in its perfect form and without flaws, but the execution is far from reality due to its complexity or impossibility of putting it into practice due to various factors. If I could associate another word with “gratification”, the first thing would be, a utopia: an impossible perfect ideal, that sometimes is in front of us, but we don’t want to see it or reach it… I think it’s a very existential word, and for me, that is the heart of this short film.
Now , what place does the word take in your story, in the life of Alfonso and the people around him?
Andrés – It’s everything. It’s the motivation and it’s the goals. It is what makes the story evolve. Within the simplicity of the plot, there are very universal themes and attitudes that convey an authenticity in daily life: the search for stability, order, and reconciliation as essential points to find meaning in life. For me, these goals are a fundamental part of the word “gratification” and in the short film. All the time the characters try to be calm and refrain from worries, but every moment of their lives they don’t manage to get it, but this makes them keep going, keep acting, keep searching… that’s the life of any person, no matter the race or social sector, and it was very important for me to represent this feeling on the screen.
Talk to us about your gratitude for the domain of cinema. What place does it occupy in your life?
Andrés – Cinema is a fundamental part of my life. Since my childhood, it taught me the beautiful and simple art of observing. Watch actions and situations without preconceived ideas, and then, when the credits roll, you draw your own conclusions. Cinema is just that, it was born from the curiosity of observing the unknown, the strange… cinema is voyeurism. But, is also seeing the common or everyday life and beyond. As Raymond Carver would say, “both in poetry and in short stories, it is possible to talk about common places and things of common use… and endow them with immense attributes, with a renewed power.” For me, that is the essence of storytelling and for filmmaking. That is what I want to reflect in my films.
Talk to us about the films you are not tired of watching time and time again? The films that made you fall in love with cinema.
Andrés – Well, there are so many that it is very difficult to count them and cover them synthetically in one answer… but, in the last 5 years, Robert Bresson’s films have had a very important impact on me. His style intrigues and obsesses me at the same time. I think he has a very special style: a very lucid way of presenting his ideas. It makes me curious, that despite having a narrative and characters with emotional distance, he manages to reach a point where we internalize and reflect on everything that we cannot see visually and emotionally. When I was writing “Gratification” I kept thinking about “L’argent”, his last film.
And for obvious reasons, another film that I processed a lot in the creation of my short film was “Paris, Texas” by Wim Wenders. The relationship between the father and the son always caught me, as well as the depth of all the characters; they are all wanderers, and I think mine have a little of that. Also, the idea of contradiction and the double edge of the title influenced me a lot. That idea of a place that unites these two totally opposite cities, geographically and sociologically, reminded me, as I said before: a utopia.
Also, I must give importance to my literary influences. One of them was Kafka, with his alienating and anxiety-filled universe. The other, and perhaps a recent impact on me, was the dirty realism of Raymond Carver, with his stories about middle-class families, their daily lives, and their hidden conflicts, told with the most minimal and essential reduction of the written language.
Tell us how the story of Gratification was born? Did real incidents (distant or close ) around you play a part in the creation of the story?
Andrés – To answer your question, I must quote Raymond Carver again, “everything we write is, in a way, autobiographical.”
Yes, in some ways, part of the story is very close to my life, but it’s totally fiction. It is a combination of memories of something I know and a daring imagination, as well as fears and concerns that I have about my daily life and, in a certain way, about what I can become.
I think, throughout my cinematographic experience, I have learned that my influences must be not only other films, but also specific moments that I have lived or that I have observed when I walk down the street or go shopping at the supermarket. I’m very sure that a filmmaker must be like a sponge, absorbing everything that he captures with his senses.
For me, that is the secret and the importance for the creation of a story, and especially, in something like “Gratification”.
The movie is an emotional roller coaster ride. There are times we feel happy seeing Alfonso trying to grind past life which is evidently a little bitter and there are times we are disappointed because of the failures of Alfonso. What was the significance of these sequences in your movie?
Andrés – The importance lies in how contradictory everyday life is. That is something that I find very beautiful, but also that fills me with fear. Our life, as well as that of Alfonso, is full of contradictions that prevent us from achieving that utopia. But, I think that in a certain way it is good and that it fills many nuances, it allows change and search, which in some way, is the essence of life.
As a filmmaker, I must take advantage of the approach of the hidden things of everyday life to seek and provoke anxiety and empathy at the same time. I also think that everyone can interpret the ending as they want… for some it can be sweet and happy, but for others it can be sad and melancholy.
I like that, not being so deterministic in my endings. I am interested in becoming a clear guide for the audience. Show them the beginning, the middle and the end of the road… but the experience that each one interpreted of the trip corresponds only to them.
Talk to us about the character of Alfonso. He has labyrinthine layers within him. Some work towards his conscious urge of living up to specific expectations and the others work against this venture of his. It feels like he is trapped somewhere in the trap of Minotaur.
Andrés – Well, daily life is very complex, like a Greek myth, but we don’t see it or we go unnoticed. And within it, there are characters that on the outside can be very simple, but if you look beyond it, and use a daring imagination, you can give it an interesting depth. For me, Alfonso represents that: complexity dressed in simplicity. I think that he is an untimely character and that he is blinded by his aspirations, he is also distracted and unable to realise that a small action is more shocking than an extraordinary action. I really appreciate you comparing it to the Minotaur. Without a doubt, Alfonso was a character that I loved writing and later working with the actor Jorge Lan, who gave an extraordinary performance.
What do you have to say about the performances? How difficult was it to play the role of Alfonso?
Andrés – The premise, dressing a complex character with simplicity, was the main difficulty in the decision to choose who would play the role of Alfonso, as well as the character of Matias, the son, since he is a character similar to the father, but in this case, it is the other side of the coin. The casting work was very exhaustive, and it was worked on until days before filming, since the story demanded it and depended a lot on the characters. I thank my casting director, Tania Selene Ruso, who helped me find the right actors.
Jorge Lan and the young actor Juan Pablo Monterrubio gave that and more to the short film with their performances. Their characters are complex and contradictory to their external image: the adult is confused and unstable, and the child is more centred and focused. I think they made a very organic and real bond. Both do not act, they live their characters, and that as a director gives you many possibilities to control or redirect their performances.
There are a number of images and symbols in your movie, portrayed through certain objects and gestures. For example the book of stamps plays a double role. It indicates something that Alfonso truly admired doing (collecting stamps) and it brings Alfonso closer to his son. What would you like to say about the presence of important symbols in your movie?
Andrés – I repeat, I’m interested in the analogy and the double meaning of some things or actions. I think it allows you to be clear but at the same time allows a free interpretation. Something that has always caught my attention are the great meanings of small or trivial things. I am not so interested in bombast elements, I’m interested in those imperceptible and internal things of the human psyche, I think they have more meaning than the external and untimely actions that often appear on the screen. And well, I think you give the audience several elements to pay attention to, not only in the performances, or in the dialogues. I think that gives them more chances to praise the little things that happen in life.
There are a couple of themes in your movie that I would like you to talk about. The first being the theme of replaceability (the occurence surrounding the object Alfonso plans to gift his son) and the theme of disillusionment (born after countless disappointments). What do you have to say about the preponderant presence of these themes in your movie?
Andrés – I think we live in a modern age where the expression of affection and love is reduced to a cold and materialistic act: an easy way out and how all this false and commercial empowerment takes over people’s lives.
Many times, Alfonso’s behaviour is untimely because in his daily life he is attacked by commercial desires that he observes mainly in the media, such as television. My story aims to be a reflection of that; tragedies of low or high cost, a reproduction of the disintegration of public and family life, as well as the colonization of private life by consumer capitalism. Nowadays, with the speed and immediacy of advertising technology, “communication”, and that people still watch too much television, and now add YouTube channels or other platforms, it gives a feeling of being anesthetized, and that is what Alfonso feels, and it provokes him to do everything to get that special solution, even though he does it in an unethical way.
As I said before, everything that happens on a day-to-day basis seems interesting and beautiful to me, but also sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed. It is a great clash of forces that motivated me to create “Gratification”, and most likely, it is a theme that I would like to explore much more in my next project.