TIFF 2013 Interview: CANNIBAL Director Manuel Martín Cuenca Talks About Representing Evil

Manuel Martín Cuenca's masterful Cannibal has had its first public screenings at TIFF (one more on Saturday September 14th, you can read my review). It's a mermerizing story of love and evil, with a man committing crimes so horrible that only the purest love might save him. I was able to send a few question to Cuenca via email, about his conception, interpretation, and presentation of the story.

Twitch: There are a lot of films about the lonely killer, and cannibals. How was this story different to you?

Manuel Martín Cuenca: In the film, cannibalism is just a metaphor for evil. We were interested in how it represented something bad in our society. It's about the presence of evil in all of us, connecting with the normality of our lives, in its banality. Cannibal is a demon's love story: what would happen if a demon fell in love? If love made him question his actions?

There is a great minimalism in the film. Where did that originate? What kind of mood did you want to create?

We wanted to get to the essence of the story and the characters, to strip away everything that wasn't relevant. We wanted to focus on conveying the metaphor, concentrating on the essentials, like the great works of art and literature.

What vision did you have of the character of Carlos? Do you see him as a recluse? Afraid of just women, or any serious human interaction?

He's someone who doesn't understand other people's pain, and feels no remorse for his actions. To him, his actions are normal. It's a kind of evil as a metaphor for Western society that is filled with confusion and moral corruption.

The settings are quite powerful, as Carlos moves between sunny beaches and cold mountains (probably many people don't associate snow and cold with Spain). 

The geography is a map of the film's emotions, representing what is occurring at that moment in the story. I think that cinema is very physical, because it comes from photography and painting, which tell stories silently.

We chose each setting to represent the conflict in each scene. The snow and the mountains are part of this, as is the solitude of the beach and the sea. The natural world reveals the essence of the drama, reflecting the interiority of the characters in a physical form.

The sound and lighting designs are very natural, without manipulation. But there is also a sense of deliberate control, especially with camera shots and angles. What is difficult to combine these two approaches?

Sound is in the head, and we hear what we want to hear, and so the sound design functions as the score. At the same time the framing and shot composition are purely theatrical. I am not striving for conventional realism, but for a representation.
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