15 May Interview to Eloy Enciso, director of ‘Arraianos’
by Eva Yera
After watching Eloy Enciso’s film our mind remains in that state of reverie in which its sights, sounds and dialogues make you fall into. It is imbued with his own thoughts, covered by the same fog that stagnates in the landscapes of the Galician-Portuguese border. Everything seems unreal in this rural reality we think we know.
But the musicality of its silences, the sense of geographic and temporal isolation, and their close contact with nature, death and the past, have a great impact on us; they may even disturb us. Surrounded by a dreamlike atmosphere that embraces the myth, ‘Arraianos’ shows the daily life of this corner located in the collective oblivion. Our concept of rural life was different, or perhaps we hadn’t even considered it.
Everything happens between vague boundaries, those lines that the man is determined to draw against nature. Lines usually diluted by rainwater and “orballo” (Galician’s word for drizzle) in A Raia, the border between Galicia and Portugal. The identity of the Arraianos (the inhabitants of A Raia) is ambiguous, and so it is the genre of this film: film or documentary, fiction or reality, this is an exercise that certainly flees from the feared cinematic labels absolute conclusions. instead, the film takes the path of O Bosque (The Forest, a play written by the Galician’s author Jenaro Marinhas del Valle in the 60s), to enter unexplored territory—geographical and audiovisual— by the film industry.
‘Arraianos’ has been shown in lots of different countries and international festivals. How do you feel about the film being screened by IberoDocs in Edinburgh?
It makes me really happy because Edinburgh was the first city I visited abroad, my first trip out of Spain. I am specially fond of Edinburgh because there, I discovered and did some things for the first time that an eighteen-year-old kid wasn’t supposed to do.
How do normally spectators react after seeing ‘Arraianos’?
I hope it’s different for every viewer. The film was meant to be sufficiently open and to be built with the cooperation of the people who sees it. These are the films that interest me the most, those that are open to interpretation and propose a dialogue with the viewer.
Ambiguity seems to be an intrinsic feature of Galician people, and this feature is also present in all dimensions of the film. Why did you decide to provide the film with this double dimension?
Indeed, Galician people have always been characterized by this feature, quoting a famous proverb: “you never know whether a Galician goes up or down when you bump into them in a staircase”. In the case of ‘Arraianos’, this feature was also a little implicit in the play in which certain parts of the movie are based on: O Bosque, by Jenaro Marinhas del Valle . This is one of the reasons -although not the only one- why we chose this text.
The film also has a double vision that has more to do with the cinematic language: a superposition of a close look at the observational film or documentary (where we are looking to show the rural everyday life) and the unnaturalistic vision, in which main characters represent fragments of the play. This was actually my personal challenge in the film, regarding the formal level: how to portray two different visions at a time, which for me are actually the same.
I believe that there is not only one way of seeing reality. I think reality is built with reality itself plus the mythical construction of reality we see, and that’s one of the things that arise in the film.
Speaking of visions, there are some in the film that have an impact on us. Characters (people) still standing and staring at the camera (or vacuum) which recall Bergman’s cinema. The style of ‘Arraianos’ has been also compared with Pasolini’s films or Renaissance painting. What were your influences?
There are many influences in the film. It is difficult to sum up, because they come from my own life experience and from the cinema too. From the latter, a very clear influence is Jean-Marie Straub and DanièleHuillet. On the other hand, I think the film is also influenced by filmmakers who have worked in the real range, as Van der Keuken. And as you say, Pasolini, which is a very big influence on my work.
Regarding the painting it is more complicated. Obviously the film has a painting and photography influence and for ‘Arraianos’ we cared about that aspect. I’d say it’s close to the chiaroscuro painting, with names like Rembrandt and Goya. Although this film is not especially close to the Goya’s universe, he is a painter who I feel really passionate about.
The actors are, at once, the true people of A Raia -a place suspended in time and space where surprises rarely happen. How were the first days in the field and the welcome from the neighbours? How long did it take to gain their trust and involve them in the project?
There was a previous work with the inhabitants of A Raia that lasted about a year before starting shooting. It was a hard work; firstly, to know the place and, secondly, the inhabitants. Afterwards we made a kind of a ‘casting’ to see who could potentially participate in the film (those with more time or desire to participate). Once or twice a week we did trials in which there was a mutual understanding: about each others’ interests, about our expectations, and also about how are their daily lives.
We have asked you about the reaction of the general public . What about the ‘actors’? How did they react after seeing the final result? Did they recognize themselves in such melancholy, existentialist and, in a sense, gloomy situations?
Their first reaction was interesting. The process of the film was very long, also the editing, and they had certain expectations to see the final result. They could watch it before the film was released, and their reaction was curious. They told me that they had really enjoyed it a lot, but then I knew that they thought that the film had involved too much work for the final result. As you know, in the editing process you have to let some parts you have filmed go and not all the characters are in the final production. So, for them, it was perhaps a little … I don’t know if the word would be disappointing, but contradictory, to say the least.
Whether they recognized themselves in those situations or not, there was at first a kind of negotiation. They tended to be natural when they repeated the dialogues of the play, but our formal proposal was, in principle, the opposite: get closer to an unnaturalistic tone in these dialogues, as from that unnaturalistic action arises the essence of the documentary. Even when they are compelled to act in an unnaturalistic way, they can’t help showing how they are themselves. There are small details that have to do with gestures or ways of looking at which show that essence that makes them different, for example, from myself or from people who live in an urban environment or from other generations.
Do you think this film, portraying the mythical and mundane part of rural life, could have worked on any other remote village of Europe, with its special particularities? For example, in the Highlands.
I think that a film like ‘Arraianos’ could have been made anywhere. On one hand, I think the result would be very different, but on the other hand, the essence would be the same.The idea with this movie it’s to create a global reality from a local reality, building a whole universe or universal essence. My intention with the film was that when spectators are seeing it, it suggests and dialogues with certain memories of them, memories and experiences of people who have had a relationship with the countryside, even in other parts of the world.
The language, Galician, is one of the fundamental themes of the movie and the great distinctiveness of the inhabitants of A Raia. It is said that every single language is linked to communication behaviour patterns. How is this reflected in ‘Arraianos’ through Galician language?
It was very important to me to capture the Galician language in its uniqueness. In my opinion, this has to do with its plastic character and musicality. I believe that languages have a common goal, what is to be able to communicate, but they are all different in how they are plastic and loudly, about how their sentences are structured.
That was my main concern in ‘Arraianos’: the Galician had a sound and a plasticity. The words in a film are not only dialogues in which information is transmitted simply, but try to get to the essence of the language.
To what extent the Galician language addresses the message of the film?
Language is the message, not a vehicle for a message. Likewise I say that the characters are not used for a message, but they are the protagonists.
Your career was addressed to the forestry engineering until you met cinema in depth. Is there anything from that early engineer in this work?
I think so, in the film there are some signs of that love for nature. It is expressed in a clear way through the many levels in which nature is described. But nature is a protagonist too; not only physical, but a protagonist who conditions the human characters and communicates with them. I think the landscape modulates the behaviour and personality. It does also in this case, in a mountainous region with a quite extreme weather.
I think the character and lifestyle of the inhabitants of A Raia is built by that nature. In the film there is also an intention to get closer to nature: not only as a geographical condition, but also as a paradox. There is an attempt to describe a certain paradox that I find in nature. Nature is something phenomenological, something physical we can see and touch. But when we try to represent it there is an inevitable process of abstraction and loss of realism in that representation -to me, at least-. This paradox seems very interesting to film, because cinema can be fed with contradictions and paradoxes, and this is one of them.
What will be to your next project?
I can’t tell you much, not because I don’t want to, but because it is still an embryonic project. Nature will play an important role again and it is a story that will occur mostly at night. And, again, I think I’ll work with non-professional actors with the addition of a professional one. And at least some parts, if not all, will take place in Galicia.