Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s gripping short film, Mother, envisions every parent’s worst nightmare.
A winner of the Goya Award for Best Fiction Short Film, it tells the story of a mother (played by Marta Nieto) who receives a phone call from her 6-year-old son (Álvaro Balas) while he is supposed to be on holiday with his father in a foreign country. The call quickly descends into a nerve-shredding race against time as the young boy reveals he has been left alone on an unknown beach.
Director Rodrigo Sorogoyen joins us on Close-up Culture for a quick chat about Mother, which has already collected nearly 95 high-profile film awards.
Q: ‘Mother’ is an impressive piece of suspense filmmaking. Why did you want to tell the story of any mother’s worst nightmare and give audiences such feelings of anxiety?
A: Knowing that it is fiction, well, it’s the same thing as happens in a horror film. There is a great power in the story and you just want to put it up there on the screen because, with our work and our talent, if it is done well and comes off, the spectator lives out a real adventure in the cinema theatre. The audience suffer but they are always fully aware that it is just fiction – a code between the cinema and the moviegoer.
But seeing as I was telling that story, I think you can see or sense that I also wanted to talk about mother-son relationships.
Q: Marta Nieto gives a masterful performance, supported by Blanca Apilánez. Can you talk about working with Marta and what you wanted her to bring to the role?
A: I wanted her to provide her own experience as a mother. Marta is a single mother and I knew this was essential for the actress’ performance. I believe a great deal in what an actor can personally bring to a role, and that if the actor is like the character in some way, then that’s a plus. It’s not like they have to be the exact same, but the more things they have in common, the better for the character.
Q: Did you record Ivan’s (Álvaro Balas) side of the phone conversation before filming with Marta? And what was he like to work with?
A: We recorded the conversation after and shot the short film without the voice of the boy. We used an adult actor so that the shoot would go as smoothly as possible and later I worked with 9-year-old Álvaro Balas for the voice of Ivan.
Álvaro is an actor who I knew from a TV series. He had always fascinated me because his level of performance is amazing. It was very easy working with him in post-production
Q: Apart from the bookend images of the beach, the film is contained in Marta’s apartment. What was it like filming in such a tight space and how did you use that to your advantage?
A: It was a reduced space but with a great many possibilities for the protagonist. As soon as we saw, it we just knew that we had to shoot there. Using a sequence shot and the wide angle lens gives everything a bigger dimension.
Q: The film is so suspenseful that I imagine some audiences would almost be angry or an emotional wreck at you by the end of it. Have you had any interesting reactions from audiences to the film?
A: I’d say 99% of spectators tell me they have really had a bad time, they have really suffered. It’s not like I want them to have a bad time, but whenever a film causes an emotional reaction in the spectator, that means the job has been well done.
This is a story I want the spectator to be deeply affected by, to be moved in some way. I hope the spectator feels emotion in some way.
Q: Finally, you have a feature film, titled ‘The Realm’, currently screening at festivals. What can you tell us about this project?
A: The Realm opened in Spain on September 28th, after screening at the San Sebastian Film Festival where it was extremely well received by critics and public alike.
In terms of international, it premiered at Toronto. It is a thriller about a corrupt politician which seeks to talk about Spanish society and politics. It is also a film I am proud of because it is a subject which had to be tackled, and people seem to really like the film.