Berlinale 2020: Director Lois Patiño Talks ‘Red Moon Tide’

Ahead of its world premiere at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival, Spanish director Lois Patiño joins us on Close-up Culture to discuss Red Moon Tide (Lúa Vermella).

Q: I believe you developed videocreation courses at the UdK of Berlin. What does it mean to now bring ‘Red Moon Tide’ to Berlinale?

A: To attend classes by Katherina Sieverding at the UdK really opened my mind. The level of the art students was really high, and the dynamic of the classes was very stimulating. Sometimes we started at 2pm and continued discussing until 1am. It was a different educational concept: horizontal and much more focused on reflecting upon the evocative possibilities of a work, rather than defining what was good or bad.

I spent one year in Berlin. I was 22 or 23 then, and dreaming of becoming a filmmaker and artist. To remember that time now moves me a lot.

Q: What can audiences at Berlinale expect from ‘Red Moon Tide’?

A: A legend told in a contemporary cinema language. With spells, witches, ghosts and sea monsters. But also reflecting upon the grieving process, the idea of myth and the different layers of time.

The film takes place in the Galician coast, in the northwest of Spain, where there have been a lot of shipwrecks throughout history, and in a culture where legends about witches and ghosts are part of our identity. The film dives into this reality to try to get to its mythical part.

The story takes place in a village where everybody is paralyzed, and the film is composed with a series of tableaux vivants. I was inspired by the intimate and quiet atmospheres of painters such as Millet, Hopper and Hammershoi, whom I pay tribute to more or less directly in the film. “The Angelus”, for example, gave us the tone of the film: introspection, spirituallity and mourning.

Q: What were some of your other influences for ‘Red Moon Tide’?

A: Beside these painters, as we work with immobile bodies, I also had sculptors as a big influence. Two of them because of their work with space: Juan Muñoz and Antony Gormley. The first one works amazingly creating tensions and voids through space. As for Gormley, I’m especially interested in a piece called “Another place”, a land art work where he placed 100 sculptures of iron bodies along a beach, where the tide goes up and down, covering and discovering them.

Q: The stills of the film are stunning and dreamlike. Can you tell us about the visual style of the film? 

A: The film explores the idea of seeing people paralyzed in this space, as an attempt to try to feel the malleable essence of time. I’ve been working around this concept in my previous projects, but here, in a feature film, the challenge was bigger, because you have to hold the audiences’ interest for a long time.

It was a very open shoot because the film was made almost without a screenplay, as the dialogues were going to be written during the editing process and then added through voiceover. And another challenge was to direct and make the photography at the same time. Maybe because I work in a place between cinema and art I like to make the photography myself, but here, as we had a bigger crew than usual, the challenge was bigger.

Q: I understand your work on ‘Strata Of The Image’ was used as inspiration for ‘Ad Astra’. How special was it for your work to be acknowledged by such a huge film?

A: I was made aware of this by a friend, who told me about an interview with the curators who worked for Ad Astra, that were speaking about my work. James Gray was interested in watching experimental films to get inspiration for the cosmic visual effects, as Stanley Kubrick did for 2001.

It was really shocking and fun to read this news. I’m glad the curators found this potential in my work.

Q: You are the son of abstract painters. How did your upbringing shape your vision as a filmmaker and an artist?

A: Reflecting upon it now I can feel how important it was to grow up in an atmosphere where culture, art and the creative expression were present. At that time I didn’t notice it, it was just my natural environment, but later on I discovered how important it was. My conception of cinema as an art, and, specifically in my work nowadays, as a visual and conceptual art, comes from this background. 

Q: Do you remember a moment when filmmaking first became a possibility and a passion for you?

A: I don’t remember an exact moment where I decided to focus on filmmaking. As a teenager I already knew I wanted to do artistic work, but I was not sure about the medium I wanted to explore. I was more in the “sponge phase” as I called it: seeing and reading to cultivate myself. Later on it would be the moment to squeeze the sponge.

I focused my attention on videoart and cinema because I found it a very virgin territory, with millions of possibilities still unexplored. Even if every art is infinite, cinema is such a young one and so complex, that it’s inmense possibilities are still unknown.

Q: What audience reaction do you hope ‘Red Moon Tide’ sparks at Berlinale?

A: I tried to explore a different cinema language. In terms of content we go through a legendary tale, but it is told in a more contemporary style, where the immersion in time and landscape tries to go deeper. I hope the audience can feel touched and surprised by this proposal.

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