Interview with Gabriel González Acosta, director of Concertina
Friday 28 January 2022, by
Concertina is an interlocking narrative film that jumps between parallel realities as two sets of brothers discuss their dreams of one another. The film explores themes of ecology, family, and labor using magical realism as a narrative device to create dark, ethereal worlds that offer a glimpse into the power of the physical realm over our collective psyche.
Why were you interested into brotherhood? Do you have further projects in mind on this theme?
I was interested in brotherhood because of the intimacy that it entails. I wanted to explore the intimacy of language that exists between brothers, all the unspoken ways of communicating, verbally, physically, emotionally that develop over time, in the private world that brothers inhabit. When I was thinking about Concertina, both sets of characters existed in a world where they are removed and isolated from everything around them. For this reason, a sense of intimacy was necessary, hence the idea of exploring that intimacy from the perspective of brotherhood. An intimacy, however, that can also become claustrophobic, like the spaces that surround the brothers in the film. I don’t have projects with this exact theme in mind, but I do always think about characters who find themselves united with someone else, and isolated from the rest of the world. Further projects that I’m working on have lovers, companions, and tribes who are intimate with each other and removed from the rest of the world. This seems to be a recurring obsession.
How did you work on the lights?
Lighting was something that I thought about a lot with Yollotl Gomez Alvarado, the director of photography. We wanted to go against the premise of making the jungle and the ranch seem ‘natural’. From the beginning we were interested in destabilizing that environment, making it seem artificial, and almost alien-like. The idea was never to depict a jungle or a country house but to depict a dream space, a space that had the potential to become a nightmare, also. Lighting became one of our principal tools for destabilizing this environment. Even though the majority of the film was shot in exteriors, we used artificial lights in almost every shot. In this way the jungle became more like a laboratory for us that was ripe for manipulation. And we wanted this manipulation to become apparent.
How much are you interested in dreams, for Concertina and in general?
Dreams inform my artistic process often. Not necessarily in a literal sense, like dream interpretation, but in the way in which dreams feel and are experienced. I am very drawn to the sense of non-conclusion that dreams have and the gaps that they leave in their experience. In this way I find that dreams are inherently poetic and share a strong similarity with my experience of cinema. So even when I’m not making a movie about dreams, like Concertina, the form of the dream always follows me around and serves as a template through which to think about narrative, characters and time.
Why did you want to juxtapose two sets of brothers, with one in a ranch and the other one in the forest?
When the project started each storyline was actually a different script. So the original idea was that there would be a movie about a jungle, and another movie about a ranch. They were accompanying pieces, but they were intended to be separate. Then I realized that the stories only made sense if they were colliding with each other. In this way the tension would not only be on the idea of a dream, but on who gets dreamt and by whom. This became one of my primary interests while making the film. I kept asking myself, what does it mean to dream and to be dreamt? The recognition that each set of brothers desires from the other became one of the cornerstones from which to edit the movie and build a narrative. As the two sets of brothers continue to tell their dreams, the distance that originally separated them begins to collapse, unsettling the world around them. In this way the movie becomes something like a seance, where each set of brothers invokes the others. And through that invoking their world changes and becomes malleable. This power of speech and imagination was something that I was very drawn to.
Is there any particular short film that made a special impression on you?
A short film that made a big impression on me when I was starting to work on Concertina was Montaña en Sombra, by Lois Patiño. I loved the textures that the movie produces and also the sense of time as meditation that it generates. Even though the movie is visually very different from Concertina, its essence was an inspiration for me and for the whole team. I just recently found out that that film was part of the Lab selection at Clermont Ferrand a few years ago, so that was really cool.
What’s your definition of a good film?
A good film for me is a film with a sense of poetry. Not poetry as a literary genre, but poetry as the incommensurability of art and life. I am not very interested in films that want to guide the spectator by the hand. I am much more drawn to films which, like dreams, leave the space for association, meditation, and feeling to arise. So, for me a good film is always a provocation, an unsettling feeling that even when I’ve left the movie theatre, follows me around, like a ghost and begins to live with me, much longer than when the actual images have finished. A good film is a film that infects me, and afterwards, becomes my immunity.