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Interview with Pablo Serret de Ena, director of Useless Opera Singers

Sunday 30 January 2022, by Brasserie du Court team, Clotilde Couturier

An unknown force pushes a man to a place of extraordinary characteristics in the high Arctic. In its limits, is where he may find the answer. Between an introspective adventure and the poetry of the absurd.

How much are you related to absurdism?

Not much really, or at least consciously. It usually interests me whenever there is a conflict between meanings, or when these are created by confronting apparently very different subjects. In the film everything is connected under some kind of logic, even though it might not seem very apparent. At least in my head. To me the absurd comes more from the paradox and the dissonance of the experience of being there. And that has definitely a poetry in itself.

How familiar are you to documentary filmmaking? Why did you want to explore this approach in Useless Opera Singers?

This is my first short film, so any documentary filmmaking knowledge comes from this experience. Maybe a little bit from my background in arts. I mostly learnt by doing. Actually, Useless Opera Singers was never intended to be a film. There was no previous script, filming crew or a planned strategy. Of course, I embarked a ship with a camera, I was there shooting and had some scenes in my head… but the final approach was something that came out on my return, during the process of editing. I’d like to think that the film is halfway between documentary and magic realism.

Where did you shoot the Arctic and shipping sequences?

Most of the footage was filmed while immersed in “The Arctic Circle expeditionary residency program”. A collection of international artists of all disciplines, scientists, activists… who collectively explore the high-Arctic Svalbard Archipelago and Arctic Ocean aboard a specially outfitted Barquentine sailing vessel. About ten degrees off the North Pole. Definitely, one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. A dream come true that still today has a profound impact on me.

How did you work on the soundscape and music?

While I was editing the film, I soon realised the sound and music would have a strong relevance in the final piece, as I think it finally did. The Arctic has a very special sound, a special silence… it is hard to describe and translate. The film is actually a very lonely portrait, so the soundscape and music acts almost like a companion, like another character in itself. As I did most of the other processes in the film, it was also very refreshing to work with outer perspectives and all-time friends like Guillermo Farré (original music) and Gustav Niepoort (sound design).

Is there any particular short film that made a special impression on you?

Not just one, but many. I vividly remember when I watched the first time a few Werner Herzog shorts from a dvd compilation box. I didn’t know anything about him, but I felt immediately a connection with his work, vision and approach to life. To me it was the coolest mix of an artist, explorer and a free man. An impression that transcended his films, still present today. Also, while in the process of editing, I discovered 66 Scenes from America by Jørgen Leth, that taught me a lot about creating a whole portrait, an ambience, from a collection of apparently random shots.

What’s your definition of a good film?

Whatever moves me inside.

USELESS OPERA SINGERS, Pablo Serret de Ena [Trailer] from FREAK Independent Film Agency on Vimeo.

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