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VISIONS DU RÉEL 2020

Cláudia Varejão • Director of Amor Fati

“The characters in my film are life’s heroes; they are my heroes”

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- We caught up with Portuguese director Cláudia Varejão to find out more about her Visions du Réel title Amor Fati

Cláudia Varejão  • Director of Amor Fati

Cláudia Varejão returns to Visions du Réel’s International Feature Film Competition with Amor Fati [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Cláudia Varejão
film profile
]
, a film that portrays individuals with astounding similarities who have bonded despite their apparently contrasting stories. We chatted to her to discover more about the documentary.

Cineuropa: What inspired you to create this film?
Cláudia Varejão:
It wasn’t a straightforward, linear journey. The idea stems from something I used to do as a child: matching people. To me, a lot of couples were too similar, almost like siblings. I thought people were lying to me – I would say, “They have to be siblings!” But then I started realising that when people love each other or have a similar character, they end up looking alike. In 2008, I started a photography course, and one of my projects was about people who looked alike. I never finished it. After Ama-San [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, I was exhausted – and went through quite a rough time – so I decided to make a film here, with this, which was something easy to control.

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The visual duality that comes from the characters’ physical attributes is quite noticeable. The title refers to a concept that has a lot to do with one’s way of “being” in life. How did you develop the connection between these two aspects?
The title came to me at the beginning of the project. I thought it was the right title because it encapsulated this idea of mystery. And relationships are a mystery. Amor Fati is also about accepting things as they happen, be they good or bad. These two ideas came together and opened the doors for the film. It’s like a beacon: it passes by sometimes, just to remind you it’s there, and guides you.

It might also be connected to the shooting strategy – that of working with the present, witnessing moments from the characters’ daily lives.
This is such a broad concept. You can see it in the structure, in the characters’ lives, and also in your own interpretation of the film. It’s not an easy movie: it doesn’t work with expectations. Things are happening as life happens. It’s a portrait that I, myself, experienced and lived through while creating it. As soon as I started filming, I lost control of the film, the characters’ lives imposed themselves, and the connections I started to find were minor subtleties. Most of them came from the editing.

We become aware of this editor’s “hand” in the process of constructing mindful and delicate connections. And within these connections, we see equality but also extreme contrasts.
I really wanted to create a common denominator, a line that would cross through all of them, despite their differences. We could go to completely opposite sides, but there was always something that gave a certain continuity to their connection. I started realising certain parallels: music, life, death… It was all about working with the present and intuition. And we also did that in the editing process.

Sound is one of the many elements that enables these links. We can go all the way from classical music to techno.
These people have a lot in common: these characters live on the fringes, on account of either their gender identity or their cultural identity. They are characters that are absent from the stage, and they end up creating a bond. They are life’s heroes; they are my heroes.

You were talking about “life and death”. The concept of death is introduced and then expanded, with photographs but mostly with the actual death of one of the characters. How did you cope with that?
My recent films are extremely sensitive in terms of this compromise of “where can I go with people’s lives?” Because that’s what I work with. They just open the door to their intimacy, which is an act of tremendous generosity. I filmed the sisters from Montalegre and realised that Ana was quite fragile. I asked the family to let me know if anything happened. One day, someone from their town called me and told me Ana had died. I thought: “I’m going there right now.” But I also thought: “Should I take the camera?” I didn’t know what to do. I had a talk with the family, and when I got there, I realised it would make sense to continue this portrait. When one passes away, how does the other one deal with their absence? I went there by myself, and it was really hard for me to film. I did one shot – the one you see in the movie.

The ending has this feeling of a “new cycle”, an idea that also brings us back to Amor Fati, the concept of accepting the past and being in the present.
The film is circular, just as life is circular. When a child is born, that is the beginning and the end. It’s the end of the cycle of this internal bond with the mother and the beginning of a new life. A new cycle begins – one of hope, of life, of death.

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