Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez • Directors of The Passenger
“The fantastical genre allows you to create worlds where you can do whatever you want”
- We chatted to the duo of filmmakers, who have helmed a terrifying movie that serves as a stark warning against sharing a van with strangers
We met (via Zoom) with Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez, the directors of The Passenger [+see also:
interview: Raúl Cerezo and Fernando Go…
film profile], a film that has been presented at the 54th Sitges Film Festival after having taken part in Fantastic 7 at Cannes (see the news). While the former connected from his house, the latter appeared to be behind a steering wheel while double-parked, as if he were one of the protagonists of their cheeky road movie.
Cineuropa: How, where and when did you meet? How exactly did your (artistic) union blossom?
Fernando González Gómez: Our short films were taking part in various festivals, and we knew each other by sight and from social networks. But when Raúl was involved in organising a festival that I was attending with a short film, we just hit it off.
Raúl Cerezo: I had the project for The Passenger on the go, and I peddled it around many production companies, but they thought it was pretty crazy, so I went to Fernando with it and told him: “Read the screenplay and see if you like it.” He loved it, and I offered him the chance to co-direct it with me. It entered production two weeks later.
Could it therefore be said that The Passenger is an independent film, and that’s why you had absolute freedom while creating it?
RC: Totally. If it had fallen into the fortunate clutches of a major production company, it would have been influenced by various opinions in order to avoid offending many different groups, and it would have been an entertaining film, but it would never have been as brutal as it’s turned out to be. The gamble paid off, but if it all goes wrong, it’s all on you, and it wasn’t a cheap film.
FGG: Estándar was already a really crazy, uninhibited film, with a screenplay that we did whatever we wanted with. People described it as a weird comedy. The Passenger and Viejos, our new feature, have that same attribute of creative freedom and risk-taking: you just need to watch the film, and you’ll see that. The fantastical genre allows you to create worlds where you can do whatever you want.
So, did you have as good a time shooting it as you’d think from watching it?
FGG: They were some trying weeks that we spent filming, with a lot of hard work at night, in the forests of Navarre, where it was quite cold. I like sport, and sometimes I compare the shoot to when you’re doing a cycling race, and suddenly it starts raining. Then the whole thing gets more epic – it’s even harder than it had been to start with, but you feel motivated, which makes you enjoy it to a certain extent, despite the suffering.
RC: It went well, but it was really hard. I remember Steven Spielberg’s quote from when he finished his movie 1941, when he said: “We had a fucking good time, and that’s why this film will never be very good.” In other words, if there’s no hint of suffering, the feature won’t work. There was that fun side to The Passenger, yes, but all while working really hard.
Was it all shot on location? Because it seems like there are certain moments that were filmed in a studio…
RC: It’s a combination of real exteriors, which we shot over three weeks, and another three in interiors, in a studio. The art department replicated the van, and it was almost like Lego: it could be taken apart in order to get the camera in there from any angle.
FGG: Normally, when you have a car crammed into a studio set, the movement of the vehicle is simulated by moving the camera. That wasn’t the case here: we built a structure with hydraulic pistons that made the whole van move, allowing the camera to remain still.
Your theme of having a shared vehicle is in line with two recent films: the comedy Con quién viajas [+see also:
film profile], which has already been released in Spanish theatres, and the upcoming Álex de la Iglesia movie (see the news).
FGG: Yes, it’s like a micro-genre all of its own.
RC: While we were shooting it, we were happy because we thought we were the first ones to broach this subject. Once it was filmed, we became aware of the existence of Martín Cuervo’s movie, and we got really scared, but we knew that it was a comedy with a touch of suspense. Once ours was finished, we found out about El cuarto pasajero, which is apparently quite similar to Con quién viajas. The good thing about our film is that the jokes about car sharing get watered down quickly, leaving space to focus on something else.
FGG: We wanted to put a varied bunch of people together in a van and put their differences on display. The same thing would have happened with a family, for example.
There are some shots in your film that bring to mind Sergio Leone and Brian de Palma.
RC: Yes, we have this reference point of the split-diopter usually used by Brian de Palma or Alfred Hitchcock. We love it to death, but it’s not used very much in Spain.
FGG: We like that trick so much that we used it during a whole scene. We drew inspiration from great filmmakers whom we like: we used their same resources but put our own spin on them.
(Translated from Spanish)
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