Alfredo Castro in Immersion. Nicolás Postiglione: 'He would never, ever go for the first emotion that I would ask him to do, which is awesome. I'm a first-time director, so I learned a lot doing this film'
Amber Wilkinson: In terms of sort of the writing of it, obviously you were working as a trio there. How was that collaboration?
Nicolás Postiglione: I was working Moisés Sepúlveda and Agustín Toscano. Augustin was the main writer. He's a really good director with a different style. I had to make him bend his own style to come to this thriller world, because his own work is more like a comedy, irony kind of thing. But he's so cool with dialogue, he's so great at making the every scene thick; every back and forth – that’s Toscano magic. I was always more of the structure guy, trying to fit in the violence and the thriller because what I wanted was for it to be a dark and violent film. So I guess that mix ended up being what Immersion is, which is, characters that just spark in hatred to each other.
AW: So was Moisés the bridge between you?
NP: He's the one that put us both together. He's also a film teacher at university, so he would always like be looking for character development and arc structures and acts, everything that we would just go for, he’d be like, “Wait a second. What does that mean to you? And where are you going with this?” And kind of be the professor.
AW: So it was a productive collaboration?
NP: Totally productive. I do it again if I had the chance.
AW: I wondered, though, because of all three of you being directors, whether there was any tension because of that.
NP: There was tension. Me and Moisés fought a couple of times during editing, but we always get back to being friends. We had different visions but I guess I kind of did it my way in the end because, in the end, the only guy who was going to the shoot was going to be me. So I had to be happy with what I was going to show.
Nicolás Postiglione on the music of Immersion: 'The opening act has these big strings that make you feel like something big is going to happen to these characters right off the bat'
AW: There's quite a lot of detail going on in this film, you know, like anchors being pulled over the edge of the boat and shots of feet - you're not always showing in the faces – was that something that you were thinking about while shooting.
NP: There was a point of view, kind of idea that I wanted to live by from early on. Before shooting the film, I already knew I had to do it, and that was show Alfredo Castro's point of view, you know, and have the other guys, the locals, be further away from us, which you would add to their tension. You know, if you see them too close, and you get to know them enough, they're going to be weakened, and they're supposedly dangerous. So I tried to leave them menacing by hiding them from the camera a bit. I really tried for everything to be seen from Alfredo, the father’s point of view, which in the end worked. The idea was to shoot him and have him listen to stuff that was happening out of shot, out of the frame but see him reacting to it.
AW: You've got a great cast, two of them worked before on Some Beasts.
NP: That's a great movie and it was like one year before ours. So they already knew each other and they had a super violent scene in Some Beasts. It gave them the chance to get to know each other and to really go crazy with acting, which was cool for me because when you're on a boat trying to finish the scene before the sun goes down, you need them to be quick. You need them to be fast and accurate and, obviously, the fact that they were in Some Beasts together helped me.
AW: Castro is a very interesting actor that he has that way of sort of bringing sort of slight undercurrent of another emotion to the one on the surface.
NP: Definitely, he would never, ever go for the first emotion that I would ask him to do, which is awesome. I'm a first-time director, so I learned a lot doing this film. Alfredo Castro was super generous in giving me tools because first time directors, I think, always trip on their first impression of what they think they need. Obviously a seasoned actor, like Alfredo, with 25 or more films, with awards all over the world, knows exactly that what you need is the underlying emotion, not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. So, for instance, there's this one scene where he takes a completely different approach. He's always asking the guys on the boat for more information and trying to accuse them of something. But there's one scene where he asked them, like, “Hey, what's in the cooler guys?” And he takes a completely different approach, because we already did three or four scenes of him feeling menacing. And then he's like, “Okay, well, maybe I can try something different.” So he asked them with a smile and with a laugh – and that's a completely Castro idea, you know, because I would have tripped obviously, as a first time director and kept on hitting the same key, but he gave me that kind of stuff, which obviously did wonders for the film.
AW: So did you have him in mind from the start when you were writing?
NP: Yes, he was always in mind. We obviously knew his potential from seeing him in other films. There’s other actors in Chile but there’s only one or two who could have tried what he did. Obviously, his physical look helped a lot because he could be someone from a higher class in Chile, he could represent that social economical group besides being a great actor.
AW: Did he take it on straight away, especially with you being a first-time director?
Nicolás Postiglione on the family dynamic of the film: 'The father has the daughters like two diamonds that he doesn't want to be harmed'
AW: How about casting the others?
NP: Alfredo was the first guy we cast and then the others came in through a casting process. We called for younger actresses, and for darker skinned actors. I was super concerned that the sisters would be believable towards Alfredo. I thought that at least those two had to match physically so you can feel them as kind of like a product you want to protect. The father has them as like two diamonds that he doesn't want to be harmed, you know, and if you match them up physically, that's going to help.
AW: Can we talk about the scoring, all those slippery strings and a lot of flute as well. How did you find the right person for that job?
NP: I have a long-time collaborator, Paulo Gallo, who's a great Chilean musician, a young guy who’s living actually in Berlin right now and he's developing his career there. We used different kinds of stuff, we tried to give it like the thickness of drama you know, like the opening act has these big strings that make you feel like something big is going to happen to these characters right off the bat, you know. Every bad decision that the father makes has a string note to help it. You can feel him tripping when the strings come on board. And another thing that we tried to do was to integrate it with indigenous sounds. One trick that we tried to do with it was to give the final act a savagery, you know that could be the quasi-indigenous people or could be from the father.
AW: What’s next for you?
NP: My next movie is luckily already financed. We're ready to shoot next year, next winter. It's a cool movie, a completely different subject. But I guess style wise, it probably has some thriller elements, which hopefully going to give my artistic language, some coherence, which is something I really would aim for. It’s going to be shot in southern Chile. But it's a completely different context – the context of the German communities in southern Chile.
AW: The Colonia Dignidad?
NP: The Colonia Dignidad is one thing that happened. But there’s also a huge German community that came there since the 19th century that developed culturally like hermetic community. For 200 years just like didn't allow anyone to pierce it like was a lot of inbreeding. So they were just give each other jobs and go to the same German schools. It's like this little piece of Germany in the middle of southern Chile, which is super interesting, I think, that no one really knows about other than Colonia Dignidad but that’s a specific story. This is more of a cultural history and it's super cool because these communities eventually started corrupting culturally, you know, degrading. Some members started marrying Chilean people and all the tension that that brings is what I'm going to put into my movie, which is about the way a family kind of like deteriorates.
AW: Does it have a working title yet?
It's called Bella Cosa Mortal, which is like Beautiful Mortal Thing, the direct translation. We’re using a working title in English that's Beautiful, Yet Mortal.
Read what Postiglione told us about ambiguity and tension in the first part of our interview