All Gonzalo Tamayo wants to do is renounce his Catholic faith. It would seem a simple enough task: talk to some people, get some documents, and finally be rid of a religious framework he never asked to be a part of. But in Federico Veiroj’s The Apostate (El apóstata) this simple task becomes a Herculean undertaking, that gets more preposterous by the minute. The end result is a hilarious existential comedy punctuated by dream-like fantasy sequences.
To use the term “fantasy sequences,” though, doesn’t do the film justice – what we get are these highly eerie and disruptive moments that don’t quite seem to follow the real-life logic that otherwise rules the film. In one unforgettable moment, Gonza (played by the real-life inspiration for the role, Álvaro Ogalla) walks into a beautiful building – the real-life Palacio de Vista Alegre in Madrid – and, rather than head into the apostates meeting going on, finds himself drawn to a nudist gathering. We watch him wander out to the verdant green garden outside as he strips down to his most elemental state – a wordless sequence that is unforgettable for its simplicity.
Remezcla hopped on Skype to chat with Veiroj about the film’s unusual tone, to tease out why so many critics have been comparing The Apostate to the work of Luis Buñuel, and to get some insights on this alluring sequence. Without spoiling its effects, of course.
The Apostate opens September 9, 2016 at Anthology Film Archives in New York, with other cities to follow.
On Luis Buñuel
“Being compared to Buñuel is cool, but for this film one of the influences was Benito Pérez Galdós, a Spanish author from the nineteenth century who was actually an influence on Buñuel — he adapted some of his novels.”
On parable storytelling
“The film in general would be good if it could be felt as a big fable. I was not interested in talking about this character through the real and domestic life.”
On setting the mood
“We needed that dreamlike scene and that ambiance.”
On letting go
“For me, when you sit in the theater, I don’t care if it’s real or not. I’m not asking like, ‘What would my friend do in a situation like that?’ or ‘Why would he do that?’ — for me I don’t care. It’s fiction and I let myself go.”
On blurring the line between dreams and reality
“The character shows you that something could be part of a dream. It was very important to mix whatever could be dream or fantasy or memory or the present time of the character. Because in Gonza, all that is mixed.”
On recreating paradise
“We had that idea of doing like an Eden park, a kind of paradise.”
“He has that look of desire. For me, he’s the opposite of a vago. He’s totally integrated in the place where he belongs.”
On the audience's relationship with the film's lead
“And at that moment in the film you’re going with him; you’re following him.”