Mexican actor Gael García Bernal who was in Vencie to present his film Ema by Chilean director Pablo Larraín, who is best known for Neruda his film about Chile’s famed leftist poet Pablo Neruda and Jackie, the lyrical psychodrama starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy in the harrowing week following the JFK assassination
Ema was shown in competition at the 76th Venice Film Festival. The story is about a young dancer who decides to separate from her husband after giving away the adopted son that they both adopted but were unable to raise. After their pyromaniac son is returned to an orphanage, Ema, played by Chilean actress Mariana Di Girolamo, wanders through the streets of Chile’s port city of Valparaíso as she seeks thrills were her dance troupe girlfriends and sexual affairs with random men to overcome her guilt. However, she has a secret plan to recover everything she’s lost.
Bernal, who won a 2017 Golden Globe for his role in the TV series Mozart in the Jungle was in Venice for another movie in competition Wasp Network by French Filmmaker Olivier Assayas. In Wasp Network, Bernal plays a Cuban spy working for Fidel Castro’s Communist government and who jailed in the late 1990s. The film also stars Spanish actress Penelope Cruz and is based on the book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War by Fernando Morais.
New Europe’s Federico Grandesso spoke with Bernal about his latest projects in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Venice Film Festival.
New Europe (NE): The film presents a dance community, what is your relation with that world? How would you define this film?
Gael García Bernal (GB): First of all, I admire the dance world. My mother was a modern dancer, I love dancing salsa and cumbia. I think it is very a political, but also very experimental movie. I loved that. This journey that Pablo (Larrain) did to make this movie having the right to play around would have been impossible in the United States. A few years ago we were talking about a TV series as the medium where you could really experiment and try different things. Now, however, I think that it has also become a conservative world and a film like this would be impossible to find in a steaming platform. On TV they need more linear content, while cinema has always been this a place where you experiment and talk about the ambiguities, the gray areas, and the contradictions. This film is incredibly avant-garde but it is also talking about certain canonical issues in an experimental way and providing them in a new light. I think then Pablo can do the best action movie and as well the best strong essay on many delicate issues that a film wants to cover.
NE: This film is also about a man’s role in society and masculinity? How do you define the ‘new man’, the ‘man of this century’?
GB: It is undefinable. This is the nicest thing about it because we don’t have to build a manifesto around this idea. That would be the first macho mistake. If we do a little bit of digging, in the 19th and 20th-centuries we were all samurais and there was an appeal for perfection, men would never tell a lie. There was a time where men were “perfect”, but now what we think of and love about men is that they are imperfect. In this day and age, women find vulnerable men to be the most attractive. This vulnerability has opened new languages of expression. If you want to define ‘the new man’ with common, every day things, if you go to the market you see a lot of men carrying their babies. That is something that never happened. The film wants to investigate, in a very philosophical way, how can we build new ways to get rid of the concept of the nuclear family. For a long period, it was the thing that saved the world, but not anymore. We know also that the nuclear family is a medieval invention that was invented to find the way to inherit and be in control. Now humanity has many other ways of establishing a family.
NE: In the film we see a family that accepts “lovers”, what is your take on that?
GB: In Mexico, we were discussing a lot about where violence and its cycles come from. We have done a lot of movies about that. I think that there is an answer and a solution, but I think that the obstacle is that as institutions and organisations need to provide something to each of member. It has to do with a deep connection to individuals who chose to love each other or take care of someone or something. Ultimately, love is the only solution to the problem of this ongoing crisis of violence. There are many people that survived being a kid without love. They had severe traumas and then became great artists and did great things. On the other hand, there are people that can’t survive and for this reason they buy into the first myth that somebody brings them to escape. That can be any sense of absolutism like escape, get rich, and fuck the world without any responsibility. That is way the family is so important. For me, too, after the birth of my kids. I realised how unhappy I was before without them.
NE: It seems that the essence of “machismo” is coming back into politics with Presidents like Trump and (Jair) Bolsonaro in Brazil. What do think about this phenomenon?
GB: No, I think they are not going to last and especially don’t mention those two names together.