Dance Crazed

Chilean-born Pablo Larraín is the highly acclaimed filmmaker behind such films as Post Mortem, No, Neruda and Jackie, his first English-language movie, which starred Natalie Portman. He returns to Chile for his new film Ema, the story of a couple – dancer Mariana di Girolamo and choreographer Gael García Bernal – who are forced to put their troubled adopted son back into the adoption system.

ASFF: What was the starting point for Ema?
PL: I wanted to first make a movie around adoption, and we thought that the main character should be a woman of 65 years-old. And then we said maybe it’s better if she’s in her 40s. And then I met Mariana [di Girolamo]! And it was like, ‘Let’s make a movie with her.’ And when I did that, I realised that she belonged to this [millennial] generation. We had to reshape the entire story and we discovered that we restarted in the entire process; it was about her generation, it was a completely different movie. So we decided to move to Valparaíso; we decided to include Reggaeton…

ASFF: Talking of which, the film’s dance scenes are amazing. Did you become a fan of Reggaeton?
PL: During the process I grew to like it. And I ended up kind of loving it. I would dance it by myself, like play it in my house, but if I am at a party – and if it’s good – yeah, I’ll dance to it!

ASFF: Can you explain your approach to the visual style?
PL: I think it’s a movie that has a strong energy; we’re moving all the time. It has a use of colour I’ve never done before. Also the movie was shot in Valparaíso, a very beautiful city, a harbour in Chile. And it’s full of hills and colours, like Lisbon. It’s trashy and elegant at the same time. Every one paints their house in a different colour. And instead of walking away from it, we embraced it and decided to make a colourful movie, with a camera that’s in motion.

ASFF: Making a movie with a younger generation, what did you discover?

PL: They are so different from my generation; people from one century looking at people to another century. It’s actually like that. They are very particular. And they can be very conservative in many things. This is a generation that really care about climate change; they do. Not in a way that we might do – we care, we recycle, and try not to pollute stuff. They are educated in the matter. They know what it is. They have a different layer of conscious. They live with less things, at least some of them.

ASFF: Do you think they will come and see it?
PL: We have shown it to some of them – they have all opinions! They’re happy because the movie is not slow. That’s what they think I do – slow movies! I showed the movie and they were like, ‘Oh you’re good!’

Ema is available to stream on MUBI from 1 May. For more details, click here.

James Mottram