After great success at film festivals around the world (including a one-night stand at D.C.’s Reel Affirmations), “End of the Century” (Fin de siglo) is settling in today for an exclusive engagement at Landmark E Street Cinema (it’s in Spanish with English subtitles).
Written and directed by out Argentinian filmmaker Lucio Castro, the movie is about an Argentinian poet named Ocho (Juan Barberini) who’s visiting Barcelona. As he wanders around the city, he keeps seeing Javi (Ramón Pujol); when the two finally meet, they realize they have met each other before, and that they may have a future together.
Castro starts with a blank page and sees where the story takes him. The award-winning filmmaker says, “Every time I write with a plan it feels a little bit stiff, so I prefer to write without a plan. I like to start without anything in mind. The story really comes out of the joy I have when I write and it really helps put me in the place of the audience. It puts me closer to the way the audience thinks.”
For this movie, Castro began contemplating a visitor to Barcelona.
“I started thinking about a character arriving in the city. What would this character do? He checks into his Airbnb, he checks out the bookshelf, he opens the fridge. He doesn’t unpack so I know he’s just here for a couple of days, maybe for the weekend,” he says. “Then he goes for a walk. At night he wants to have sex. He fails. The next day he meets up with someone and they end up having sex. They start talking and maybe in the middle of the conversation they realize they have met before. So, I just started imaging their first encounter, how it was in the past, and that’s really how I wrote it.”
For “End of the Century,” Castro’s approach to screenwriting helped shape the movie’s tone and pace. The movie starts with a long sequence where Ocho wanders through Barcelona. There’s no spoken dialogue, just the ambient noises of the city, the squawks of animals in the city park and the sounds of the waves on the beach.
The scene is also shaped by the Castro’s own experiences as a traveler and his canny instincts as a filmmaker.
“I’ve noticed that when I’m alone I’m very aware of the city,” Castro says. “The people, the conversations. I look at the buildings and I feel the air. I notice things. When I’m with somebody else, I’m focused on our conversation.”
Castro wanted to capture this feeling in his movie.
“I wanted to explore this contrast, and I thought a good way to do this was to extend the silence and show how you’re more sensitive to the space around you when you’re alone. It feels like a diary,” he says. “But then a dialogue starts with his Ocho’s attraction to Javi. It felt like a hypnotic way to get into the movie to get into the mind of the main character. From drifting around the city, Ocho starts to focus on Javi.”
In addition to the complex opening of the movie, Castro the screenwriter set up other challenges for Castro the director with the sizzling sex scenes between Ocho and Javi. He says the actors were a bit anxious about the intense erotic action, especially Barberini who had a bad experience on his previous shoot.
“The director told the actors to just pretend like they were having sex while he moved the camera around. It was very uncomfortable,” Castro says.
Barberini asked Castro to take a different approach. According to Castro, the actor said, “Let’s do the opposite. You tell me exactly what you want. We’ll definitely go all out, but in a very controlled space.”
So Castro, directing his first feature-length film, made sure to create a safe space for his actors to work in.
“I choreographed the shots,” he says, “and we really planned it out. It required a very specific framing and it was shot very fast in 20-second increments. They were of course naked, but they didn’t care if we could see their body parts. They were comfortable with the intensity and the intimacy.”
Castro started working on films in his native Argentina. He graduated from the prestigious Centro de Experimentación (C.I.C.) and worked on several movie sets before moving to New York in 2000. The multi-talented artist earned a degree from the Parsons School of Design and started work as a menswear designer (luciocastro.com) while making short films on the side.
Around seven years ago, Castro remembers, “I started putting much more time into filmmaking and working on feature films. I wrote two screenplays, one set in Argentina and one set in update New York. But both films have large casts and multiple locations, so I wrote the script for ‘End of the Century’ that could be done with a much smaller budget.”
Not surprisingly, Castro is a major film buff.
“I have so many favorite films,” he says, “but for this movie I was looking a lot at a movie called ‘Certified Copy’ by Abbas Kiarostami. It’s a French film made by an Iranian director with Juliette Binoche. I love the Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni and I was also watching his movie ‘L’Eclisse’ a lot.”
Castro is sure these masterpieces have left their ark on “End of the Century.”
“Of course, they come through me in ways that I’m not even aware of,” he says. “I am sure this film is made of bits and pieces of many films.”