From the triptych of love, loneliness and the unexpected, the Spanish director Jonás Trueba has made it his cinematic obsession. He observed these states of mind as closely as possible in his previous fiction feature films, Los exiliados románticos, La reconquista or Eva in August (the only one of his films to have been distributed in France), and brought them together through the adolescent peephole in his new documentary Quién lo impide (literally “Who’s stopping us” in French, but now “Who apart from us”). For five years, the director has infiltrated the daily lives of Spanish teenagers to extract a long generational fresco of almost four hours. If we liked Adolescentes by Sébastien Lifshitz, we must take Qui à part nous as its more chaotic but also freer Spanish neighbour, under Cervantes influence. “Don Quixote is a chaotic, indescribable and absurd book. I like to think of my film like that”, confirms the director. In the introduction to the film, the protagonists – now aged 18 to 20 and confined – gather around the director, on Zoom, to view together the collaborative work they have created. This prologue serves as a manual for the film and from the outset, we are warned: the film will last 3:40 and since then, the Covid-19 has been there. It is therefore locked up at home that the teenagers who participated in the project will relive their high school years. Candela Recio, the main actress, remembers: “It’s called ‘Who’s stopping us’ because when we started the film, we felt like we could do anything, we were invincible. And then life left us gave a big blow to the head and reminded us that some things are not up to us. In the end, it is this forced withdrawal that has changed us the most since the start of filming.”This introduction is also the scene the most fabricated of this documentary. The rest of the film is born from the hesitant camera of a director who wants to integrate this group of teenagers and who tries to capture as closely as possible what constitutes this very special period: drinking games, fiery debates, moments of confusion, exchange of glances or first kisses. “I was there to film with discovery, trembling and emotion. You can see that the camera is disconcerted and that it doesn’t always know what decision to make.” get out of it. Very far from the archetypes of the teen movie, these teenagers are the incarnation of nothing apart from themselves. No prerequisites, only the subjects they wanted to tackle, sifted through a sieve of their cinegenic potential. At the end of these five years of filming, no spectacular transformation, the physique changes little and the shy ones will never become the most popular. Therefore, the most impressive thing for us, spectators, remains the maturity shown by all these high school students, “the real maturity of the people present because the image we have of teenagers is not fair”, assures Candela. “These moments seem special when they were very common moments in our adolescence. I am very happy that it is there and that we can see it.” In 3:40, the director immerses us in both in the whirlwind of their lives and their minds through discussions in front of the camera, moments stolen by a camera that he leaves rolling or through sequences played, in particular by Candela and Pablo, who played the former teenage lovers of the final flashback of La reconquista. And through this great narrative freedom, Jonás Trueba composes a hybrid and touching photo album of adolescence. A little distraught by this unique immersive experience, the viewer has no time markers, except for five-minute intermissions in real time and introduced by explanatory cards of the sequences to come. To give us the feeling of being with this group of high school students, in class, in the evening or on a school trip, the director made the radical choice of long time, during filming and editing. He thus leaves room for the unexpected, “the challenge and the supreme reward as a filmmaker but also a certain form of humility”, and offers his subject all the temporal depth he deserves. ‘on the other side of the screen, you feel tired, sometimes embarrassed or even certain imperfections, these are sensations that also belong to the register of adolescence. “I wanted to contradict the culture of entertainment that imposes brevity. The duration of the film is one of its most rebellious aspects. But this duration seems relevant to me in view of the process which is very long. The question of the physical sensation of fatigue seemed important to me. apart from us, we necessarily think a lot about Boyhood by Richard Linklater, one of the most beautiful films about the passage of time and a unique undertaking in the history of cinema, which also knew how to magnify normality. But in reality, the approaches of Linklater and Trueba oppose each other. While the fictional form of Boyhood took on a documentary reflection on aging or the evolution of bodies, the documentary anchoring of Qui à part allowed us to the fiction to arise in pretty sequences of amorous escapades or first kisses in the naturalistic staging. More than the story of a transformation, it is more a mirror that Jonás Trueba has held up to these Madrid teenagers, some of whom have become his friends. And with this documentary, he gives his band a precious gift to remember who they were. “Things have happened to us but we remain the people we are. It’s a beautiful place to watch so as not to forget who we are”, concludes Candela, grateful.
Leave a comment