Animals, when they’ve been wounded, lick themselves where it hurts. Nonetheless, they also pick themselves up and keep going; wounded, but still alive.
Silvio Lisboa has got a lot of money and since last year a lover, the famous and well-known interior designer Claudia Riera. The man has also got an obsession: to meet up with her in secret in Room 1817 in the Hotel Princesa Sofia.
Silvio lives, to be precise near the hotel, a conventional life with Marcia, his wife, a neurotic pleasure seeker who only finds relief in drinks made from mate (a traditional South American drink made from the leaves of the coca plant) mixed with aspirin which Mariela, her Peruvian maid prepares for her. However their domestic calm is disturbed when a phone call announces the imminent visit of Claudia, who wants to write an article on the Lisboa’s home. Marcia goes mad getting the flat ready and leaves no detail out: the event is worthy of it.
The visit, however, ends in tragedy as Claudia finds out about Silvio’s sick obsession. The enraged interior decorator cancels the article in revenge and ends her clandestine affair. Marcia can’t bear it and becomes depressed. To get over her depression she has a face-lift and the married couple go to Cadaques, a village at the Costa Brava, for a few weeks. She needs to heal her scars from the operation and he his from his traumatic break-up.
ABOUT WOUNDED ANIMALS
Three or four summers ago I read, or more accurately, I devoured a marvellous collection of short stories; Pell d’Armadillo (“Armadillo Skin”, Editorial Proa, 1998). The name of the book’s author, Jordi Puntí, was unknown to me, but not the universe he wrote about. I discovered a terribly identifiable world, with an introspective viewpoint and a minutely detailed analysis of emotions. Puntí’s wields his pen like a surgeon’s knife, cutting cleanly through tissue that was familiar to me. Beyond their fashionable modernity his creatures hid truths, heartaches and faults which were more than recognisable. It was as if I already knew something of their lives, as if they were in some way connected with other characters in my previous films. At the same time I was surprised by the cosmopolitan nature of the author, even more so when I discovered that he, a graduate in Romance Philology, was a native of Manlleu, a town in what is known as “backwoods” Catalonia. A translator of contemporary authors, and a regular contributor to both press and radio, especially the El País newspaper, his work was also enjoyed by many others. He received the Serra d’Or Critics’ Prize for Pell d’Armadillo which was later translated into Spanish. In 2002, four years after having published this first collection of short stories, the work Animals Tristos (“Sad Animals”) appeared in Catalan, published by Empúries. This was another sophisticated work of human dissection; six stories, some of them with very communicable characters. A Spanish translation swiftly appeared as his reputation grew among connoisseurs. However the publication of this work curiously passed me by. I suppose that this was due to my character – I go through life in a somewhat random way, distanced from fashions – or perhaps it was simply because I was involved in other matters.
When, some time later, I read the stories in Animals Tristos (“Sad Animals”),something happened to me which was similar to what had occurred some years before on reading El perquè de tot plegat (“What it’s All About”) by Quim Monzó, an author who, in my view, shares close similarities in terms of viewpoint, identifying traits, and certain parallel worlds with those of Puntí. I was immediately seduced, firstly by his inventive capacity, but above all by the extraordinary complexity of those characters, profoundly scarred by the wounds of life and love, who all, in story after story, laid themselves bare to us without embarrassment. My attention was immediately drawn to Icones russes(“Russian Icons”) and Bombolles (“Bubbles”), two stories which make up a world explained from two opposing yet complimentary positions, where I sensed the basis for the framework with which to create a film. Further on, in part of another story, Gos que es llepa les ferides (“The dog that licks its own wounds”), I discovered some characters who would fit, and interact, well within the atmosphere and the moral the two stories I had already chosen. In addition, by playing with the title of the book and that of this last story, I came up with a first title for the film, Animals que es llepen les ferides (“Animals that lick their own wounds”), which would finally be transformed, in a session of rehearsals at the home of Jose Coronado with Aitana Sánchez Gijón, and at the suggestion of Cecila Rossetto, into Animals ferits (“Wounded Animals”).
Now, then, I had the stories. I began to construct the script in the passionate search to unify its narrative structure. Curiously, once I had finished my film I went back to several films, chosen at random, which had also been structured on a three-story basis. I am thinking particularly about two films dating from that far off, and much missed, time of great American cinema - “Letter to Three Wives” by Mankiewicz and “The Bad and the Beautiful” by Minnelli. Both work with narrative games based on the use of various elements, a voice off, a range of viewpoints, etc., which have always been very close to me, and which I have gone back to again in this film. My script has passed through various writing phases, from an initial structuring around inner monologues by the three male characters, to a redistribution of the inner time of each of the stories based on musical tempos. The aim is not only to suggest a narrative game, but also the emotional state of the characters, with an omnipresent voice off as a guide to unify the comprehension of the stories.
I have divided these tales of shared loneliness in our time, of people who are incapable of relating positively to those whom they love, of people who lick the wounds of love which they themselves are incapable of avoiding, regardless of their age, origin or social class, into three musical time sets: Allegro assai, Moderato tempo giusto and Andante affettuoso. The stories are then interwoven and rounded off in a Finale Rondo. I am conscious of the pleasure I derive from the use of diverse forms, from the narrative deconstruction, and from breaking on several occasions the traditional narrative structure. However I have always been concerned, more than anything else, with the simple fact that my stories can be easily understood. In Wounded Animals the proposal is tragicomedy, a genre which greatly appeals to me, where the game involves accompanying the spectator on a voyage which moves from laughter to sorrow – and due to the focal point derived from the music – where something as co-substantial as the affection which we all need can be recognised. This once again becomes the central theme, as in so many other of my films, be they comedies or dramas; I have returned to my need to demonstrate the desperation for communication and affection within our society which here, thanks to the stupendous stories of Puntí, I can generalise in diverse surroundings and origins, immersed in this multiethnic world which Western Europe is becoming.
Aesthetically the mise-en-images, the form the images take, has nothing in common with my previous film, Amor Idiota (“Idiot love”), where the camera never stopped following the anxiety and the grief of its main character. And as I have said many times, I always try to look for the plasticity and the narrative sense in the story itself, and this one I am telling with its choral nature, its internal tempos have lead me to explain it in a more serene, and if you will, a more classical way. In no way am I renouncing the risks I very often take. On the contrary, I am searching for my coherence in the fact that the work has a sense of its own and that this formalism, deliberately sought in the composition of the sequences, and in the Rafa Lluch’s photography, seems to me to be the most appropriate.
I have once again had the luck and the opportunity that some magnificent, exceptional actors accepted to be the personification of my creatures, without whose talented work the film would not be what it is. I had already enjoyed seeing José Coronado take on the role of the man on the digger in Anita no perd el tren (“Anita takes a Chance”), and so it has been a pleasure to count on his participation and rigour in the creation of this cynical yet sensitive bourgeois who succumbs to the charms of an aggressive executive played by a graceful Aitana Sánchez Gijón. Aitana creates and defends a complex and difficult role with authority, and with an exquisite nobility, she is capable of projecting and expressing radical changes with a single look. I do not know of any other actress more suited for my Claudia, and neither do I see Marcia, the woman for whom infidelity and abandonment is a fact of life, as anyone other than Cecilia Rossetto. This Argentinean actress, singer and cultural agitator is delightful in this tragicomic game, giving a performance that will captivate audiences of all kinds. The couple in the central story is formed by two actors who I have long admired: Marc Cartés (who is once again with me after Amor Idiota) and Cristina Plazas, who has just played the main character in Fuenteovejuna but who I discovered earlier, alongside Carles Alberola in the delicious Mandíbula afilada (“Sharpened Jaw”). Finally I would like to highlight the delicate work of the Mexican actress, now based here, Patricia Arredondo (also discovered in the National Theatre of Catalonia with Belbel’s Forasters (“Foreigners”) and the adaptation to parameters far removed from his habitual works, of Gerardo Zamora. Gerardo is an actor I discovered, thanks to Ricardo Ramón, in a casting in Lima. He is highly popular for his characters in soap operas in Peru, his home, and with his interpretation of Jorge Washington, the Quechua immigrant, he makes his debut in our cinema. Finally I was lucky in that Abel Folk, an actor with a long and recognised career, accepted the difficult challenge of being the narrator’s voice. With all of these actors I launched myself into the creation of this multi-lingual (rather than multicultural) puzzle which my film finally became, like a kind of mosaic representation of what is happening to us in the here and now. I hope that the spectator enjoys, as I do, the reflection of our everyday linguistic reality, the revelation of the far from traumatic coexistence of four languages: Catalan, Spanish, English and Quechua, which is, by the way, the fifth most-widely spoken language here.
I am also lucky enough to have worked for years now with a faithful and tight-knit team, without whom the rhythm of my work would not be understood. They are professionals and creators with long careers who have shared in my numerous adventures, and have become my indispensable accomplices. From among so many I would like to name Aintza Serra in production, Bel·lo Torras in decoration, Pere Abadal as film editor and, last but not least, the great Carles Cases who, including this one, has composed the music for eleven of my films.
Screenplay, Direction and Production
based on stories from
ANIMALS TRISTOS (SAD ANIMALS) by JORDI PUNTÍ
Director of Production
ELS FILMS DE LA RAMBLA, S.A
with the participation of
TELEVISIÓN ESPAÑOLA, S.A.
TELEVISIÓ DE CATALUNYA, S.A.
distributed by FILMAX
Mar del Plata (Argentina)
Los Angeles, Chicago, New York (Lacinema Fe)
Napa Valey, Tijuana, Fort Lauderdale and Puerto Rico (USA)
Montpellier and Nantes (France)
Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)
Jerusalem and Haifa (Israel)
Viña del Mar (Chile)
Mexico D.F. (Mexico)
Great Jury’s Award (Lisboa Festival)
Nominations Barcelona Awards: Best Catalan Film.
Ventura Pons: Zinegoak Award 2005.