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Miguel Ángel Vivas’ stunning KIDNAPPED (now available via
video-on-demand and opening in select cities tomorrow from IFC Films) is one of
the best horror films of 2011. Accurately described by its Spanish director as “an
experience,” the film chronicles a home invasion in showstopping form: a dozen
intricately choreographed visceral long takes. Fango spoke with Vivas (with the
great help of translator Lilia Pina Blouin) about the film, his intentions and
FANGORIA: What was the initial genesis of KIDNAPPED?
MIGUEL ÁNGEL VIVAS: The idea for KIDNAPPED is based on a
very personal fear that I have of people breaking into my house. It’s something
I’ve experienced ever since I was a young child, and that I’ve even had dreams
of. Nowadays, it’s actually a very real fear that I share with thousands of
other people because of the way the situation has changed in our country. It’s
something that does happen a lot more. In the old days, burglars would try to
wait until families were out of their houses to break in. Now, that pattern has
radically changed, and burglars actually wait for people to be inside because
they know they can kidnap and take them out to get money and make a lot more. I
wanted to talk about this kind of fear, but as I started writing the script, I
realized that I didn’t just want to tell the story of a family, but I wanted to
describe an experience. I wanted the viewer to receive that overwhelming fear
FANG: Part of feeling that fear is the immediacy of
KIDNAPPED’s shooting style, its long takes. How difficult was that process?
VIVAS: We had 12 long shots. In every movie, there’s always
a shot that is the most difficult one, and it’s complicated to pull off. We
call it “the impossible shot.” We definitely had that. We had to pull off so
many different things. I wanted to have these long shots because I didn’t want
to deceive the audience in any way. I didn’t want to have any special effects,
anything that would not be real. By having these long shots, it’s as if we took
any trick out of moviemaking. Whenever there’s a cut, the actors take a break
and you can change the lights and the makeup, and we didn’t want to do that. We
just wanted the spectators to follow the story from the beginning to the end
just like the characters do, with no way out. We wanted to avoid the classic
manipulation of time and space that you have in cinema just to show exactly how
the characters were feeling. Of course, it was very complicated, but we wanted
to create something that was like a choreography, and that would create a
harmony and almost a dancelike feel between the camera and the actors.
FANG: You very seamlessly pull off the more shocking moments
in the long takes; how did you integrate those FX?
VIVAS: Actually, the secret is to have a really good crew.
We really did not have any kind of special or in-camera effects. We just
choreographed it very well and with a lot of attention. All of the things you
see did happen for real—all of the falls and hitting, they’re all things the
actors were really doing. So we played with their physicality and rehearsed it
a lot both with the actors and the crew to make sure everything happened at the
right time and in the right place. The only thing that was played with was
[SPOILER ALERT] the scene where the daughter is hitting her attacker with the
statue. We would do a long shot per day and just set it up for six, seven
hours, we would try it out, rehearse it, lock it and then we would film.
FANG: It’s admirable how stark the film is. A lot of
audiences feel it’s completely nihilistic. Is that in line with your personal
worldview at all?
VIVAS: No, I wouldn’t say I’m nihilistic at all. In this
particular film, I wanted to talk about a very specific situation and a very specific
fear, and to make a realistic film. It’s not a matter of talking about hope, or
hoping the family that undergoes a situation like that then comes out. My point
was to make a movie about fear, exploring fear itself and how we would react,
if we were in a situation like that. It has nothing to do with my worldview.
I’m actually very hopeful for the world.
When I was developing my idea, I was reading a lot and
talking to people and a lot of people were telling me, “Oh, if I was in a
situation like that, I can’t even think of how I would feel. I can’t even
imagine what it would be like.” I wanted people to think, to feel, to imagine
how it would be, how they would react. The end is a little bit nihilistic, but
the way I feel is that it is realistic. I didn’t want to make a movie where
there’s a Harrison Ford or Bruce Willis who is going to show up and save the
day for us. I just wanted to make a movie about you and I, and how we would
FANG: Was there a specific idea behind the ethnicity of the
attackers, as one of them is pointedly Albanian?
VIVAS: There’s no specific reason, except for wanting to be
realistic. Statistics say that 95 percent of these kinds of attacks in Spain
are perpetrated by people from Eastern Europe. By saying that, I do not want to
make any kind of judgment about Eastern Europeans. I don’t want to say they are
worse or better than others in any sort of way. If I put a bald person there as
an attacker, I would not be saying that bald people are attackers. I do not
want to say that Albanians are bad, that Albanians are criminals, not at all.
What I wanted to do was create a real character. I wanted to have a guy with a
first name, a last name, a specific origin. The reason I gave the character a
nationality was that I wanted to flesh him out. I wanted for it to be real.
Nowadays, when you see films like this and there’s an
attacker, they’re usually made out to be crazy somehow or that they have some
kind of an issue. I just wanted to detach myself from this kind of stereotype.
The actor himself is Albanian, and he told me that he was really happy that for
the first time he could play an Albanian character who’s a real human being and
who is credible. So what I wanted to do was work with him on character
development. I wanted for him to think of this guy and how he got there and
where he was from. I think we live in a time where political correctness is all
over the place, so a lot of people walk on eggshells with that.
FANG: I didn’t necessarily think it was a personal attack on
VIVAS: I did get that comment a lot, though—a lot of
criticism in Spain.
FANG: Was that the only criticism in Spain? Were audiences
as shocked as many are here?
VIVAS: It was actually very well-received otherwise. It came
out at the Sitges festival, and people loved it. We showed it at another event
and had the same great reaction. When it came out in cinemas, it was met by a
lot of positive response both in terms of critics and audiences. The audience
really liked this movie; they would walk out saying they really felt a shocking
fear, and they thought the feelings were actually deep and strong. When I go
see a drama, I want to cry, and when I go see a comedy, I want to laugh; when I
go see a thriller, well, I want to be scared. A lot of people told me they were
very, very scared.
FANG: Do you have your next project lined up?
VIVAS: I’m on the second draft of WELCOME TO HARMONY, which
will be in English. The theme is very apocalyptic. It’s set in a
postapocalyptic world where only two people have survived. They’re the last
human beings and they can’t stand each other.
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