is instead a simile for the cramped, remote village in the Las Hurdes region of Spain whose stone roofs resemble turtle shells) is based on the graphic novel by Fermin Solís. It presents a chapter in young Luis Buñuel’s life in which he was struggling to emerge out of the shadow of artist Salvador Dalí, with whom he had made the surrealist films Un Chien Andalou (1928) and L’age d’or (1930), the latter of which was so scandalous it rendered him unemployable.
Plagued by nightmares (including one featuring gigantic, stilted elephants) and haunted by memories of his relationship with his elderly, strict father, the director is attempting to reclaim his life and career. This is despite his worst inclinations, which drive him to challenge authority, even that represented by his close friend and de facto producer Ramón Acín (another notable figure), whose lottery winnings provided the financing for the documentary.
The film is as much about the personal struggle between these two compatriots as it is about the making of a film-within-a-film. “My favorite sequence is the first time we see Luis with Ramón because that moment needed to feel homey, and we did not want to overwork the dialogue,” Simó says. “We said as much as we could with images, which was a huge challenge for the animation, the acting. It was a woman, Giulia Landi, the supervising animator for Submarine, who did that whole sequence, and I think it was done brilliantly.”
A Global Venture
Amsterdam-based Submarine was one of the studios employed to animate the film, along with Spanish studios The Glow, Sygnatia and Hampa. Freelance artists from all over, including Colombia and the United States, also contributed. “It was a matter of having a balance between senior professionals and giving opportunities to many junior professionals,” says Manuel Cristóbal. “When you have interesting projects you attract interesting people, and if you are honest and say this is a very competitive budget, [you say] we can do this if you will join us. Spain is a very competitive country.”
As director, Simó worked closely with art director José Luis Ágreda to find a rough, naturalistic look for the film, both for the settings and the animation. “We didn’t want squashand-stretch, we wanted real acting,” he says. “We didn’t want to have the film smooth, so we were trying to give the graphics of the film some roughness.”
Key to this effect was animating on threes. “When I was working with Manolo Galiana, the animation director, he was doing some rough things and some tests, and I said, ‘Just leave it like this, don’t even inbetween,’” Simó says. “He was like, ‘No, no, no, we have to inbe- tween this!’ But it was so expressive. What is important in acting is not that the character is moving, because the audience cannot look at the expression of the character while he is moving. You have to keep the character still and let the audience read what the character is thinking.”
This is most effectively played in the final confrontation scene between Ramón and Luis, in which Acín angrily upbraids his director for acting irresponsibly, even insanely. “[The character of] Ramón is working a lot and being really expressive, and the reaction of Luis is just one drawing,” Simó notes.
Guided By Voices
Voice recording sessions were handled in an unconventional fashion as well. Instead of recording the script line-by-line, Simó gathered his actors and instructed them to play the scene as though on stage, while a boom mic recorded the lines.
“It gave a lot more reality to the action,” he states. “It made it more natural, and that was exactly what we were trying to do, have more natural feeling. Also, it gives the animators strong tools to work with.” Some characters speak in Spanish and French, reflecting the fact that Buñuel lived in both places at various times. Simó goes on to say that many of the actors were cast because they were from the same region as the characters they were
For more info, visit www.bunuelenellaberinto.com and www.theglowanimation.com.