BVB: Blood Violence and Babes loves Adrián García Bogliano. Since 2010, the Spanish-born writer/director has delivered a succession of amazing films -- Cold Sweat, Penumbra, Here Comes the Devil and Late Phases -- plus he contributed one of the most memorable segments (B is for Bigfoot) from The ABCs of Death.
His latest film is no exception. Scherzo Diabolico is a stunning reinvention of the classic hostage thriller genre.
BVB recently had the opportunity to speak with Bogliano by email while he is on location filming. We hope you enjoy the following conversation. Scherzo Diabolico is now available on DVD or for purchase through your favorite VOD streaming service.
BVB: Adrian, thank you so much for once again agreeing to speak with BVB: Blood Violence and Babes. You are our first three-time interviewee so I hope that it's OK if I tell you you're also one of my favorite directors currently making films today.
AGB: Thank you so much for this! It's an honor!
BVB: I just finished watching Scherzo Diabolico last night and holy crap, sir, this might be my favorite movie that you've done so far. It's an amazing accomplishment. There were moments where I was literally giddy at how you were manipulating the traditional thriller genre and embellishing it with your own distinctive stamp.
AGB: Thanks! Glad to hear that!
BVB: I truly appreciate you taking the time to answer these few questions.
AGB: Always a pleasure!
BVB: Scherzo Diabolico translates to English as "Evil Joke," right? At times, it felt like the evil joke was on us, the unsuspecting viewers, because the movie was constantly subverting our expectations of what might happen next. Was that your intention?
AGB: Yes, absolutely. It is a joke because it was meant to play with the audience through the whole film. It's also a joke for the lead, who thinks he's in control and has every possibility figured out, but ends up much, much worse than when he started the film. Also, I wanted to give a hint of the fact that the film, it's not just a horror thriller, but that there are also black comedy elements. I realize this is the hardest thing for the audience to understand and it's true that most of those comedic elements are in the third act of the film.
BVB: We've talked in the past about various influences that have touched some of your other films, such as William Friedkin's Sorcerer with Cold Sweat. Were you influenced by any particular directors or past films while making this movie? As an aside, I will tell you I got a distinctive mid-1980s Brian de Palma vibe at times watching Scherzo Diabolico.
AGB: Well, Brian de Palma is always there. I think it's part of my DNA as a filmmaker at this point. Joshua Sobel, the executive producer of the film, saw Dressed to Kill for the first time just a couple of weeks after watching the first cut of Scherzo and told me, "Dude, the shots of the stopwatch with split diopter - they're the same!” And the funny thing is, I didn't even think of it while I was doing it. It was just the most logical way for me to solve the scene. I have to say that this film made me scratch my head many times. It was very difficult to stage because the technology we used didn't allow the actors to move much. I went back to think about the way Takeshi Kitano staged his early movies. I would say, though, that the biggest influences on this film are Korean thrillers like Chaser and their use of a structure where the main conflict seems solved halfway through the movie, and Woody Allen's films. Allen is one of the few writers nowadays who truly believes in making every scene important to advance the plot. I see friends of mine having trouble editing their films all the time, not knowing if a scene should come first or if they should move it twenty minutes later or if they should cut it altogether. When you see a film from Woody Allen, whether you like it or not, every scene is there for a reason and every scene leads you to the next. I think that seems like a very obvious way of doing things, but it really isn't.
BVB: With each of your films, I'm constantly amazed at the new and inventive ways you choose to compose your shots and how you use your camera to capture such unique angles. What were you specifically going for with this film that sets it apart form your other works? I saw on one of the special features that you chose a type of lens to use for this movie that isn't often utilized. What made you want to go in that direction?
AGB: I love anamorphic lenses. There's something absolutely beautiful and cinematic about the compositions you get. There's something about the aspect ratios those will give you that help you understand that you're watching a movie. We knew that, in order to keep a small crew, we had to shoot this film with a DSLR camera. So the only choice we saw to enhance the look the camera could give us and exploit all of its possibilities was to use an anamorphic lens. We couldn't really afford the modern ones and those don't really have the texture we wanted anyway. They were too “clean.” So we stumbled upon anamorphic adapters, which are huge things they used to project movies in theaters. We got one from the sixties that looked great. It was a pain for many reasons, but it gave us a wonderful image and we were able to shoot taking advantage of all the capacity of the DSRL shooting at a 2:66:1 ratio, that is pretty close to the one Tarantino used afterwards for Hateful Eight.
BVB: Did you decide early on to use sexuality to help propel the narrative? I loved the subtle touches where you had Aram essentially practicing and learning key details for his plan by spending time with an escort. Those scenes, in particular, were almost more tender than the other times Aram gets busy or tries to get busy with his wife and his mistress.
AGB: Yes. I think that sexuality is a key element of most of my stories for some reason, and here seemed an obvious place to use it because we're talking about a very simple guy who wants to succeed in the way society has told him he has to succeed. That is, having the best job, buying a house, having a hot mistress, etc. It’s very basic, but that's the way things work for so many people. In the narrative of what makes a man successful, the active sexuality and variety are key components. I wanted every one of the women in the film to represent a different part of him. The wife is the bitter part of his life, but she's also the part that reminds him he needs to improve. The mistress is his chance to feel powerful, as she's some sort of hot subordinate at work - someone that presumably everyone else is looking at. But to me, the escort represents his only chance of him being himself. He doesn't have to pretend to be powerful. He actually feels a bit overwhelmed by that woman and it's his chance to not wear any kind of mask, so to speak.
BVB: You seem to have a definite appreciation for practical effects that is so awesome, and you utilized them expertly in this movie. Was that something you decided early on to go with, particularly with the shotgun gag at the end, which was brilliantly staged.
AGB: As much as I can avoid it, I don't want to rely on CG. It’s not because I don't like it, but because you're relying on having a lot of money to make it look great and there can always be trouble in post-production that might lead it to look worse than you expected. So as much as I can, I try to have the photography of the film closer to the way I want it to look and the effects used as much as possible on set. Truth be told, there's always a good bunch of CG on my films, but I try to use them in a seamless way.
BVB: Your last film, Late Phases, was your first English-language feature. How was that experience? Were you looking to go in a completely different direction with this movie, almost a return to your roots?
AGB: Late Phases was a great experience but I was a bit tired after that because many things were more difficult to understand than I had foreseen. I had to figure out little cultural details through the whole process, which was a bit exhausting. I thought doing a film in Mexico would let me explore a bunch of things I've never done before. For instance, Here Comes the Devil was shot in Tijuana and I live in Mexico City. I never had the chance to shoot something in the place I live and picture the landscapes I know very well. Also, I knew this was going to be a very small movie, so I wanted to try things bigger producers wouldn’t have let me get away with. I mean, this is a film that, just for a start, you can't really pitch in a simple way. You have to read the whole script to understand it. And I wouldn't have had the chance to do it that way in a different, more industrial context.