Available now on VOD, is Nacho Vigalondo’s (Timecrimes) latest film, Open Windows. Describing the film would give it little justice, its works better as an exercise in spectatorship than as a stand alone narrative. But for those who have yet to check it out, it follows the story of Nick, an obsessive fan who has won a contest that gives him the chance to have dinner with his favorite actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). When Jill cancels the date, Nick receives a mysterious call from a man who identifies himself only as Chord. Chord pretends to be the disgruntled campaign manager for Jill, and devises Nick’s chance at revenge, leading him down a slippery path. What starts as small violations of privacy, quickly escalate into growingly more serious and dangerous events. If the plot summation itself is not enough to grab you, maybe this will: the entire film occurs over the course of a computer screen. Yes, every frame, every image is presented as an open on a computer screen. After viewing the film we were ecstatic with the chance to talk to Nacho about the process of the production, and what he was trying to develop with the film’s often duplicitous nature.
Diabolique: I’ve noticed—especially with Timecrimes—that there is puzzle-esque device being used to develop narratives. By that, I mean that you present a film that has to be pieced together with a collection of parts; you seem to have fun with the idea of an audience having to work through your films. What is it about the puzzle-as-narrative-device interests you as a filmmaker?
Nacho Vigalondo: I love when movies have stuff you can play with—for example I am thinking of one of my favorite movies ever, which is 12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam—and I love when a movie is working not only through the first viewing experience, but you can watch the movie again and again. The movie is like a puzzle with a lot of pieces; you can play with the movie the same way you can play with a toy. In other words, the movie is playing with your brain, the same way your brain is playing with the movie. It is an act of love and you make the movies that you want to see, because you want the people to enjoy the same things you enjoy. But, on the contrary, I have to assume that my second feature film—which was Extraterrestrial (2011)—this was a movie based in a lack of plot. It’s a movie that uses a lack of surprises. I made that as a reaction against all these puzzles. I wanted to make a movie that was the opposite of a puzzle, because sometimes I really appreciate when films are the opposite of what I want. Sometimes, when something is so close to yourself you get tired of yourself. You have to make something that is the opposite, to get invigorated somehow.
Diabolique: So Open Windows is your first English-speaking film, and there seems to be this strong dual commentary. At one point, it seems to be mocking American cinema, while on the other hand it feels to be in love with the idea of American genre cinema.
Vigalondo: I love when movies are serious, but they also have this quality that you can laugh at it. This movie, I think, is a satire, and the whole thing about a satire is that you can laugh at it—you can take it seriously and you can laugh at it. At the same time I am making an American movie, I am laughing at American movies. There is a sort of tension, because the movie I had in mind at the time while making this one was Blow Out by Brian DePalma—Blow Out is a thriller, but at the same time it is a fantasy. It is a fantasy about itself, about its own language. All of these movies, from the 30s to the 80s—like Body Double—you can notice that the movie is reflecting about itself, talking about its own language, in a really funny way. I wanted to make the movie that way. I didn’t want to make a serious film that could work as a cautionary tale. I wanted to make satire that you can laugh with.
Diabolique: I think that you are very successful, in fact, the first time I saw the film I started to feel a sense of—almost—fatigue. But, after I reflected on it for a while I started to see how it worked. This requires a lot out of the viewer, were you—or your producers—ever worried about how audiences would respond to the film, that they might just see the at face value?
Vigalondo: You’re touching the core of what happens when you make films. When you’re making movies like mine—I have a lot of good reactions and I have a lot of hostile reactions. I want to make movies that instead of satisfying people’s expectations I am playing with them. People’s expectations can be a device that you can use in a movie. So, instead of just satisfying people, you are somehow manipulating the people, taking them to places that maybe they weren’t asking to go. That is dangerous but it is exciting at the same time. I am not so worried about satisfying people the week that the movie gets released. I want, also, to make a movie that in 10 years, in 20 years, or in 100 years, survives against time. I think the only way that you can survive against time is not trying to openly please people that you are speaking to, by challenging them.
Diabolique: There does seem to be an irony to the film that it is a comment on technology that is also reliant on new technology to exist.
Vigalondo: Through the Internet, when we don’t have a face, we become something different and that happens all the time. Instead of showing our real faces and name, we have a nickname. We become someone else and maybe in that transformation we forget about essential things, like empathy, towards other people. And, maybe, through the device in which man disappears, we forget about essential respect towards other people’s rights. I am really worried about all those things, and I am horrified how common people behave on the Internet, by how people’s privacy gets invaded again and again by people who are covering their face all the time. I am really concerned with this stuff, but on the other hand I think I couldn’t make a movie that really worked as a cautionary tale. I wanted to make a movie that was a big fantasy, a big impossible fantasy, like a rollercoaster, and in case—if you want—you can find a cautionary tale inside. I didn’t want to speak out loud about this thing. I think that there’s a message inside for all the people who want to find it.
Diabolique: Do you see the positives available with the Internet and cinema today?
Vigalondo: Yes, I am aware with the system that we are living: that movies are movies are moving from theatres to smaller screens. But I think that in another way that filmmaking—which is putting one image after the other—that the language is exactly the same—we are changing the format of all the stories, we are changing the machines you already use to record—but the language itself is exactly the same. I remember hearing, back in the 90s, people were really thinking about the future of filmmaking in terms of interactivity. I remember those theories about filmmaking in the future, in the future when we are able to decide what happens at the end, or whatever. I don’t think that that is ever going to happen, because in my view of film you don’t have control as a spectator, that the spectator is going to be passive at the end of the day. The filmmaker is always putting one image after the other, I don’t that is going to ever change.