Isn’t life just a series of moments with different weather conditions along the way? Lucio Castro’s feature debut, End of the Century, is a film about summer days in Barcelona. The film focuses on the character of Ocho (Juan Barberini) and the life-changing experience of meeting Javi (Ramon Pujol)—twice. Looking into these two different encounters, the film sheds light on the weight that our life choices carry, and how timing is a key component of that equation. Unable to find each other at a more appropriate time, Ocho and Javi choose to stay apart on both occasions, even if each moment leaves an impression on both men.
In an Autumn moment of my life, I had the chance to meet up with Lucio Castro and discuss End of the Century during Film Fest Gent 2019!
Ioanna Micha: What made you want to write this particular story?
Lucio Castro: Well, it basically started when I thought of the title (laughs). The truth is that that title just stuck with me. I was intrigued by it, and I needed to discover what it was all about. So, I started in a very simple way. I thought ‘okay, a character arrives in a city he doesn’t know. He goes to some tourist sites and then he sees this guy on the streets. He gets interested in him and they end up having sex.’ It’s after, when they started talking in my script, that I thought ‘okay maybe they know each other.’ So, I went to the past and I started thinking about their first encounter. If you really think about it, I wrote it almost in the way you’re watching it! I was discovering the story as I was writing it. Maybe you could say that I was writing it as if I was watching it! (laughs)
IM: So you’re saying it was basically an instinctual process?
LC: Yeah! It was about what felt good!
IM: Were the actors chosen in the same way then? By following your instinct?
LC: Well, you could definitely say that! I gave the screenplay to my casting director (Maria La Greca) who mainly does theater, and she knew both actors. First, she recommended Juan because she had worked with him before. I decided to meet with Juan, so I watched his movies and I discovered something that I really liked about him! Juan feels very confident at first, but then once you get to know him, he’s quite insecure! I liked that about him because I feel that it gives him a duality that works very well for the character of Ocho. And here is where Ramon connects perfectly to the story; he’s the opposite! He feels very insecure in the beginning. He’s almost sensitive and a bit scared. But then, once you get to know him, there’s a very strong cord in him that’s actually quite confident. So, yes! I chose these actors because they felt like a good addition to the film. After all, they are almost complementary and opposite to each other! The one is darker, the other is lighter. Of course, one of them is handsome and it’s good to have a handsome guy (laughs)! All these things came together and kinda worked I guess.
IM: Well, every decision brings about a different end product. So, how come you started the film with such a long take that has no dialogue?
LC: Yes, It’s a very long intro. It’s almost 13 minutes with no dialogue. I did that for a few reasons. Firstly, when I am in a city that I don’t know, and I’m walking alone, I’m very aware of the city, its buildings, the wind, even the people walking around me. I like listening to what they’re saying. I enjoy watching everyone’s faces. For me, it’s almost as if time sort of slows down when I’m by myself in a new city. When I’m with somebody else, however, the city kind of disappears because we’re always talking. And this is what happens with these characters; after they start talking that’s all they do! So, I wanted to show how one feels when you’re alone in a new city in relation to how it is when you’re with somebody else. I also like the gradual flow. First Ocho is kind of lost in the city with no particular aim, but then once he sees Javi, he gradually starts to focus his aim on him, and I thought that this was a nice juxtaposition: from focusing on the beauty of a city to the beauty of a person.
IM: You have definitely succeeded in bringing the city to life in that initial silent sequence. Actually, it feels as if the city becomes a character in itself because we get to experience it so vividly even though we’re never really there! Plus, it’s their meeting point, so time doesn’t really matter; it’s more about the space.
LC: Yeah, that’s also true! The film is a lot about space. First, it’s the city; it carries a lot of meaning, even if Ocho is not initially aware of it, because that’s where they met before. Then, there’s the space of the Airbnb which is so strange. It’s a weird transient space. It’s not a hotel and it’s not someone’s home; it’s something in the middle. Now, when I stay in an Airbnb, I always look at the books, if there are any, because they give you an idea of the owner. But then of course, you’re not sure if it’s the owner that’s left them behind; it could be other guests that left them there. What’s more important about the film’s setting, however, is that no one has any roots in this space, and to me that was a nice background or place for this thing to happen. You know things are a little more volatile and a bit looser. If I had made a movie about their whole lives, I feel that it would have been very different. On vacation, you have a temporary space. You go there for a few days and then you leave. I feel that this is something that went well with this story.
IM: It’s like a neutral space because they don’t have specific roles to conform to! Is there a particular reason you chose Barcelona?
LC: Yeah! I chose Barcelona for many reasons. Firstly, Barcelona has a lot of tourism and it definitely brings out that feeling during the film. Plus, I wanted a summer city. A city that had a beach, but also one that is a city by itself, not one that’s just about summer vacation. And Barcelona is exactly like that! People live there all year round! Of course, there were also some practical reasons such as weather. Barcelona is known for its good weather conditions and I thought that it would be a great and easy place to shoot. Of course, it rained the whole 12 days that I shot there (laughs). There were also financing issues as it’s quite expensive to rent space in summer cities. So, I wanted a place that was more approachable! Lastly, I wanted to tell the story in a city that I didn’t know personally. I wouldn’t have done it in Buenos Aires, for example, because I know that city too well, and it would have been hard for me to write a movie on someone who just arrived. When I wrote the movie in Barcelona, I didn’t know it at all. I actually wrote it with like Google Maps and top ten attractions! (laughs)
IM: Well that is exactly what a tourist would do! Why did you decide to let Ocho remember the whole interaction with Javi on his own? How come Javi doesn’t say anything earlier on?
LC: I think that Javi’s intrigued. I think that he would feel vulnerable to just say it. When they’re in the beach I think he realizes that Ocho didn’t recognize him because he doesn’t say ‘hi,’ he just goes into the water. So, I feel that in this moment he starts thinking ‘he doesn’t remember me, so what’s the point in telling him? Oh, we met 20 years ago, remember?’ So, I feel he’s a little bit shy, or that he doesn’t want to intrude too much. And, once they start talking and have sex, he never finds the right time because he really likes him and the moment they’re sharing. And I feel that he doesn’t want to ruin that with the weight of the past; the weight of the ‘we actually know each other.’ It’s a thing that changes the subtlety of flirting and, no matter who you are, it’s almost like a political war, you know? Everything you say will illicit a reaction. You have a lot of back and forth. So, adding to the equation a shared past would have destroyed the whole thing; it would have transformed into something else. I think that’s why he doesn’t do it. And by the moment he says it, it’s okay. Also, let’s face it! Javi is playing a little bit with Ocho too! The movie has this sort of playful vibe, and I think he’s playing with the whole idea. He puts on the Kiss T-Shirt after he sees Ocho the night before, and tries to see if that will help him remember. He’s trying to antagonize him in a way.
IM: So you think it’s some sort of power-play?
LC: Yes! I definitely think that there is a form of seduction. It doesn’t even have to be a sex thing. But, you know, when you’re trying to entice another person there’s definitely a power play. A lot of things are happening at the same time. There’s a bit of anxiety and some sort of fear. Actually, I see their reactions like a chess game! Think of beach scene: there is this atmosphere of I move, you move. There’s some power struggle, and there’s no doubt about it.
IM: So you’re saying there’s some sort of action and reaction going on?
LC: Right! Exactly that!
IM: Does them not ending up together have anything to do with the title?
LC: Well not exactly! I think that the title mostly refers to these 20 years in their lives and how they’ve changed. Ocho, for instance, wanted to be a writer in his 20s and he has achieved that, but he’s also an airline employee. So, the film definitely touches upon this change from 20 to 40. Now, about the ending! Well, for me I can’t see how they could have ended up together. There’s a beautiful quote that says ‘every love story is a ghost story.’ I’m very moved by this quote because it’s basically referring to a connection between love and loss and I find that very fascinating. Love is about attaining something beautiful. It’s so powerful that it shakes your whole body, and your whole life. And when you lose that, you’re influenced in an intense way. We see that with Ocho. The moment Javi leaves the Airbnb, he’s questioning his past life choices. I find it more intriguing to follow the life of a character who has lost something. I prefer to experience how certain characters act when they lose rather than when they win. Not to say that meeting someone and getting married is not a beautiful thing. It can happen and it is definitely love. If Ocho and Javi would have ended up together, however, I feel that they would have been in a comfortable space, which, in a way, is place that is a little bit less affecting; all your feelings are kind of secure. When you lose something, the story becomes more riveting because the characters need to act. I’m just enchanted by the unattainable and how that can change your life.
IM: So you’re not into passivity. You feel that things have to be intense?
LC: (laughs) No, I also like passivity! I love movies where nothing happens, but I think that for this story the idea of loss makes Ocho a much more interesting character in the end!
IM: It certainly does! I mean I really like the ‘what if they had stayed together?’ scene in Ocho’s imagination because it’s not ideal!
LC: Exactly! (laughs)
IM: I feel that’s very realistic! That after 20 years it’s not going to be the same as when you first met. You show that love is not perfect; it’s work!
LC: Right! Exactly!
IM: Is there something that I haven’t covered yet that you want mentioned?
LC: No I think that we covered every interesting part of the film! I’m happy you didn’t ask about the sex scenes! (laughs)
IM: (laughs) Yes! I find it somewhat tiring after a certain point. I mean of course it’s an integral part of the film. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t become obsessed with it! Well, then, I have one final question: do you have another project in mind for the future?
LC: Yes; I’m working on a film that’s shot in the mountains. It’s a female lead. It’s not a queer story. And, it’s shot next year. That’s all I can say for now! (laughs)