The Images, the Music
You are a Spaniard, but your film HOMELAND was produced in the Czech Republic, a country with long tradition in animation film. How did this come about?
I studied piano in Spain but always wanted to study animation. I love music, especially in combination with images. I went to Prague because of the Surrealist movement there and because of its long tradition in animation art. I studied there for two years at the FAMU school, and HOMELAND was my thesis film.
How did you develop the themes of HOMELAND? And most of all: What link is there between the title and the proceedings?
To make an animation film all on your own is a special challenge. You know where to start but you have no idea, where you're going to end up and how it will all develop. With HOMELAND I wanted to make a film about unreachable goals and about the willpower that drives you forward. That was the original idea, but the film is also about love, unconditional love. It's about giving something up, about loneliness and goodbyes. Sometimes you bring issues into your films without really knowing why. Homeland is the place where you come from, but also the place where you feel at home, a place of longing. The film's title appears after the image of a night sky filled with stars, but I couldn't tell you exactly what that means. And I like that.
A lot of directors write their own screenplays, some edit their own films, but only very few are able to compose their own soundtracks. Alejandro Amenábar is the only prominent one that comes to mind. What does your music for HOMELAND mean to you?
All I can say is that the music for the film represents the film in its entirety. I didn't want to use any dialogue, which is why I put all my energy into finding the right music. When the title melody went through my head I saw the lady finding her lost hat again. The feeling that by finding her hat she also finds the strength to go on and say goodbye is transported by ways of the music. That was a sequence that didn't exist in the screenplay, but which ended up changing the film's concept decisively. The music changed everything. I love this part of the creative process, there are so many secrets there. I worked for two months on the animation and the music. The music created a part of the story and vice versa.
HOMELAND has a very distinctive visual style. The images seem like quick, free-hand pencil drawings, with the paper structure always thoroughly visible. But especially in the end there are more elaborate computer-generated layers of the image. How did you realize your image animation?
The whole film was drawn with pencil and paper, in a very traditional way. I then scanned the drawings into a compute and digitally cut out the characters and other elements in order to create several layers. Usually post-production is a very important part of the work on animation, but HOMELAND is a very classically animated film. I only combined some layers and laid a filter over the material in order to have the film seem aged. And during the last shot of the film I inverted the colours.
There is no dialogue in HOMELAND, which is one of the reasons why the story is so ambivalent and the audience is constantly forced to interpret. How did the written script and the images influence each other during the process of animation?
The script was just a guideline, the storyboard was much more important, as was the animation itself, when sound and music came into the picture. Animations are hard to achieve, so you better be sure that everything works out. The story has to work, but the film will only come to life and get dynamic during the process of animation.
What are you currently working on?
I compose music for short films and simultaneously work on my next project. I draw, write and compose music in order to find the next story…