Marina Gatell in Maximum Shame.
(Foto: Carlos Atanes)
Director's Statement On Maximum Shame
I can’t explain why I make a film. I never know. For me a film is neither a tool nor a means, it’s an aim in itself. It has its own reasons, like a living being. What I can definitely say is that I don’t make them to tell stories —although, by the way, I do tell them— but to create small worlds different from ours. This may sound pretentious, but this is actually very humble: it consists of setting up a little enclosed ecosystem, ruled by its own rules. It’s just a game. The narration is an excuse to describe— and an itinerary to travel through —this ecosystem, that can be made up by a reduced group of inhabitants. That’s what happens in Maximum Shame, the only difference is that, unlike my other movies, in this one not even the protagonists know the rules that govern their lives. In this sense, the world of Maximum Shame is similar to ours. Even if we could have an opinion about this we really don’t know if what happens to us is the result of fate or destiny.
The characters of Maximum Shame live in a black hole, a place where time and space don’t exist, a limbo between reality and fiction, order and chaos, present and eternity. And what they do is, essentially, speak and eat. Or, on the contrary, shut up or fast. Some people who haven’t gone over the anal stage don’t like when characters speak in the films, they think that in filmmaking very little has to be said, if possible, nothing. It’s an upsetting whim that I don’t share. I like people to speak inside and outside the films, mainly if they say interesting things. And this allows me to establish a hierarchical order that turns out to be very stimulating when deciding, with the authority of being the author, who speaks and who doesn’t. Normally the powerful speaks and the submissive keeps quiet. As there’s usually a character that’s more powerful than others, the sequences that I write end up as a monologue or, in the best of cases as a dialogue at crossed purposes. Considering that in the real world it is really rare that someone listens to someone else, also in this aspect Maximum Shame is a realistic film.
Gags are great to repress speech. There are two kinds: the ones that keep the mouth open and others that keep it shut, but both give the person back their vocal capacity and take it to a previous stage, articulated language. An adult on a gag has the same oratory skills of a child being breastfed. As I wanted to do films about adults that behave like children, I really felt like gagging actors, so I broke my piggy bank and had a look at some of the sex-shops from my neighborhood. To try to find atrezzo in sex-shops is more fun than in a notions store, although to ask for a gag in a notions store is quite something. Based on gags and childish cruelty exerted by lost souls in the limbo —children’s limbo— where they all participate in a chess game but where no one knows how to play, I assembled the plot of Maximum Shame. Being a lousy chess player helped me a lot.
I managed to write the script very quickly, in barely one month, fitting together at first sight the pieces of an absurd puzzle, though, in the end it showed itself to have a surprising internal coherence as it connected together. The different pieces seemed to be magnetized and attracted each other following correspondences between semantic fields: the unintelligibility of the rules of the game called for arbitrariness, this at the same time called for the fight for power on the one side, and for weariness on the other side, weariness lead to sadism, this to pain, pain to rapture, rapture to mysticism and to Saint Theresa’s transverberation, the transverberation to the ineffable. The ineffable is a hole in the verbal universe. And every hole has a double nature: that of being a gap and that of being a channel. The same happens with black holes, which are ruptures of space and perhaps doors to other worlds, and also the dark space between the bed and the floor, and the hole made by a red-hot sword in the body of someone who has gone through trasnsverberation and the tracheotomy performed by a picador’s spear, a vent that lets the air in but stops words from coming out.
As I write this, I realize how capable I am of expounding non-stop about the successive meanings and ramifications of meanings in this film. And that, probably, I may not have filmed a script, but a foolish and tangled Byzantine essay about ethics, faith, power, sex and other issues that attract me. I’ll stop here, not so much because I don’t want to go on for too long, but mainly because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m something I’m not —someone who knows what he’s talking about— and because I don’t want to present the film in an analytical and judicious wrap. I love it when a film displays multiple interpretations, polisemies, hidden senses, and leads to endless discussions. But above all —and Maximum Shame is not an exception— I like it when it makes up a sensory experience, when it seduces intuition first and later, in any case, the brain, if it’s necessary. Like a dream. If seeing Maximum Shame submerges your mind in an Alpha state, I will feel satisfied. If apart from that you notice that in that trance your mind gets separated from your body, it floats in the air and you are able to see yourself dozed off on the seat, then go through the screen and come to say hello to me: you will find me crouched down behind the camera.
© Carlos Atanes
Madrid, May 2010