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David Canovas and the dehumanisation of capitalism

Photography as a vehicle for telling a somewhat macabre and perverse story, the way capitalism makes us forget our personal lives and humanisation as a source of hope in the current situation are key themes for the director and producer of “El Intruso” and “La punta del iceberg”.


David Canovas la punta del ice
David Canovas

Sonia Gumiel


Dehumanisation and capitalism are reflected in the cinematographic work of David Canovas, thanks to his technique of playing with colours, space and character transformation. His feature-length film “La punta del iceberg” (whose origins he discussed in his first interview with The Prisma), is a critique of a society attempting to eliminate the values that truly define humanity. It is a story based on the play of the same name, as well as real-life events that took place at France Telecom and Renault.

David also tells us what his short films have in common: a perverse interplay between light and dark, and the use of photography as a vehicle for storytelling. And he admits to us that he uses this unsavoury atmosphere in genres such as comedy too, thereby immersing the viewer in the intrigue and mystery of the story.

Blue permeates the atmosphere of the film. What were the reasons behind this colour choice?

I wanted to use a pale blue, bordering on grey. Its appearance is associated with coldness, and it has connotations of being a cold colour, at least on an aesthetic level. And I opted for pale, white skin tones. By using these shades, I was hoping to convey a sense of the emotional and physical coldness in multinationals. There are warmer spaces, such as the place where the vending machine is – I find that the most normal and human space. The rooftop and the basement are places where people really tell the truth.

David canovas la punta del icebergIs it a critique of capitalism? Is capitalism the root of all evil?

As a self-employed, independent filmmaker, I used to do several jobs at once. You can’t work on films full time unless you’re Amenábar or Alex de la Iglesia. You have to do several things. I got to a point where I was doing four jobs at once, and reached a level of anxiety I’d never experienced before.

After all that passed, I accepted that I had demanded more of myself than any boss ever would have, sending my stress level soaring.

I realised that I couldn’t carry on like that for the rest of my life because otherwise you have a heart attack at 45 and that’s the end of that. It’s something that’s always happened, but it is more widely recognised now. I really have lived through situations like those in the film. I think that capitalism is what makes us forget our personal lives.

You based your cinematic work on a play. Did that make the process more complex? Did you deviate from the script? Were there additions? Did you speak with Tabares about making the film?

We noticed that the play was very good and that the dialogue was fairly cinematographic. It wasn’t overly theatrical, which made things simpler for us. We added a first and a third act, which were created for us. What we did was add Sofia Cuevas and her transformation, which were not part of the play. The play is more bitter. We wanted to bring a ray of hope to an unpleasant topic. We made Sofia a little more human. That’s why there are moments in the film that humanise her. I decided to put a few doses of that into the film because otherwise it would not have been believable. I spoke with Tabares over a coffee; he gave me the rights and he didn’t even ask to read the script.

David canovas la punta del iceberg 2I noticed that your pieces have very strong titles. Do they have anything in common?

Yes, they have things in common. For example, the latest short that I filmed (“Arte”) was a reworking of my first short, which was called “Mate”. After filming it I realised that they were very similar. What they have in common is the main character, and the medium for exploring a series of important elements is photography, which is the vehicle used to tell a fairly macabre and perverse story. I admit that I was telling a very similar story to the other fifteen years later, albeit from a different standpoint. These are things that I have gradually discovered about myself. I try to bring out a perverse side even though it’s a comedy; even the photography has its perverse side, its light and dark and its shadows. There is always that underlying atmosphere in all the stories I tell. That might be because of everything I’ve read by Stephen King, who fascinates me.

Do you think that the current employment scene is reflected by parts of the film’s dialogue, such as “the ends justify the means”? And are the company’s tyrannical executives to blame for the tragedies that occur? Or are we at fault because we accept the status quo?

David canovas la punta del iceberg 3This is something we have seen for a long time and now we have internalised it as the norm. Everything’s muddled up now because when a person becomes the boss, the first thing he or she does is put pressure on others. It’s very hard to overcome that attitude. We live in a consumer society and we take on mortgages and make demands of ourselves, resulting in this chaos.

What impact do you think that the film has had on audiences in Spain and other countries over the last year?

I can’t really measure the impact, but a recurring theme in reviews is that viewers can relate to what they’ve seen. They come out a little perplexed. It reflects the current state of employment to a certain extent. Something collective, and something that can be a little uncomfortable. I really like the character of Alex García. Every time he appears he is transformed. That’s a challenge too: he has a morning appearance, an afternoon appearance and a night-time appearance. It’s all chronological and every time he appears he’s different. I’m happy. Lots of people can relate to it.

David Canovas la punta del iceIs it true that Maribel Verdú and Gines García Millán were brought back together by the film after a long time apart?

It’s not true. They were in another feature-length film together (“Felices 140”) that came out a year earlier.

What other work do you have in the pipeline? Have you thought about setting a film somewhere outside of Spain?

I have a script for a horror film that I’m trying to find a buyer for at the moment. I think that one should be an international project. I had another project, which didn’t come through, that I was given by Tornasol and that was based on a crime novel. My future is a bit uncertain. It’s very difficult to make a second film if you didn’t have much luck with the first. It’s very hard. I’m having trouble with that. I have other work and I direct educational projects. That’s what my life has come to. But I’m hopeful about making a second film.

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