Alex Piperno on Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine
How did you come up with the idea?
The first was the feeling that the three-hour ship that connects Montevideo and Buenos Aires (where I live) could join infinite worlds by fantastic means. Once, I saw a scene on board that I found curious: a man and a woman at opposite ends of the ship got up at the same time and were lost at the bottom of the hall. I associated the image with the deployment of a secret operative and that triggered the writing of a fantastical police plot that I later deleted, but whose reminiscence remains in the secret kept by Window boy. That police plot included the issue of the trafficking of Chinese peasants, which eventually resulted in what would be the fantastic plot of the shed in the Philippines.
If Montevideo was, in relation to the ship, a close and distant place, the connection with a territory in the antipodes was the radicalization of that procedure. The characters of those near and distant places would have to meet and the world turns inside out like a sock. The film would not treat these fantastic elements as exceptional, but rather quickly integrates them into the organic reality of the film’s universe, just as the characters do too. Because, in fact, what alternative is there but to incorporate exceptionalities into everyday life, since they eventually also become part of everyday life? Some of this happens in the film, although the effects end up being disastrous.
What would you say about the mix of fantasy elements and a realistic approach?
I think that the imaginative power of cinema has a lot to do with its ability to build revealing and ambiguous events that could not be translated into verbal language or reduced to common sense. Limiting the cinema to being a realistic copy of ordinary life is a somewhat frustrating experience that I think responds more to a sometimes lazy attitude of some filmmakers than to an eventual nature of the device. Making common sense delirium is at the heart of any artistic discipline, but it is also at the heart of the conversations that one enjoys having, and it is a way of manifesting the fascination for the things that surround us. I think that cinema is a celebration of the possibilities of language and if it is true that poetry is the discovery of the relationship of elements that were unrelated, fantastical elements are resources that cinema has at hand to access the poetic fact .
Why the title?
The title is the rewriting of a verse from a poem I wrote. “Window boy” has something of “Migraine boy,” the MTV cartoon series of the 1990s. It sounds like a bad translation from English to neutral Spanish and there is something of that broken sense that I like. I think that naming it that way, the film reduces the character to an attribute, which is his job cleaning windows on the ship. But it also names his drive to look through the windows, to enter anywhere and circulate unlimitedly, even if that leads to his own destruction. When the catastrophe occurs after the encounter of the worlds on the ship, one would say that Window boy could continue circulating forever, even under water “if he had a submarine”, looking for new doors that lead to new places.
How did you decide for the different locations?
The elections of the locations of the ship and Montevideo were clear to me from the beginning, because at some point they detached from my experience of newcomer to Buenos Aires and from my visits to Uruguay. In relation to the election of the Philippines, it took place as a result of the writing process, and in a second instance it ended up becoming a production choice.
How did you decide for a cast of non-professional actors?
As a spectator, I find it hard not linking the image of an actor with the image of himself and the ones of his previous works. At the same time, I think that, in many cases, the actor’s training has as a counterpart a loss of innocence in the use of the body, which often causes me to end up seeing an exercise of the profession and not a truth unfolding before me. Before a non-professional actor, the camera registers expressions and movements devoid of intentions and that is something that generates a lot of intrigue to me and I think it serves my creative process. Even so, during the shooting I could see how Daniel, Inés and Noli became true actors, as they incorporated notions of direction, framing and editing like any actor, so that the question is more complex and I think I must rethink the relationship between these categories.