VENICE • Imagine being shut in at home, with only the dog to talk to, waiting for something to happen and getting closer and closer to breaking point.
That might sound like a familiar scenario after the past few months of lockdowns around the world, but it is also the premise for Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's new short film, The Human Voice, starring Tilda Swinton, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in Italy last week.
Based loosely on a one-woman play by French writer Jean Cocteau, the 30-minute film was shot over nine days in Madrid in July.
In it, Swinton waits in her apartment for a call from her lover to negotiate the end of their relationship, popping pills and laying out elegant outfits on the bed.
When he does finally call, she puts in Apple AirPods, rather than lifting a telephone as actresses usually do when performing Cocteau's play.
The project had been planned before the coronavirus lockdowns hit in March, but shooting during the pandemic has given The Human Voice a special resonance: Swinton called it "the ultimate lockdown film".
In a socially distanced interview at the Venice Film Festival, during which she received a Lifetime Achievement Award, Swinton, 59, discussed the movie's unusual shoot and explained why she is excited about the disruptive effects of streaming services on the film industry.
These are edited excerpts from that conversation.
Watching The Human Voice was a very cathartic experience for me. A lot of tension builds up as your character waits around, and then, there is this eruption of violence. Did it feel cathartic to make it?[hhmc]
It was so cathartic to make a film with Pedro, because I've basically been dreaming of that my entire life.
And it was really wonderful to make something in July. That was such a blessing. We were all so happy to work – and to prove to ourselves that we could do it.
We're just going to have to evolve and we just have to figure it out. We figured it out with this movie: We're in a studio; we're with a relatively small crew; it's entirely controlled; we were constantly tested. And we just did it.
How did being on a film set again feel?[hhmc]
It was like having held your breath underwater for a long time.
I'm finding the most borderline traumatic things are the things that are similar: If everything was completely different, it might be easier to adapt, but when things are anything like what you recognise from before March, it is confusing, and confusion is very exhausting.
Nothing's new under the sun. During lockdown – and this has been the first, but there may be more – there was an opportunity to reflect on all we have. My mantra at the moment is that we have what we need. We just need to look and see it.
ACTRESS TILDA SWINTON, on what she learnt during lockdown
So, after a millisecond of realising there were going to be crew members I will never recognise without their masks, we just approached shooting a film the way we always would have shot it: A few things are going to change in this new world and so much more is not going to change.
Did you learn anything unexpected during lockdown?[hhmc]
Nothing's new under the sun. During lockdown – and this has been the first, but there may be more – there was an opportunity to reflect on all we have.
My mantra at the moment is that we have what we need. We just need to look and see it.
What did you miss most?[hhmc]
Everybody missed big-screen cinema in a way that they missed very little else. That was – and still is – a thing that we have to rally around.
Just that sharpening of that appetite for the bigger screen. Feeling that it might be months before I'd get a chance to be in a theatre again, that was really sore. Just the sharpening of that dependence.
It almost sounds like an addiction.[hhmc]
Well, for some of us, it is.
The thing that's becoming clear is that it's not about what's on the screen. It's the screen itself and it's being in that audience.
When you accepted your Lifetime Achievement Award in Venice, you said you were just getting started. What is next?[hhmc]
I've been working on an essay film about learning for a while, but we're back to the drawing board because what was a relaRead More – Source[contf] [contfnew]