Interview mit José Pedro Lopes (The Forest of Lost Souls) (en)
English Original of this Interview.
thank you so much for doing this interview and I’m really happy to be able to bring your work and your thoughts on it to our readers. So first of all. How would briefly describe your feature film debut The Forest of Lost Souls?
The Forest is like a matryoshka doll, you have a story within a story, a film within a film. It starts out with a tragedy, and then it follows the lives of the people who survive it. It starts as a drama but then it gets funnier, and lighter. But then it becomes a horror story, and it gets darker and suspenseful. But then it gets philosophical and, hopefully, too dark for anyone’s taste.*
*Here in Portugal people have having a hard time figuring what the film is about: is it meant to be plain evil or does the dark paradise of Carolina have a meaning?*
How did you come up with the whole suicide/killer idea? And how was it to work on such a delicate matter?
*There’s a real life story behind Irene’s tragedy and her family dealing with it. I always wanted to tell a story of someone who preyed on other people’s sadness. So Carolina was a villain that made sense – as in the modern era of cellphones, we can be who we want and act it out. But it was complicated for me in a way making a movie on this level of evil playing with this level of sadness.*
There are two very significant phrases in the movie. Time destroys everything and sadness will last forever. How do you came up with this and what was so intriguing for you about this phrases?
*They are actually both quotes that Carolina and Filipa say during the film. This is a bit of a generational criticism – there’s something hollow in quoting popular culture stuff when you’re talking about feelings. Times destroys everything is the tagline for ‚Irreversible‘ by Gaspar Noé and the other quote is from Van Gogh. In a way, these young people are very concentrated in playing out sadness – but is it something they just read online?*
Due to the black and white shooting some scenes are quite surreal. Was it your intention to create this kind of atmosphere? Or what’s the story behind the black and white look?
*Since the film delivers some extreme twists and changes of genre we felt black&white helped keeping the story and the characters in a very gloomy world. Also, it made our forest even more hopeless. It was great artistically and helped the story – but it really hurt to film when it came to distribution. B&W is as niche as you can be.*
What were the most difficult scenes to shoot and how did your low budget effect the production?
*We actually shot in very different places. The forest is a bit center of Portugal, a bit up north, and a bit in Spain. We travelled a lot, and always with a tiny crew to keep the costs low. So it was a lot of team work – and we ended up cutting some stuff that became hard a complicated to shoot in a very cold and windy forest.*
*There’s nothing you can’t do because of money (except maybe CGI and practical effects) but you do need people who are willing to go the distance for the project. Hopefully we won’t do another feature with so little money.*
Which scene do you like the most? Which one turned out exactly like you’ve imagined it?
*I think the moment where Carolina paralyses Ricardo and then humiliates and kills him was much darker and creepy to shoot then we imagined. Even the two actors were a bit uneasy. It was just plain cruel, and we were in by a glacial lake (Sanabria Glacier Laker in Spain) where a horrible tragedy happened 50 years ago and it was freezing cold in those mountains. There are frost in a floor where the dad (Jorge Mota) was waiting to be killed. It was a dark moment – and I think it feels like that on camera.*
The movie seems to me like a commentary on a very superficial hipster culture, which absorbs other cultural items but doesn’t care about a deeper meaning behind them. Am I just reading that into the movie or is there some kind of social commentary in this direction?
*I totally subscribe that interpretation. I’ve a lot of fear about how modern society is shallow and quick in terms of culture, films, literature, even morality and death. People are too into the right now, and don’t see actual meaning in anything. I fear society of the modern world is everyday more shallow and cruel.*
*In a way Carolina does just that. None of those beautiful quotes and deep feelings are real – she just wants to do something and does it. No remorse.*
I really love Daniela in this movie. How was it working with her? How did you two prepare for that complicated, shattered role of Carolina?
*We had worked with Daniela before in a short film called ‚Video Store‘ set in 1999 where two kids distributed the obsolete VHS tapes of a videostore to the people who rented them the most. She was lovely in it – she was a 17-year old girl who was a film buff filled with inspiration. Carolina is a bit of the dark side of that – all those quotes and references are there, she is dreamy too – but of a dark horrible world.*
The movie reminded me of other recent arthouse horror movies like The Eyes of My Mother by Nicolas Pesce or A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpour. What were the main influences for this movie?
*Those two movies are influences of course, for their use of B&W, and their art house take on genre cinema. The bigger reference was Takeshi Miike, and specially „Audition“. Japanese cinema is very art house when it comes to horror, and very twisted and emotional. I love it. *
*Also there are some John Carpenter moment in ‚Forest‘ – there are some scenes that are pure „Halloween“ in their vibe.*
What’s coming next?
*We’re still seeing how The Forest works in distribution to know how much we can risk next.*
*We’re post-production two short films we got financing to do, and we’re looking for more projects where we can co-produce and work.*
*But a second horror feature is bound to happen – hopefully sooner than later. I would like to do something set on Saint John’s Night which is Oporto’s (my hometown) holiday in the summer, with some crazy traditions. But it would always be a genre-pushing art house horror movie – but in COLOR!!!!*
Thank you so much!