I remember being on a deserted street in my town waiting for my mother. I'm sitting on a door step, probably that of my aunt Jacinta's house, alone. I'm four or five years old. My mother is late and I'm getting worried. I begin my battle against fatality, a game that consisted of anticipating hopeful answers in order to fight my fear. I look down at the far end of the street and say to myself, "If the first person to come round the corner is a man, that means my mother will be here soon to rescue me. If it's a woman, that means my mother is about to arrive. If no one appears (or if a dog or an ass does), that's bad, my mother has abandoned me forever on a door step, just like in those newspaper serials".
In my youth and later years I was never a superstitious person, even though there's a lot of superstition in the episode I have just described. Superstitions make you vulnerable, and I would have to fight in a future, which is now the past (and present), against some hostilities, I couldn't weaken myself with superstitions.
My latest film opened on Friday. The future is as terrifying as that of the sudden, early maternal absence. (Fortunately, and unfortunately, my mother accompanied me for another forty five years). I wanted to go out, to escape from the house, not to keep an eye on the computer to check the updates of the box-office figures. That's the best recipe for giving way to despair, the worst for rounding off a cathartic week like the one I'd just had with my companions in the intense promotion of the film. The sensible thing to do was to check the figures the next day, and pray the night before. And until the morning came, enjoy the company of others and be entertained. But I'm not always sensible. I had a headache, I was too tired and too anxious. I preferred to stay at home, alone.
I'm accompanied by my cat Lucio, a Moroso couch upholstered in olive green, broken up by lots of cushions covered with a flowery material, in black and white, designed by Missoni, on which I lean continuously. And the television, the U.S. Open, Nadal against the French player Mahut, a tough game in which the opponent has everything to win and nothing to lose, so he's fighting to the death.
The Majorcan player steps onto the New York court just when the cinemas are closing after the last session and the admissions count begins. This drags on slowly from 11.00 p.m. until well into the early hours. I move back and forth, from the green couch to the Tresserra desk where I have the computer. Although I'd promised myself and my brother that I wouldn't check the figures until 1.00 a.m., at the first break in the game where Rafa is about to lose his serve, not only am I not resting, I am desperately going on line to see how the cinemas are slowly computing the box office figures, first ten screens, then twelve, fifteen, twenty. It's midnight. Forty, 00.30, etc. I take advantage of Rafa's breaks to engage in a frantic activity, my personal U.S. Open against Uncertainty.
I never think about the spectator, much less when I'm writing a story, or when I'm filming it, editing it, etc, but The Spectator bursts onto the horizon the week before the opening, and he is the size of King Kong, compared with the minute, fragile blonde of the moment. On the night of Friday 2nd, I am the blonde and find myself at the Spectator's disposal, I don't know if I'm going to be devoured or enfolded by his enormous fingers.
Sitting on the olive green couch, looking at Nadal's first set against the dangerous Frenchman, I transfer my inner struggle to what is happening on the court at the U.S. Open. I sit there, feeling just like the four year old child on the deserted street in La Mancha, a prisoner of Total, Melodramatic Uncertainty. If Nadal wins, the Box Office will be kind to The Skin I Live In. If he loses… I don't want to even think about it.
I try not to get hooked on such an idiotic determinant, a sign of the frailty that grips me when I'm opening a film: the goalkeeper's fear of the penalty. I don't agree with the saying that the spectator has the last word, I think he has the first, the second, even the third, but the last word belongs to time, whose black back makes it inscrutable, so it's best not to think about it. I repeat that to myself, as when you try to calm yourself through your breathing, in vain. On the night of September 2nd, I am still four years old, the only difference is that Nadal has replaced my mother.
Fortunately Nadal wins and, when dawn arrives, The Skin I Live In has acquitted itself very well with the public. Thank you to everyone.
September 5, 2011