DVDanger: Scherzo Diabolico

Director Adrián García Bogliano subverts Mexican preconceptions

"It's a fantasy that goes completely wrong." – Writer/director Adrián García Bogliano on his new crime shocker, Scherzo Diabolico.

When it comes to horror in the Americas, the U.S.A. is king. But while other national film industries may not have the catalog, Adrián García Bogliano sees a liberty there. The director of noir-tinged shocker Scherzo Diabolico said, "That gives you some freedom that, when you come from a very specific tradition, I think you don’t have."

The Spanish-born Argentinian director has become an underground phenomenon across two continents, starting with his SXSW 2011 success Cold Sweat, his breakout success Here Comes the Devil, and his U.S. debut, Late Phases. In his latest, Scherzo Diabolico, he reunites with his Here Comes the Devil star Francisco Barreiro, who plays law-office flunky Aram. He seems like a regular working schlub, but when he decides he deserves more from the world, and takes some pretty unpleasant short cuts, he brings his whole world down upon himself and everyone around him.

Bogliano described the story as "a fantasy that goes completely wrong. This fantasy of getting everything that you really want, and having the woman and having the mistress and having the best job. It’s a very miserable fantasy, but it’s a very common fantasy."

As a filmmaker, he wanted to tell the story as a reaction to the current state of horror. Producers are looking for supernatural movies, and a script where the villain is just a bad guy – or, as in Aram's case, a weak guy doing terrible things – is likely to have a tough time. Bogliano said, "There is this notion for distributors that, if you don’t have a ghost or you don’t have a Satanic element to it, you can’t release your movie in theatres. That’s what they want, and I think everywhere it’s pretty difficult to fight against that preconception."

Austin Chronicle: What was the decision to go with a kidnap plot, knowing that it’s a very hot button topic that has become a major aspect of organized crime in some Latin American countries?

Adrián García Bogliano: I like the idea of playing against expectations. I tried to do something like that in Here Comes the Devil. We went to shoot the movie in Tijuana, and everyone was reluctant to work with us because they thought we were going to make something about the drug cartels. We were like, 'No, no, no, this is nothing to do with that.' It’s a very brutal film, but it has nothing to do with the aspects you normally see in Tijuana. Everyone was really happy to help us, because we were showing a very different aspect.

If you say ‘kidnapping’ and you say ‘Mexico City,’ you’re going to think of certain things that are nothing to do with the movie. It triggers another level of thinking with the audience, which is pretty cool. That was the idea all the time, doing something that has all the background and all the flavors. You can definitely look at it and know that it’s Mexico, but it’s definitely not the typical thing that you would see happening here.

AC: Did you always have Francisco in mind? Because in Here Comes the Devil, he’s a guy totally out of control of his surroundings and in constant panic, and here he’s often the polar opposite.

AGB: Absolutely. I wrote the movie for him. From day one, he was around. I think that one of the reasons was because of that. I saw him first in We Are What We Are, and you realize that he’s a guy that can do so many things, that I wanted to take advantage of that. What I showed of him in Here Comes the Devil was a very small part of that. I don’t say that because he’s in my movie. He’s in my movie because I really think he’s the best actor of his generation here in Mexico. I’ve worked with several great actors in my movies, but he is the guy who has probably the biggest range, and can do the most different kinds of things.

AC: You’ve had a progression in your films where you went a little bigger, and a little bigger, and a little bigger, and this was such a smaller team for Scherzo. What was it like, going back to something so much closer to your roots after Late Phases, which had complicated shots and a bigger cast?

AGB: I felt really comfortable, because the script was written for that. It wasn’t a case where you write something and have to make it smaller. This is something that I wrote for the landscapes that I knew, the places that I knew I could find, the actors – some of them, at least – that I thought that I could get. A lot of this I had in mind beforehand, so it was pretty easy.

And I have to say, it was the first time I have worked with such a small team. I’ve made movies in Argentina for very little budget, but always with bigger crews – 20, 30 people at the very least. This was an experience that I wanted to have, going through shooting in a very intimate way, and being very close to the actors, and not having a bunch of people moving around. Just having a chance to be close to the actors and have them concentrate. Not being on set, asking for silence from 50 people.

Scherzo Diabolico (Dark Sky Films) is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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