Teaching You the Fear
Fantastic Fest favorite Nacho Vigalondo – his remarkable debut feature, Timecrimes, nabbed the Next Wave Award in 2007 – returns with a completely different type of film that's still somehow completely Nacho. Extraterrestrial combines the Spanish director's talent for writing complex and immensely likable characters with the kind of everyday surreality that just happens to feature gigantic alien ships hovering over Barcelona. It's an utterly unique blend of romantic comedy and science-fiction paranoia that could be viewed as a metaphor for his homeland's precarious fiscal semipanic in the midst of the European Union's ongoing crisis. But that could be reading too much into what might also be exactly what it appears to be: people falling in love, with aliens. (Or not. No spoilers here.)
Austin Chronicle: So should we consider Extraterrestrial to be a fantastic romantic comedy? A genre mash-up of sorts?
Nacho Vigalondo: For me, the genesis of this film and, I think, all of my films, is the confrontation between two genres that are initially the opposite. For me, if I had to name the genre of this film, I'd say it was a comedy. But all of my films before this have been comedies in some way. My next film is going to be a big, complicated labyrinth, in the way that Timecrimes was. It was going to be my second film, but it was taking a lot of time to do, so I found a way to make a small movie in between and so that's how Extraterrestrial happened. I don't want to be the kind of director that makes similar films every time, even though some of the elements might be the same from film to film.
AC: Whether it was intended or not, you could view Extraterrestrial as a very witty metaphor for Spanish identity crises with a financial-woes subtext.
NV: I don't want to be really literal with my intentions. I think movies should explain themselves, but I really love your interpretation of it. I think your interpretation is much better, actually, than mine. The fact that you came to that interpretation means that there has been a communication process between us. Obviously, I have some favorite films from the 1950s about alien invasions.
AC: Such as?
NV: Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I can tell in those movies that they are really about a fear, a very real fear of that time, when people built bunkers in their backyards from the fear of the atomic fallout. They were afraid of a real physical disaster happening in front of them. I think that now we are crossing through a scary age as well. The difference is that now the fears are much less physical. So, yes, I think that that might be reflected in my movie a bit. Although, really, I just wanted to make a good movie, not necessarily one with a direct message about the world or these times we are in.
Extraterrestrial screens Friday, Sept. 23, 6:05pm, and Tuesday, Sept. 27, 6:15pm. Nacho Vigalondo and select cast and crew will be in attendance.