Nacho Vilgalondo became a genre filmmaker to watch with 2007’s TIMECRIMES, one of the best time travel thrillers ever made, and one that manages to wrap things up satisfyingly – no easy feat for such a complex subject. He’s taking on the twisting, turning concept thriller again with OPEN WINDOWS, an English-language flick starring Elijah Wood as Nick Chambers, a fan of actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey) who’s been flown to Austin for a dinner with his idol, only to have her cancel at the last minute.
The aborted dinner spirals into chaos when Nick gets involved in Jill’s subsequent fate and is forced to play along via his laptop, the sole connection between him, the woman he admires and the mysterious figure who has dangerous designs. An inventively-lensed feature with enough swerves to keep you guessing every step of the way, OPEN WINDOWS played last month at Austin’s Fantastic Fest – where it was conceived and even partially shot. We had the chance to talk to Vigalondo on the eve of its screening.
Daily Grindhouse (DG): How has Fantastic Fest been treating you?
Nacho Vigalondo (NV): (raspily) It’s been a blast every year. You can tell from the quality of my voice that I’ve been enjoying the festival.
DG: You’ve been coming to Fantastic Fest for years, and that’s obvious from OPEN WINDOWS – when did you first start going to the fest?
NV: I not only came here with my first picture [TIMECRIMES], but this was the first time I was able to see my first feature on the big screen. I can say out loud that I was born a filmmaker in this theater.
DG: Fantastic Fest is where you first met [OPEN WINDOWS star] Elijah Wood, isn’t it?
NV: Yes! It was here! You could say OPEN WINDOWS was a child, was conceived at this festival.
DG: Even the opening sequence takes place at Fantastic Fest! How long were you shooting in the Austin area?
NV: I think we only did two or three days of shooting in Austin. But most of the film was shot in Spain.
DG: Was this a concept you came up with? I understand you were approached with the idea?
NV: No, the producer came to me with an idea of making a film in which the internet has a big personality. I just wanted to make a movie in which everything is seen through the laptop.
DG: Was the film meant as partially a response to the negative internet fandom you see a lot of? Even Nick [Wood’s character] who, for all intents and purposes, is a really nice guy, is lured in by the promise to do things he wouldn’t normally do “in real life.” It brings out your worst personality traits.
NV: Yes, you see that all the time on twitter. People decide to become someone else. Thanks to the internet, they become a new guy. But for some reason, they become a worse person. Instead of using it to become a better person. That is something I see all the time in social media. You have this machine that allows you to be someone else and instead of being better, you are truly worse.
DG: What did the script look like? The structure seems so complex, with all these windows open – how did you change your script writing to adapt?
NV: I wrote the script like I was watching a real movie, but it in this case it was impossible because in this case, every time something happened, I had to explain how we were going to watch it, which window was open. In other cases, when I write the story, when I wrote the script, I tend to forget about the visuals, but in this case, I was all the time thinking about the visuals. In this case, the script was a challenge to read, not only a challenge in the writing. Because of this, it was complicated to understand the whole thing.
DG: How did you decide on working with Elijah Wood on the project? He’d just done MANIAC, another film with a very unique storytelling technique in which he’s front and center.
NV: He’s such a unique star. He wanted to do cool things instead of just the average experience of being a star. But Elijah has become this kind of cool actor, he’s doing the kind of stuff he likes, that’s the kind of person I wanted to know.
DG: He’s definitely doing a lot of unique stuff. How about Sasha Grey? It seems like she’d be someone very much aware of this obsessive fandom that we see in the movie.
NV: Yes! I really wanted to work with her not only because of her performance in THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, but because of her experience as a well-known adult film star. She’d give a new layer of irony to the story. I’ve seen on the internet that people are really confused that she’s not doing porn anymore.
DG: And she’s very good in it, it’s casting that works very well. How did you handle the editing? With so much of the film on one screen, it seems like less cutting and editing and more scrolling to which point on the screen you want the audience to focus on.
NV: In other movies, you’re cutting from one minute to another one and [OPEN WINDOWS] is just a stream of information. We had to create the way it’s shown in the movie, as we don’t have a reference of a movie that’s been doing this before. We not only had to figure out how to display this in the right way, we also had to find how to make it. There was a lot of trial and error in the process.
DG: A lot of the movies that are shot from a single point of view are done with minimal scores, and OPEN WINDOWS has a very full score. What made you decide to do a full score for the film?
NV: I used the music to have some kind of continuity with the events while you’re being shown so many different things. I wanted to put music on the screen to combat that visual disparity with something that gives some kind of continuity through the whole thing.
OPEN WINDOWS is now available on Video on Demand and opens in select theaters October 7.
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