The first moment of grace
As a Uruguayan living in Argentina I frequently travel back to my country, often on a journey by ferry that lasts three hours. It is a passage between two parallel possible worlds: what people know about me in Buenos Aires is unknown in Montevideo, and vice versa. This situation made me feel, at least at first, strangely free and powerful for not belonging anywhere.
The ship served as an interval between these two possible worlds: the border between two places that never meet, but also the border between countless places, which could meet. It is a fantastic, indeterminate zone. I discovered that the ship is actually a mechanism with secret doors leading to several spaces that are both far away and contiguous at the same time.
The film captures that first moment of grace, the emergence of the door as a fantasy towards another possible reality, before that reality can be regulated. The momentary possibility of belonging nowhere, confirming that infinite places can connect to each other. The film’s characters are tempted by this possibility and abandon their ways of life in favour of discovering the unknown. (Alex Piperno)
Interview with Alex Piperno: “The world would be turned inside out like a sock”
How did you come up with the idea for the film?
First there was the feeling that the three-hour ship journey that connects Montevideo and Buenos Aires (where I live) could join infinite worlds by fantastic means. I once saw a scene on board that I found curious: a man and a woman at opposite ends of the ship got up at the same time and disappeared into the bottom of the passenger compartment. I associated the image with the deployment of a secret agent, and that triggered the writing of a fantastical police plot that I later deleted, but whose memory remains in the secret kept by Window Boy. This police plot included the theme of the trafficking of Chinese peasants, which eventually fed into the fantastic plot of the shed in the Philippines.
If Montevideo was, in relation to the ship, a place at once close and distant, the connection with a territory at the other end of the world represented the extreme application of this logic. The characters from those near and distant places should meet and the world be turned inside out like a sock. The film would not treat these fantastic elements as exceptional; rather, it would quickly integrate them into the organic reality of the film's universe, just as the characters do. Because, in fact, what alternative is there but to incorporate exceptionalities into everyday life, since they eventually also become part of everyday life? Some of this happens in the film, although the effects end up being disastrous.
Can you speak about the mix of fantasy elements and a realistic approach?
I think that the imaginative power of cinema has a lot to do with its ability to build revealing and ambiguous events that could not be translated into verbal language or reduced to common sense. Limiting cinema to being a realistic copy of ordinary life is a somewhat frustrating experience that I think corresponds more to an attitude of some filmmakers, which is sometimes lazy, than to an actual nature of the medium. Making delirium of common sense is at the heart of any artistic discipline, but it is also at the heart of the conversations that one enjoys having, and it is a way of manifesting fascination for the things that surround us. I think that cinema is a celebration of the possibilities of language and if it is true that poetry is the discovery of the relationship between elements that were unrelated, then fantastical elements are resources that cinema has at hand to access the poetic fact.
Why the title?
The title is a rewrite of a verse from a poem I wrote. "Window Boy" has something of "Migraine Boy," the MTV cartoon series from the 1990s. It sounds like a bad translation from English to neutral Spanish and there is something of that broken sense that I like. I think that by naming it that way, the film reduces the character to an attribute, which is his job cleaning windows on the ship. But it also names his drive to look through the windows, to enter anywhere and circulate without limitations, even if that leads to his own destruction. When the catastrophe occurs after the encounter of the worlds on the ship, one would say that Window Boy could continue circulating forever, even under water ‘if he had a submarine’, looking for new doors that lead to new places.
How did you choose the different locations?
The choice of locations on the ship and in Montevideo was clear to me from the beginning, because at some point they became disconnected from my experience as a newcomer in Buenos Aires and from my visits to Uruguay. The choice of the Philippines took place as a result of the writing process, and in a second instance it ended up becoming a production choice.
Why did you choose a cast of non-professional actors?
As a spectator, I find it hard not linking the image of an actor to the image of his person and to the ones from his previous work. At the same time, I think that, in many cases, the actor's training involves a loss of innocence in the use of the body, which often causes me to end up seeing a professional exercise and not a truth unfolding before me. Before a non-professional actor, the camera registers expressions and movements devoid of intentions and that is something that generates a lot of intrigue in me and I think it serves my creative process. Even so, during the shooting I could see how Daniel, Inés, and Noli became true actors, as they incorporated notions of direction, framing and editing like any actor, so the question is more complex and I think I must rethink the relationship between these categories.
(Interview: La pobladora cine)