The Show Must Go On in Rodrigo Cortés’ Seville Player ‘Love Gets a Room’

Set in German-occupied Warsaw during WWII, Rodrigo Cortés’ “Love Gets a Room” is a story of perseverance, resilience and sacrifice. The film, which follows a band of Jewish actors contemplating escape while staging the Jerzy Jurandot-penned play of the same name, will world premiere out of competition at Spain’s Seville European Film Festival, which opens Nov. 5.

“Love Gets a Room” stars several rising talents, including Danish actress Clara Rugaard (“I Am Mother)” and Verona-born Valentina Bellè (“Medici,” “Catch-22”). The film is also the latest in the burgeoning career of writer-director Cortés, who broke out at Sundance directing Ryan Reynolds in “Buried” (2010), and followed up with Robert DeNiro and Sigourney Weaver in “Red Lights” (2012). Adrián Guerra, his longtime producer, once more produces.

The film is produced and financed by Guerra’s Nostromo Pictures in Spain, with Lionsgate International handling international rights and CAA representing U.S. rights. Top Spanish independent A Contracorriente Films will release the film in Spain theatrically at the end of the year.

Variety spoke to Cortés ahead of the film’s Seville world premiere.

“Love Gets a Room” is, in the end, a film about sacrifice and the power of love. Is there a certain truth of love you wanted to convey through this story?

It is, indeed, a film about love, and, therefore, about renunciation. Love manifests itself in many ways, all inevitably human: It can be passionate, desperate, calm, devouring, devout, selfish…but true love is always disinterested. It thinks of the other first, something difficult to achieve in an environment like the ghetto, where the first priority was to live for another half an hour. “Love Gets a Room” is therefore a story about sacrifice, and also explores the dedication of the stage actor, who exceeds all duty when something must be done above all obstacles. The light is gone? Let’s light some candles. Did I bend my ankle? I’ll feel it later. Did my father just die? Let’s talk about it tomorrow. Have they locked us in the ghetto and banned everything? Let’s find a way to do the play.

The play within the film proves a mirror of a sort for the external drama of the actors. How much importance did you place on this parallel?

The film takes place in two different levels, both emotional and interpretive: on one hand, that of the real story of the actors; what they live, how they feel, what vital decisions they must make; on the other, that of the characters that the actors play on stage. On stage they are exuberant and optimistic: they sing, dance and make sure they are heard clearly from the back row. However, when they whisper on stage, or when they are behind the scenes, or when the curtain falls, or in the tension of the dressing room, things change: There the human truth emerges in all its naturalism, dirtier and sweatier, more full of fears and decisions to make. The interesting thing is that reality and work gradually merge until they end up being confused; there comes a time when the actors begin to express themselves through the characters they play in front of everyone.

In “Love Gets a Room” music is of utmost importance, not only pinning the story to history but also providing an additional layer of storytelling. What was your favorite aspect of the music in the film?

The text of the original work survived, as well as the lyrics of the songs…but not the music, which we had to recreate, to reinvent, in the stage musical tradition of the late 1930s. Jerzy Jurandot was a famous big band musician in Poland, and Warsaw was a great cultural capital open to all kinds of influences, so we used foxtrot or swing rhythms for the most charming themes, but also Hebrew sounds and scales for the Yiddish theater passages. Victor Reyes, our composer, has done an incredible job, not only composing the songs, but also wrapping the story with music full of sincerity. We chose a small chamber ensemble, also renouncing vibratos or reverberation effects, with great rawness and sonic precision, to recreate the conditions in which our characters lived and the emotions (without room for bullshit) that they felt.

There are moments in the film where the characters are out-of-body with fear or despair, and in those moments the cinematography reflects their emotions, with the camera even turning upside down in one pivotal long take. Can you speak about those directing flourishes?

If I learned something, already in my adolescence, by devoting myself to Scorsese’s cinema, it is that the what is the how and the how is the what. The background is constituted through the form: the camera is there (as well as the cut, the sound, the choice of lenses, the light) to tell the story: the camera is and must be a fountain pen that guides the gaze and drives emotions. I think I detect a worrying disregard for language in recent times, as if, for some time now, it was enough to distribute cameras around the set to efficiently pick up what happens as fast as possible. In the cinema that I learned to love, that of the great masters, language was not only always essential, but also what differentiated great cinema from the simple recording of events. It is not enough, I think, to make a movie: you have to make cinema. Not always the same.


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