Rodrigo Sorogoyen applies his fascination with the dark side of humanity to a sweaty and unwholesome thriller MAY GOD SAVE US, a multi-layered in its themes of friendship, violence and institutionalized dereliction of duty.
Few competition films entered San Sebastian with the buzz of Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s MAY GOD SAVE US a grueling, grimy, melancholic thriller about men who cannot control their actions. Backed up by his regular screenwriting partner, Isabel Peña, the Madrilenian director is back treading the same path with the magnificently entertaining and lively crime-thriller MAY GOD SAVE US, which was yesterday world-premiered in the official competition section of the 64th San Sebastián Film Festival.
With a big step up in scale, budget and producing team than in his two previous movies, plus the support of a TV channel, MAY GOD SAVE US seems destined to become a smash hit when it is released theatrically in Spain at the end of October. The ingredients in its recipe are simply foolproof: two policemen are out looking for a serial killer. Just from that, it may seem a bit clichéd, but Sorogoyen and his superb artistic and technical crew have managed to make us tremble with their plot, understand their complex characters and, once again, question whether we are as good as we think we are as human beings.
With a powerful soundtrack courtesy of Olivier Arson, perfect urban settings, and amazing editing, MAY GOD SAVE US starts off by studying its protagonists and settings almost like a documentary, with a shaky camera; then, it transforms halfway through, using less of a raw style of cinematography and a gentler visual style, as the storyline becomes increasingly tense. The movie unfolds in the most fetid corners of Madrid during the summer of 2011, while Pope’s visit. That explosive cocktail of antagonism and that tense, strained atmosphere, exacerbated by the blistering heat, are perfectly palpable in Sorogoyen’s third feature.
In this unfriendly context, a pair of oddball policemen – the magnificent Antonio de la Torre and Roberto Álamo must track down a swine that’s going around several murders. Along the way, they will have to learn to get along, grapple with their demons and ghosts, and carry around their most personal problems. The movie morphs into an unusual buddy movie that makes no attempt to hide its fascination with Polanski’s Repulsion and Chinatown, or Fincher’s Seven and Zodiac. And, just like those films, its aim is also to make us have an entertainingly bad time.
In view of the World Premiere, John Hopewell from Variety also fielded an interview with Rodrigo Sorogoyen. Here we post part of this interesting interview.
One central question about “May God Save Us” is what is its driving force, and that, I think, is only really defined in the ultimate shot of the film. This is a story of the across-the-tracks friendship between Velarde and Alamo, who are diametrically opposed in almost everything: social circumstance, character and, one suspects, politics.
Sorogoyen: The theme of friendship in the film was really secondary until we started shooting. Obviously we really liked the relationship between them and the journey they make from complete disinterest to absolute respect. But it was only once we started work with the actors that the film eventually became the story of two people who felt alone and found, in the least likely person, a partner to see themselves reflected in, to gain support, respect, to learn from, and to love, and why not? These are things that everyone needs.
This is also a film, however, about men who can’t control their bodies, and women who are victims. The film questions to what extent Velarde and Alamo are so different from the killer. Some of the men’s violence can be put down to circumstance, career frustration, but the violence appears to run deeper, being the result of both nature and nurture.
Sorogoyen: First and foremost, we wanted to talk about violence — violence within human beings but also the violence of modern societies, and cities where violent behaviors occur. It was our intention to do just that: think of a three-way relationship between characters, who are different and complementary. It’s curious — a psychiatrist friend told us that we had created three psychopaths who related to violence in a very different but very recognizable way.
The film comes in at two hours on the dot. One senses that you needed such a length to make the audience sense just how grueling this case is and its toll on the homicide cops private lives. Would you agree?
Sorogoyen: It is indeed a long movie, but I think it has good pacing and is not at all boring. The length helps tell everything we felt necessary to explain the crime story well and to show the personal lives of the characters. We believe that without that balance the film would be a movie more than a story about these police. We think that if the film is any way special it’s because it talks about human beings.
Congratulations to all the cast and crew for their amazing work and we wish the best of luck at the Award Ceremony Gala next Sunday!