On directing > There’s nothing besides the Rectangle | Pedro Costa, 1989-2014

On directing > There’s nothing besides the Rectangle | Pedro Costa, 1989-2014

Pedro Costa, Blood / O Sangue , 1989

”There’s nothing besides the rectangle, everything comes from it, which isn’t meant in
a formalist way. You have to think about what’s inside your frame, what’s outside and
what’s your own angle. I am always looking to have behind and in front of the camera,
what’s inside and outside the frame, in tune.”

”Realism is film and film is reality – the reality of film. It is ingrained
in the medium that film can only show reality.”

”Trust is more important than responsibility. It’s mutual trust and
you just feel when something isn’t right.”

”For me, a film is always in the present, because of my way of working. Because of this,
the work doesn’t start with me as the director, but we work together from the start,
everyone in front and behind the camera. In order to work like this, one actually
requires some form of innocent faith or a kind of naivety.”

”To me the film is always in the present, as I said, there is no past or future.
I could feel the music in silent films.”

”I think that in the end music is pure movement, which does not have to express.
I have the feeling that music nowadays always comes from the outside of the film.
In the worst cases, it’s very bad, because music is only there to say something that
the actors or the film can’t say, so it fills the urgency to bring some meaning to
the scene that otherwise wouldn’t have been there.”

 Conversation with iiiixiii / four by three mag, 2015

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Down to Earth / Casa de Lava , 1995

”Opening a door, in a film, not only is it very difficult, it has always been very difficult,
even in the old days. When you watch a film like Farrebique [Georges Rouquier, 1946]
you see a lot of things, there is an incredible number of things you see per second and
they were there, they existed. That’s the most incredible thing; everything existed on the
screen. I don’t know if it’s just me, or the power of documentary, or life being so raw…
I think we’re losing a lot of stuff, every day. We’re losing the ability, the craft, we don’t
know how to use our minds and our tools – myself included. What we see mostly today
is a million ways of escaping a confrontation with reality.”

”To do the same thing today, to achieve such a construction with all that complex layering,
it would take any contemporary director 3, 4, 5 hours of film. Just to get to that crucial
moment when the girl or the boy breaks down, it would take any of us at least 3 hours…”

”In our films… You have to work on your schedule, prepare your daily
plan with a different attitude, with a point of view.”

Conversation with Stefan Ramstedt & Martin Grennberger, 26 Oct. 2015

”Art is not anything else but reality. We should be concerned with thinking
about the things that are there, and not with the things that are not.”

”When you see filming on the streets, you have an immediate feeling there’s some kind
of imposture there. There’s some kind of lie. It’s all created to escape reality. The talk
is always of aesthetics when it should be more about the morals and the money.”


”Work with the neighborhood’s memory. That’s what the film does. It is very untrue sometimes.
I don’t think the films worry about memory as a virtue. There is no identity factor in their memory.”

Conversation with Jeanette Samyn & Jonathon Kyle Sturgeon / n+1

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Bones / Ossos,1997

”Those years I spent as an assistant gave me a very bad feeling of things to come. It wasn’t
the work I’d wanted to do. I started wondering, without finding an answer, how I could make
my films without falling into these traps. Filmmaking seemed to mirror the worst relations
in our society.”

”Because I never say “silence” or “action.” Even Vanda asked me many times,
“When are we starting?” And we had started already, months ago.”

”I had to remind them that cinema could be just a girl in the corner of a room and, I don’t
know, some flowers, let’s say. No cars, no explosions, no guns. That was part of the job.
All this is to say that I’m always aware of the fact that I’m a filmmaker and they’re actors.
There is a ritual. We go into this mode and we do this take and then we try to do another
take that could be better. Sometimes I like that they behave a little capriciously, or star-like.
I like them to be actors I don’t know if I was directing them. I was organizing something.”

”I always had this impression that filmmaking was a good way to learn about yourself,
about what you like and don’t like, even to learn how to accept or refuse certain things,
to let things in that you could never imagine possible.”

”The antithesis of emotionally strength, its people are ill prepared to live with other
human beings, this petit bourgeoisie that regards money as something very dirty, that
you keep to yourself. These are things I’ve been trying to destroy.”

”I had to focus myself, like a lens—even if my films seems out of focus, which they
often are. [Laughs] But I’ve been focused on finding a centre for myself. If I feel that
if I’m not having a confrontation with some sort of reality when I’m working, I’m
in danger.”

Conversation with J. B. / The Phantom Country,  29 Mar. 2010

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In Vanda’s Room / No Quarto da Vanda, 2000

”The fake stillness of digital. The depth and distance of things with DCP is very fake.
We, filmmakers and technicians, feel that blacks are not black.”

”I aspire to be a director, a filmmaker.  I’d just like to breathe or be human and have ears
and eyes and hands. Not filmmaking, but capturing reality. That’s what I thought film was.”

”I think I still like certain things—history, the past, researching, going to places, watching things.”

”My problem is not film. It’s the people I work with. I’m not a fetishist. That’s one of the
things I’m not. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it’s not the camera, it’s not the tripod, it’s not the
light, it’s not the money. I hate money. I hate money. It’s what I have in front of me that
scares me. If I see a girl or a man… like, for instance, Ventura who I’ve worked with.
Three months ago his rent went from €200 to €400. It has to do with my next film.

”I know a lot of my friends are like that, they have an idea for a shot or an idea for two
shots or an association. That only comes to me in editing. For me it’s deceptive. It’s trying
to figure out why something is sad. Or why is that person always there. I never make shots.
The other day I was thinking of a guy I worked with and I kept seeing him, every day, stood
in the same spot. Filmmaking is gathering the courage to ask him why. I have to know.”

”What I want is to believe in Ventura, Vanda, the bottle, my shot. Nobody more than them.
It’s got to be pure in the Straubian sense. The camera is here and the distance between the
subject has to be absolutely clear. The only thing I want to be certain of is this focal point.”

Conversation with David Jenkins / MUBI, 11 Mar. 2013

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Colossal Youth / Juventude em Marcha, 2006

”I never believed in working inside the system. Because this happens outside the system.
I Always believed in the outside. It’s a position, and then you have to live with it. But
you cannot turn the system around.”

”The difficult part is not making the film, it’s believing in the film.”

”When I was younger this seemed to me a way to make politics… not to make a film,
but politics. The charm was to do something as violent, as gentle as everything that
Straub says in this way. Against the language of cinema.”

”When I was younger, I fantasized that the movement in a film was not only there on the
screen, but up here, in our head. So the work you have to do is not an intellectual work:
if you understand, you understand, If you don’t, go home, wait, grow older or forget,
go somewhere else. It’s a balance: you have the movement in your head, as if the
camera is your head. For me, the camera was always in our eyes.”

”It’s like poetry: they are poets. You’re stuck if you’re into language. Everybody knows
that. At the same time you cannot do poetry with poetic words. You cannot write a
poem with poetic terms. You have to escape, work, work a lot.”

”I was never into the avant-garde or experimental film, I was never seduced by it, I always
thought it was too easy. It’s my Capricorn side. When I go to museums and I see those
videos, I always say “it’s too easy, let’s work a little bit more and be a bit more provocative.”
To go beyond, you have to respect some things. It’s hard to say, to confess, but you have to
observe, and not forget things.… not the angles or the shots, but the spirit.”

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Horse Money / Cavalo Dinheiro, 2014

”I had to find the people, the place, the story, the narrative, the politics, everything, to be
able to start again. It’s about production, in the Walter Benjamin sense. It’s the nights you
spend thinking about production. The mornings you think about the art mean nothing. Or
the nights when you think about the shot, or the girl, or the flower. It’s not like that. It’s a
little bit abstract sometimes: it’s money, it’s cars, aspirin, social security, going up a stair,
making a phone call, those kind of things that have to do with real fear. Should I call,
should I explain, expose, should I go.”

”We are doing things to forget, not to remember. First I was doing things to remember,
now I ‘m doing things to forget. That’s my feeling. I cannot explain.”

”This art direction comes from there, from a much more violent and difficult place. It always
comes from a very serious thing. It’s not about faking, imitating or fantasizing. He believes
in this, I don’t and when we get together, it works because he believes. That’s why I work
with this kind of people behind and in front of the camera, because professionals do not
believe. It’s always technological, technical, artistic. It’s never political.”

”The guys working in the labs are not working, but just pushing buttons. Again, they have
a language inside them, a digital language in their brains, their hands, their eyes. I’m afraid
in their hearts, already, and that blinds them a bit from what I’m trying to tell them.”

”The battle that is won is saying that cinema is a language. I fought against that a little bit.
Not enough. The Straubs have fought a lot, Godard fought a lot, Rouch fought a lot. It was
supposed to become something else than a language. Breaking the grammar. But again: I
don’t believe in working inside the language. I don’t even know if it’s possible anymore
not to.”

”Flms by Murnau or Lang: it’s very different. You cannot fake it. You cannot do it again,
you have to do something else, but you have to break a little, be a bit violent, not gentle.
You cannot be gentle with Murnau or Lang. The way people are, speak, act: they are from
today. This is today. That woman: I know her. And I don’t see that in today’s cinema.
Films by Warhol or Straub: that is the revolution. Proof is: nobody sees them.”

Conversation with Stoffel Debuysere / Diagonal Thoughts, 2 Feb. 2013

 Pedro Costa

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