“I’m alive, which is already a lot,” answers Carlos Saura first, who at 91 years old has the courage to load the answers about his health with irony, the one that has given him too many scares lately. “Luckily, everything is in relative disorder,” he concludes after the list of ailments that, in reality, are typical of age. What seems unusual is his ability to never get tired of looking at the world through a lens. Today he premieres his latest work, ‘The walls speak’a documentary that he co-writes, directs and stars in and in which he covers the history of art, from the cave paintings of Atapuerca or Chauvet Pont d’Arc to the graffiti that today spreads across half the world.
And, with the excuse of art, he talks about the human being surrounded by figures like Juan Luis Arsuaga, Miquel Barceló, Anna Dimitrova or the graffiti artist Suso33.
—Did age have anything to do with why you decided to focus on evolution through art?
—It is a project that José Morillas, the scriptwriter of the documentary, brought me. I have always been fascinated by art and man and his evolution. When I was little I was punished for being a Darwinian in the nuns’ school, the teacher said to me one day: «Let’s see, Saura, do you really believe that man comes from monkeys?». And I told him: “And from much further on.” And she took me out of class. Since the project came to me, it seemed beautiful to me, at first it was more focused on the origins of art and little by little we have evolved it to the final result, with which we are very happy. It has not been a matter of age, it has been a matter of chance and necessity, the right project has arrived at the right time.
—Miquel Barceló says that the “progression of art is a scam”. Do we also go backwards in the cinema? Were they more modern in the 70s than they are now?
—These are different times, now with technology we can do things that a few years ago were unimaginable, and that is fascinating. Now anyone with a phone and a good story could make a movie, the question is: where are the good stories? I think that this is something that is now more difficult to find, perhaps due to the oversaturation of content, perhaps because fashion is different now and the stories that make you think and reflect are no longer so interesting, now generally the cinema is more essential.
—What have you learned from this journey in painting for the cinema?
—I always say and repeat to myself that cinema is total art because it brings together all the arts that I like: painting, music, photography and literature. Without a doubt, painting is part of the essence of cinema and is something essential in our lives, much more than we think.
—Between some of those paintings that you have visited in the caves there is a temporal distance of almost 30,000 years… Can you imagine what will become of the cinema, of the image, within not 30,000 but 300 years…?
“No, I’m not interested. I believe that you have to live in the present and project yourself into the future, but don’t worry too much about “what will come” because if you don’t, you won’t live. The important thing is to be here and stay active, whatever has to happen will happen, a meteorite could come tomorrow and goodbye to everything.
—Will the name of the filmmakers also resist it?
—Well, I think it will happen like everything else, only a few will resist, as has happened in painting or in music. The logical thing is that the new generations take over and drive and that with the passage of time only a few remain.
—In recent years, you are more focused on photography, painting… Did Saura get tired of cinema?
—Not at all, but now it is much more difficult to make films than before, I mean to make the films that I want to make. Now commercial cinema, platform and television cinema prevail, and the cinema that interests me costs a lot to finance, but I have several fiction projects that I hope to be able to do this year. On the other hand, I am lucky to be able to work on what I like the most, which is creating, and these last few years have been very good because I have been able to work on very diverse projects such as this documentary, theater, I have directed an opera, I have done exhibitions .
—Ask one of the guests if art for art’s sake exists, but I think that in the documentary you don’t answer it: what do you think of “art for art’s sake”?
—That it is art, that it is the drive of the human being and that it is part of its essence.
—They talk about whether the cave painters and also the graffiti artists were self-taught… Is individual art freer than art like cinema, which is collective?
—It depends on how you approach it, cinema is more collective because you need a great team, but in the end the decision and the responsibility belongs to one who belongs to the director, so it is also an individual art, just like me. I understand. I have made more than 50 films and I have always done what I wanted, of course I listen to all opinions, but in the end I only listen to those who I think are right.
—Juan Luis Arsuaga talks about the first great discovery of the mind is to discover that we are going to die. How much does this knowledge that life is finite influence artistic creation?
—It is essential for everything, for life, for work, for love, for art, it is something that conditions us as human beings.
—Do the walls speak or is it that the world listens little?
“There’s a bit of both.” The walls speak, they are a reflection of life, witnesses of the passage of time, but you have to stop and listen to them, and that is complicated nowadays because it seems that we are all in a hurry, that everything is for now, and sometimes we overlook things fascinating.
Have you ever thought about giving up directing?
—No, and I will continue making movies as long as I can, it is an essential part of my life.
—Have you gone to shoot all the shots of the graffiti that come out? Where does it get the energy?
—Yes, I’ve been to everything except one of the caves that I had to stay outside for safety reasons. It has been a beautiful shoot, we have enjoyed a lot. I am lucky to do what I am passionate about surrounded by an extraordinary team that is what keeps me active.
—The documentary talks a lot about “The need to express oneself”, about the “impulse”. Is there anything left for you to say in the cinema, in art?
—Many things, I have many projects that have not been done and will never be done, many others that luckily have, and many others that are up in the air. The impulse to create is infinite.
—And in this regard, how do you feed that impulse that leads you to continue directing?
—Doing what I like the most, dedicating myself to what I am passionate about, which is cinema and art, photography, listening to music, watching all kinds of movies, walking through my garden…
—He is a man attached to a camera. Does the world seen with a camera change?
—It does change because there is one thing that we rarely think about and that is that when you press the shutter it is already the past, that moment will never exist except in your photograph and that is fascinating.