There is incessant movement all around. Cameras, press agents on mobile phones, journalists who have lost their way…
The movement here is incessant, confusing, dizzying… Press agents bellow down their mobile phones, journalists lose their way, cameras flicker all around. The Sitges Film festival is under way, and although it’s gone eleven in the morning, the “brunch” is still not confirmed. Nothing is where it should be. Everything stops in its tracks, however, when Ariadna Gil appears in a doorway. At the mere sight of her, there is a sudden calm. Suddenly I am introduced to her, and we escape the turmoil.
We catch the lift downwards and find ourselves in no time on the terrace of the bar. We can just make out, in the distance, the sound of the sea off Sitges, a village 35 km from Barcelona, known to be a gay tourist spot, but which plays host to the best fantasy cinema each autumn.
Ariadna has probably spent the last hour talking to journalists, but when she turns her all-consuming smile on me, I am not a little intimidated. Ariadna has played very different roles in three of the biggest Spanish movies of the last few years, such as Soldados de Salamina (The Soldiers of Salamina), (David Trueba, 2003), Alatriste (Agustín Díaz Yanes, 2006). First, however, we talk about her latest film, El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Laberinth), directed by Guillermo del Toro, which she has come to Sitges to present. In the movie, a young girl attempts to escape the horrors of the Spanish Civil War through her imagination, and Gil’s role is not an easy one.
“I play the part of a mother who has been defeated, a woman who wants her daughter to lose her innocence, who tries to make her daughter realise that life is much more complicated than it seems”. For Gil, it’s a role that is very close to home: “I found it very difficult to get in side my character. Having children made me much more aware of things. Telling a child that they have to stop dreaming must be one of the most painful things you could have to do.”
The power of the mind
Fortunately for Ariadna, no one has ever wrenched her from the world of her imagination. Now, 37, she has lived in the world of cinema since she was 16. And this, for all that they say, is still a place of dreams for those who never stop moving on. Gil debuted with Bigas Luna, a Catalan director, who also discovered other great talents such as Penélope Cruz.
Ariadna Gil may have had a successful and fruitful career, she has never ceased to enchant spectators with her wistful and wonderful attitudes. “I’ve spent my life dreaming. I am here with you now, but I can disconnect and be thinking of other things. I don’t believe that imagination can be negative. We all have a mind that helps us ignore problems. In fact, I’m sure that many would give up living live if they couldn’t dream.” Her face and her thoughts are already elsewhere, and she allows herself a moment to sip the tea that we have just been served. I wonder what she might be thinking of. Is she is even aware that I’m still here?
Leaving dreams behind, we touch onto nightmares. The conversation turns to a more delicate subject: war.
Any cinema fan who scans Ariadna’s filmography will notice that it’s full of movies set against the backdrop of war: Libertarias (Freedom fighters) (1995), in which she plays an anarchist fighting in the Civil War; Soldados de Salamina (2003), in which she interprets a disoriented writer investigating an episode in the same conflict. In Hormigas en la boca (Ants in the Mouth) (2005) Ariadna is an idealist taking part in the Cuban Revolution. They are all strong women and require some sort of personal involvement. Ariadna doesn’t see it that way though. “I don’t get more involved that any other actor of my generation. I just choose the roles I like among the offers I receive. And the Civil War is a recurrent theme in Spanish cinema, so it’s normal that we revisit it, since it’s a terrible event that forms part of our recent history.” Okay, Ariadna, I suppose you’re right.
Money is not the enemy
Time will soon be up: the press conference begins in five minutes and we still haven’t talked about European cinema. I hurriedly mention it and she seems interested.
“It’s not like the US here. There the market is a powerful force: thanks to their films we know practically everything about them. Here, we know almost nothing of the film industries of our neighbours,” she says. I fear she is right: how many Dutch films are shown in Spain? Or Hungarian? Or German? “It’s difficult to envisage an exchange of ideas between the countries of the EU, since we hardly know each other and we don’t like to take risks. This situation weakens us.”
The solution to this eternal problem, Ariadna suggests, is money. “I know it sounds terrible, but having a big budget at your disposal allows you to do things well, and export films in a better way…” Before she can finish the phrase, her manager appears and gesticulates that time is indeed now up. Ariadna, true to her professionalism, finished what she was saying by recalling the huge success of the major production Alatriste, She says goodbye and I remain seated, watching her leave in her immaculate black outfit.
A few hours later, we cross paths again. She has changed her wardrobe completely and is talking to the actor Sergi López and the filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. She seems much more informal, but still maintains her composure. They say her beauty is of the cold and distant variety: she is an elegant and unaffected woman. A quiet, attractive actress with strong opinions.