"The only thing I don't distrust is laughter"

"El bar" by Álex de la Iglesia
@ Álex de la Iglesia | El bar

Álex de la Iglesia presented his new film El Bar, a horror comedy that portrays the struggle for survival by a group of people locked in a bar. 

It is about the fear of death, instinct and identity, without compromising on the grotesque. Berlinale Blogger spoke with him.

Álex, what does a bar mean to you?
It is a snapshot of the world. Sharing space with other people in a bar is both cosy and unnerving. Because the person sitting next to you could be your murderer, or the one who solves your problems. 

How did the script develop?
The scriptwriter and I used to have breakfast every day at El Palentino bar in Madrid. One day, a tramp came in and started insulting everyone, until Loli, the bar owner, gave him a slap. One customer said, "You'll have to throw him out" and Loli answered, "I will throw out whoever I feel like." And she gave him a coffee. The same happens in the film. Everyone shut up. Then I realised that I didn't know her. 

Your work is dominated by characters trapped by fear. Why?
My films have a clear political interpretation. We live in a society dominated by fear. And we treat it as if it were not real, like a nightmare. But it is the opposite. What is real is that life can be destroyed in an instant, we are in constant instability. But we prefer not to think about it because we cannot live without the security that things have meaning. On the other hand, this obsession with fear in my films also has something to do with events in my past, of family or my life during the years of terrorism in the Basque Country...about unspoken fears. 

Nevertheless, there is humour in all your films ...
Yes, because I don't trust anything. I don't trust love, I don't trust hate...I only trust laughter, which is authentic and incontestable. With laughter I aim to find complicity with the viewer, and that is liberating. Fear of death is the strongest. And fear of death is also fear of life. So what are you going to do? In the end, all we can do is laugh. 

You produced Pieles (Skins), which was also presented at the Berlinale. How do you see yourself in that role?
I feel very comfortable. I think I can do things that they have not done with me. A form of justice. And I'm lucky that they listen to me. Skins wasn't going to be made, but I defended it. I don't know how to do it with myself, I don't know how to defend my idea, but I find defending the idea of others much easier.