Jazmín López on Si yo fuera el invierno mismo

Art, politics and heartbreak flow together in Jazmín López’s second feature Si yo fuera el invierno mismo, shot in a stately mansion that acquires a personality of its own. During an exploration of cinema as a political act, another story comes to the surface.

For Buenos Aires-based visual artist Jazmín López, unpicking the conventions of cinema is a means to release its political power. In Si yo fuera el invierno mismo, selected for IFFR’s main competition for the Tiger Award, a young woman named Carmen brings together a group of friends to recreate a trio of iconic works from her artistic heroes Jean-Luc Godard, Ana Mendieta and Harun Farocki. While re-enacting these art pieces and examining their meaning, it becomes apparent that Carmen is simultaneously processing a recent episode from her personal life.
López’ unabashedly arty exploration is in itself a statement, in what she describes as “a battle” against current ideas on the relation between art and reality: “As Latin American artists, we’re often asked by the outside world to present an image of the ‘real’, to show what poverty looks like. But I think there’s another type of fight that is fought through fiction and through aesthetics.”

The mourning for a lost love gradually appears to be the central theme, but the visual works that you reference have great significance for your story too. Which of these elements was your starting point?
“For me, the film is based on these two types of mourning. One is historical, like: ‘What happened with the political art of the late 1960s, early 1970s, when art and politics were more intertwined?’ It’s mixed with another, personal mourning for lost love. The mourning for love comes to a conclusion at the end of a film, but with the first one I’d like it to be the other way around: I hope to raise the question why art and politics have become so separated, and to see whether it’s possible to bring that energy back.”

So how do you see the relation between art and politics?
“In The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama wrote that the conflict of communism and capitalism is done, but for me that’s not the only way to think about history. My desire is not to bring back the same discussion, but the possibility of art as a weapon. For some reason, cinema is just narration and theatre nowadays. It doesn't have a political impact.”

What do these works by Godard, Mendieta and Farocki mean to you?
“They are important to me in many ways; for one I have learned the art of cinema by the hand of these artists. La Chinoise by Godard is a very visual work, it’s not based on narration like the Hollywood type of films. The really beautiful idea in Farocki’s Inextinguishable Fire, which is actually a manifesto against the Vietnam War, is the element of performance when he presses a burning cigarette onto his arm. Normally, when we’re watching film, in a way we’re looking at something that has already happened, but Farocki manages to really involve the spectator in the present moment through pain. With Ana Mendieta’s ‘beard transplant’ performance it’s the same. These days, feminism and the discussion about gender stereotypes are more widespread, but she did this performance in 1972. There’s a lot of energy in these three works, and a lot of risk-taking. It’s extremely important to rewatch these works and think about them.”

You use long takes that merge different realities into one. Can you explain this concept?
“I’ve always been interested in continuity errors, because continuity is a code that we’ve become used to through mainstream film. So my formal challenge was to create a feeling of continuity that has discontinuity within. Only recently I realised that a short film I made many years ago, Juego vivo, also plays with this idea. Time-lapses are another thing I had explored already in my previous film Leones, but I keep investigating how to condense time within a shot. Again, it comes from thinking about how continuity works, as an established code in cinema. And I’m trying to corrupt it a little bit.”

The location is an important presence in the film. What’s the story of that place?
“I wanted to shoot everything at the same location in order to be able to navigate the house without cuts, so I spent a lot of time finding the right place. When I saw this house, I was immediately fascinated by the weird architecture and also by the history of the building. One of its owners was the writer Adolfo Bioy Casares, Jorge Luis Borges’ best friend, and they spent a lot of summers there together. The rooms were still full of paintings, books and magazines from that period, and I could feel this history. I shot the house as if it was a character in itself, and through the art design it becomes a reflection of Carmen’s consciousness, in which her ex-boyfriend gains an ever-bigger presence.”

Written by Sasja Koetsier

Photo in header: Still: Si yo fuera el invierno mismo