Literature is a source of inspiration for filmmaker Arturo Ripstein
“Through my movies, I aspire to move people; not convince them,” says Arturo Ripstein, jury head of the 18th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), about using films to make political statements. His film No One Writes to the Colonel (1999) was screened on Wednesday. It is a brooding yet amiable take on the novella by the legendary Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Ripstein says he has heard a lot about the Malayali fascination with Latin American litterateurs, Marquez and magical realism in particular. While No One Writes to the Colonel does not dabble in magical realism, Ripstein’s use of shadows and rain lends it an ethereal quality. Many of this master craftsman’s movies are adaptations of renowned books by iconic writers.
Ripstein says he seeks inspiration from anywhere. And books are a main area of stimulus for him as they present a complete idea. It is impossible to make a movie verbatim out of a 250-page book, but one takes the ideas, the notions, the images, he says.
“Kill the writer, betray the writer,” insists Ripstein while talking about making movies out of literary works. “Sometimes when I read, images keep cropping up. I look for the truth, what is truer than the truth,” he says. But, in such cases, doesn’t he run the risk of attracting more wrath and negative feedback compared to movies made otherwise? After all, people tend to be fussy about the pictures they create in their mind’s canvass, and frown at anything at variance with their vision. “Books are not sacred. You run the risk of getting bad feedback even otherwise. Movies appeal differently to each individual. A person sitting on the third row may think my movie is the best he/she has ever seen while someone on the fifth row might be bored with it, it is all part of making a film,” Ripstein says.
“In 100 Years of Solitude, you see a lot of flaws. Many parts are inconsistent. Novels can have that to their credit, but not movies,” says the director. One felt that more than anything, his movie screened at the IFFK was about the heart-wrenching agonies of the protagonists, the ageing colonel who waits endlessly for his elusive pension and his asthmatic wife, worried there is no food at home. “There were many possibilities while making the film. We could look at the political institution, the corruption… I explored the relationship of the old couple fighting a bitter battle.”
After watching a whole lot of movies, did he find any particular one being closer to the Latin American picture or the Third World? “There is no uniform Latin America. Yes, there is a common language, but each country speaks a different slang. I am from Mexico and I may be aware of the everyday reality there, but to see a cross-section of films made in different Latin American countries, I have to visit such film festivals.”