Art and Experience: Victor Erice Aras (born 30 June 1940) is a Spanish film director. He studied filmmaking in 1963 at the Escuela Oficial de Cinematografia. He wrote film reviews for the film journal Nuestro Cine, and made a series of short films before making his debut feature, The Spirit of the Beehive (1973).
Following, he tells us more about his work and cooperation with Kiarostami:
How did you come to know Kiarostami?
Kiarostami was a great man, but extremely down-to-earth. I came to know him through his films. I think the best way to appreciate an artist is to see his work. That is why I came to know him through his work. I then met him several times at international festivals. Our first get-together was 20 years ago. Later, we met at a 1997 film festival in Sicily.
Which one of his movies impressed you the most?
The Close Up. That was my first film. Perhaps that’s why it had a profound impact on me.
Tell us about your cooperation with him.
The Contemporary Center of Arts in Barcelona had plans to host an exhibition of his works. I have no idea why our works were being exhibited simultaneously. Perhaps, because we were making movies about children and working with children. We had some mutual interests and our works looked comparable. When the organizers asked us for another exhibition, we came up with the idea of Victor Erice – Abbas Kiarostami: Correspondence 2016. You could write about anything in a letter. Anything at all. Besides, no one had in the past worked on a film idea like this. All we know is that writers and authors used to send correspondence to each other in the past.
However, later we saw The Correspondence directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. It stars Jeremy Irons and Olga Kurylenko in lead roles. They correspond to each other through video messages. Which shows new advancements in technology. But my movie was made much earlier. Some say our film was made in 2016 which is not true. It was made in 2006 and that’s the correct date.
When you came up with the movie idea, was it then that you decided to go for it and exchange letters?
We didn’t sit down to go over it face to face. I wrote the first letter and sent it to Kiarostami. I also filmed it. Sometime later he corresponded back and we then kept writing each other. Later on there was a delay in our correspondences. I used to receive his letters with some delays. I had no idea why. Later I found out he was too busy to write.
Tell us about the impact of life on cinema and vice versa.
What makes an art work eternal is when it reflects the life of the person behind it, his life experience. Some people have the talent to tell their life stories to others in a peculiar war. I see myself as middleman, a bridge that transfers this experience to others. It is my belief that we all have stories to tell.
Do you remember any impressive movie you might have watched when you were five?
The Scarlet Claw, a 1944 Sherlock Holmes film directed by Roy William Neill, and starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.
Any special memories from Kiarostami?
I have many memories from him. We met each other in Paris and Madrid as well. Directors live life just like this. He had unique ethical features and characteristics. At the same time, he was a great artist but humble. He loved seeing the normal life in in the streets and alleyways of Spain.
Do you know any other Iranian filmmaker?
I know others, including Jafar Panahi. I also like The House Is Black, directed by Forough Farrokhzad. Once I chose it as one of my top films for a film event. I have read all her poems as well.
Is this your first day at Fajr?
I was here a long time ago. It was for the 1974 Tehran Film Festival. My first feature film, The Spirit of the Beehive (1973), was participating in the event. It’s a critical portrait of 1940s rural Spain that many regard as one of the greatest Spanish films ever made.
Presided over by Reza Mirkarimi, the 35th edition of Fajr International Film Festival will take place from 21 to 28 April in Tehran.