Vigalondo's heart attack

'Timecrimes' director's latest is a simple romance, but with an alien invasion as a backdrop

In San Sebastián's María Cristina hotel, Nacho Vigalondo is giving interview after interview following the critical roar that greeted the screening of his second feature, Extraterrestrial. "They're only telling me good things," says the director of Timecrimes and Oscar nominee for the short 7.35 in the Morning.

Vigalondo has always had the air of being an innovative filmmaker around him: despite his small body of work, he's a huge media figure and a god on the social networks. "It's really good that people are interested in what I am doing, that there's a certain expectation. It's welcome expectation. A few spells abroad have suited me very well. As well as other perspectives: for example in Toronto, people wanted to see Extraterrestrial because they knew Timecrimes. Nothing more than that."

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'Los Pasos Dobles' wins San Sebastián's Golden Shell

Extraterrestrial is a Russian doll of a film containing multiple layers. A couple wake up hungover in Madrid one morning having met the night before. They don't know whether they had sex or not and the situation is a bit awkward. When the guy goes to leave, they discover that neither the telephones nor the TV are working and there's no noise on the street. Outside, they see the reason: an immense flying saucer is floating above Madrid. Best not go outside.

For extra flavor, throw in a randy neighbor who's in love with the girl, her partner who appears the next morning with a rescue plan, and the leader of the resistance for what is, simply and wonderfully, just a love story. "Of course there are two themes, the love story and the science fiction," he explains. "What interests me is science fiction as a framed genre, like Blade Runner, which doesn't stop being a detective film. This is a romantic comedy; the invaders are in the background."

Vigalondo keeps discovering certain little details, such as the influence of The Exterminating Angel. "It was only when we saw the finished version that we discovered that the character we christened Ángel was stuck with that name in reference to the Buñuel film. And that the final shot was the same as that of Timecrimes. You discover surprises," he says.

The film stars a quartet of actors whose chemistry works wonders: Julián Villagrán and Michelle Jenner as the couple; Raúl Cimas as her boyfriend; and Carlos Areces as the neighbor. "One day we should study Carlos Areces, because he performs so subtlely. He is a prodigy. I'd like to make a drama with him." Vigalondo is now preparing Windows, a much bigger film than Extraterrestrial. "I like the idea of always having on the go a big project and a small one, which can jump into my career like this," he says. "I admire the agility of Isaki Lacuesta, for example. I want to impose the need on myself to move fast."

Lacuesta's Los pasos dobles is one of three Spanish movies up for the festival's top prize, the Golden Shell, alongside Enrique Urbizu's No habrá paz para los malvados (see New releases, right) and post-Civil War drama La voz dormida, which has received mixed reviews.

A more resoundingly positive reception greeted Arrugas, an animated adaptation of Paco Roca's touching graphic novel about senior citizens in a residential home, which showed in the Zabaltegi-New Directors section.

Nacho Vigalondo in San Sebastián.
Nacho Vigalondo in San Sebastián.EFE
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