The end of the world starts in Spain

Could ‘The Last Days’ herald a new era of sci-fi movies in the Spanish industry?

A scene from the apocalyptic movie The Last Days, which is set in Barcelona.
A scene from the apocalyptic movie The Last Days, which is set in Barcelona.

The Via Laietana, totally destroyed. El Hospital del Mar, burned to its very foundations. The Sants station, converted into the epicenter of evil. To sum up, the city of Barcelona like you’ve never seen it before. That is the way the Pastor brothers, David and Álex, portray the Catalan capital in their movie Los últimos días (or, The last days), which mixes an end-of-the-world tale with the buddy movie genre.

A mysterious global outbreak of agoraphobia is the unlikely setup for this sci-fi thriller. With the whole planet unable to step outside and civilization collapsing around him, Quim Gutiérrez (Azuloscurocasinegro) embarks on a search for girlfriend Marta Etura. It’s not often that a movie like this is made in Spain.

“We had a few technical complications,” explains Álex. “But everyone involved got very enthusiastic given that films like this normally aren’t made here. Spanish cinema has changed a lot in the last 20 years, it’s more eclectic, it has opened up more, although we are yet to really make our mark in terms of science fiction.”

“Every director has their favorite genre,” explains David. “And we are interested in fantasy in the widest sense of the term, although it is true that the two feature films we have made are apocalyptic.” Their debut film, Infectados, hit the screens back in 2009.

Directors like Álex de la Iglesia have dipped a toe into these genres, while others have based their career on them, as is the case with Nacho Vigalondo, who made movies such as Timecrimes and Extraterrestrial.

“For me sci-fi is not a genre,” explains Vigalondo. “But rather it’s a framework for either a drama, comedy or thriller. That’s why I feel so comfortable with it.” He argues that his first film was a thriller, and the second was a comedy. “In Spain, there haven’t been a lot of science fiction movies, because it’s a genre that requires a certain level of production values. Even the cheesiest American movies from the 1970s wanted to appear bigger than they were. And in Spain we are still carrying a certain inferiority complex in this respect.”

“It’s a cultural problem with Mediterranean countries,” explains Ángel Sala, the director of the Sitges fantasy film festival. “We are better at horror and gothic cinema, and I think that is because of our religious heritage. And as such, apart from a few honorable exceptions due to talent rather than budgets, we either do science fiction films that imitate what you see from Hollywood, but end up looking cheap, or we do it by simplifying the story.”

But in the case of the Pastor brothers, they believe that the sight of the city of Barcelona in ruins will do plenty to disturb audiences. “Because they are streets that they will have walked through, that they don’t just know from having seen them in films. And the main characters are not Americans on vacation in Europe, they are just like us.”

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