Ariadna Gil: "Everyone can be an abuser, even successful people with resources"
BarcelonaAfter a period of time focused on theatre, Ariadna Gil (Barcelona, 1969) returns to cinema with the drama of the debutant Guillermo Ríos, Solo una vez. She plays the role of a therapist specialised in male violence providing treatment to a writer (Álex García) accused of having assaulted his partner (Sílvia Alonso). Just another case, or maybe not.
The therapist you play begins the session by asking her patient: "Why are you here?" It seems like a good question to start an interview.
— I'm here to defend this film, of course [laughs]. And in a broader sense too, because the story really hooked me while I was reading it. I'm attracted to the fact that it's all articulated through therapy sessions with an abuser. And it was a plus that he is played by Álex García, with whom I had already worked, because it was key that the two actors had a good relationship: it's a film basically of three actors talking, with a very theatrical mise-en-scene. And this was also a challenge.
Solo una vez adapts Marta Buchaca's play Només una vegada. Did you know her?
— I knew Marta and I had seen some of her work, but I was only able to see the play thanks to a recording that was given to me. And it was useful, because after all, the approach of the film is similar to that of the play. But once you see the recording you forget it and you start from scratch with the script you have.
Did you talk to a therapist to prepare for your role?
— Yes, with a therapist who had already collaborated with Marta to do the show and who came to some rehearsals and guided me to understand what her work consisted of. Obviously, this is fiction and we have an artistic license, but it's a delicate subject and you have to be careful when presenting these situations. In the end, what matters is that the characters are well written and captured in the script: you just give them existence and humanity, but it has to be calculated beforehand.
The film insists that there is not just one type of victim of male violence. Can we also all be aggressors?
— Marta's characters make a break with the stereotype of an abuser and a victim. No matter the education and social level, everyone can be a abuser, even successful and wealthy people. But violence goes beyond sexism. You have to differentiate between macho violence and other types of violence that arise as a response to situations of fear and anguish, as happens to my character, who is under so much pressure that she makes a very controversial decision. For me there are always alternatives to violence.
The victim and the abuser have one thing in common: fear.
— Yes, it's one of the elements. But also the fact of not wanting to recognise what is happening to you. Not identifying it and avoiding it with defence mechanisms such as justification or denial. It is difficult to accept that a person you care about is abusing you.
Many situations of abuse of power and harassment are coming to light in the field of cinema and theatre. Have you experienced any cases up close?
— I haven't come across any abuse of power or harsh situations. Things have happened to me, like all women. But I haven't come across directors who shout and torture actors. In fact, I've worked with people who had a reputation for being very tough, but I must have been lucky enough to catch them when they had overcome their bad temper [laughs]. I don't remember having experienced situations like that, and I think I would remember. Or who knows, maybe not, because sometimes things get blocked. In fact, that's why everything that's happening is important, to identify behaviour that wasn't as it should be.
It seems that in the last few years, theatre has been your priority. Perhaps now you find it more challenging than film? Doing plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov, a monologue by Marguerite Duras?
— Yes, these are very stimulating experiences that I'm lucky enough to have had. I haven't gone looking for them, I've never had the impulse or the confidence to do it. But it's true that I get impressive characters and texts from the theatre. I also get interesting things from the cinema, but in general they offer me less. I don't have a preference for one medium over the other, I decide according to the project.
It's been 35 years since many of us discovered you in El complot dels anells. Has your career been similar to what you wanted back then?
— I'm very happy. I was very lucky to start early and to work a lot, which was basically my aspiration. Every time I was offered a role it was like living a dream. Once I really wanted to work with a director, but after a short time he died and I never did it again [laughs]. It was Louis Malle, by the way. I saw Au revoir les enfants and it upset me so much that I became obsessed, I wanted to work with him no matter what, and you see.
Your daughter Violeta is also starting her career as an actress. What advice have you given her?
— It's just that my time was very different, I don't know if I can give her any advice. She is from a generation that is not waiting for things to happen. As the moment is very difficult, they don't just wait for a stroke of luck, they look for it themselves. They do castings and look for work, yes, but they also think about what they want to explain, how they want to do it. And this seems to me to be a brutal change, the result of hard times in which things don't come easily to you.
How did the pandemic and the confinement affect you professionally?
— We just finished shooting the film on March 6th last year. So I arrived in Madrid on the 7th, and on the 8th of March I went to demonstrate and on the 14th we were locked up. And I experienced it with a lot of anguish because of the magnitude of shock, because I didn't really know what was happening and I couldn't be near my parents. And, at the same time, a strange feeling of having nothing to do for months. The external pressure disappears and, somehow, you enjoy the silence and being able to do what you want within the four walls of your house. Luckily, mine is bright and has balconies.
And what do you think about the management of the pandemic in Madrid?
— I don't understand how they can put election results above lives and something that is causing so many people to suffer. Especially with this arrogance with which everything has been done.