Juan Sarda speaks to Manuel Martín Cuenca about his fourth fiction feature which premieres in Toronto.

With his fourth fiction feature Cannibal, Manuel Martín Cuenca presents a dark, oppressive thriller about a psychopath who kills and then eats the women he desires. Antonio de la Torre (Cousins, Volver) plays the killer who lives in modern day Granada, and sees his world crumble when he falls for one of his potential victims.

The film premieres today at Toronto and Film Factory Entertainment handles international sales.

How do you gain audience interest when you have such a monster as protagonist?

We were never interested in making a psychological film. We portray this character as a representation of evil in which the “other” is denied. It’s about understanding the existence of this other. If we had a realistic character that wouldn’t be possible. Here it works as a tragedy. The only way of changing his ways is forgiveness.

Do you see cannibalism as a metaphor of how relationships work today?

It’s not only about that, it’s also a metaphor of the decadence and corruption that we’re seeing nowadays. It tries to reflect this time of confusion. The frontier of evil can be crossed by anybody. We cannot forget that Europe has been the place where some terrible things happened.

It’s very easy to locate a story like this in a third-world country where there seems to be no law. But this film wants to show how thin is the line that separates us from brutality.

There is a very significant scene in which the protagonist has a massage and he cannot stand this level of human kindness.

That’s someone who is touched and receives tenderness for the very first time and he runs away because he doesn’t know what love is. That’s when the love story begins and he realises his crimes. The deep subject is to answer the question if love can change a monster.

It’s a very cinematic film…

Cinema is a representation of reality, not reality. It’s a window that we open to other world. I like pure films, those that go to the essence.

No matter how bad he can get, as spectators we hope for his redemption.

As cinemagoers we are used to not let ourselves be surprised. I don’t think it’s positive to see a film to see something that reassures us in our ideas.

During the ’90s mostly we saw a lot of films about psycopaths. Now they seem more rare.

The figure of the serial killer has been replaced by the superheros and a more childish cinema. During the great recession we saw the birth of film noir and comic books. Both are a consequence of the same necessity of people to find a path and an answer to moral confusion and economic turmoil. Film noir doesn’t try to give that answer, it’s just a portrayal of this moment.

It’s a very physical film in which flesh and material have a great dominance.

For me cinema is a physical act. The mise en scene and the frame is a physical act. Film are about what you see, in that sense action is on the first place since its a film with not a lot of dialogue and you can feel that reality can be touched. Then sound, light, etc. has been worked to have this physical sensation. But there is an spiritual content. The film is precisely about a man who denies that and finally is a victim of this.

We see the famous Andalusian processions and several Catholic allusions. How do you conceive the religious elements?

Those religious elements are a very important part of Andalusian culture. We don’t want to explain a lot about that, they are for people to think about it. This introduces the notions of spirituality, the presence of the dead…

There is not a lot of violence. We never see actually the protagonist killing.

I don’t think that death can be shot. I am not interested either on blood or gore. I think is more powerful to imagine how this man is cutting up this corpse than to show it.

We are shocked by the sense of impunity. He kills and kills but no price is paid.

That’s something that happens today in our society. Who’s paying for the millions of unemployed? Who’s paying for the 100,000 deads in Syria? Nobody. We live in a world full of impunity.

Maybe somebody can expect that since the film happens in Andalusia there will be a lot of sun and joy….

In Granada, there are the snowed mountains more on the south of Europe. I am sure that a spectator who knows Lorca and the Spanish tradition will not be surprised. He also speaks about religiosity, death… Andalusia is a very dramatic place. Anyone who knows a minimum the south of Spain will find a literary and historical tradition of gruesomeness. In fact, I think that we Spanish are less aware of that than outside of our country.

How did you work with the audiovisual language?

There is a lot of out-of plane, very long sequence shots and frames are very carefully made, there are almost paintings. We also keep a convenient distance. I believe in not moving the camera too much and trying not be too formalist. The mise in scene is almost theatrical. That could be very easy, there are not a lot of locations and very little characters.

Everything is constructed around the main character. We wanted the audience to be in a way an accomplice of the secret of the killer.

Finally, it’s a very twisted one, but a love story.

The question is what capacity has love to change the past and redeem a person. The classical idea, or the most common, is that love is perfect, love is capable of saving any situation… We are not that sure.