In Cannes, director Jaime Rosales discusses playing with the viewer’s emotions and expectations, balancing a nonchalant acting style with a contrasted dramatic architecture, letting the film belong to the viewers, and more.
Cannes films often echo each other, but the similarities between Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows and Jaime Rosales’ Petra were particularly eerie. Both set in Spain, the two films tell a dramatic story of buried secrets and lies, illegitimate children, and forbidden passion. Both elicited laughter from an audience who were amused by their extremely dramatic twists and turns, worthy of a telenovela, and both even share an actress — Bárbara Lennie.
In Rosales’ film, she plays the titular Petra, a young woman who goes looking for the father she never knew. She meets Jaume (Joan Botey), a cruel man but a famous artist, his wife Marisa (Marisa Paredes), and his son, Lucas (Alex Brendemühl), with whom she soon begins a relationship.
Rosales undermines the expectations that come with such melodramatic tales of secrets and betrayal by breaking up the story into chapters or “canti” and presenting them out of chronological order. The subdued, almost unemotional acting of his incredible cast also runs against the emotionality of the story and stands in contrast with the highly expressive, over-the-top performances one might have anticipated. This original concoction makes for a captivating film that masterfully plays with the viewer’s expectations, curiosity, and desires, creating one of the most enjoyable films of the festival.
Rosales talked to me about thinking of the viewer’s experience, balancing a nonchalant acting style with a contrasted dramatic architecture, letting the film belong to the viewers, and more.