The last scene of Pictures of Ghosts brought me back to this notion of the gradual disappearance of places and witnessing the passage of time through spatial awareness. Was this ever an allegory you planned on building?
It’s hard to talk about that scene because I wanted to shoot it for a number of years. I was always going to end the film like that. When we finally set out to shoot the scene, I realized I did not have a dialogue ready, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask an actor to improvise an entire scene. So I sat down, wrote a short dialogue, and it just occurred to me that he would disappear. I really liked how it turned out. When you write something, you have a feeling that it is good, but you don’t really know what that means.
I was already thinking about movie palaces disappearing 30 years ago. Back in the ’90s, I was in a bus, sitting by the door, and this woman came in, asked if the bus went by the Cinema Rivoli, and the driver said it did. That was incredible because I knew the cinema had closed back in 1978, and we were now in 1992. These two people were talking about a place that didn’t exist anymore, but it still lived in their inner GPS.
This memory came back to me yesterday, and maybe that explains what the scene is. But also when you go through loss, the brain understands the loss but the body doesn’t. Maybe I’m psychoanalyzing it too much… I sat down, really liked what I wrote but didn’t know what it meant, and now I hear all kinds of interpretations. Some of them are silly, others really beautiful and poetic. I am open to suggestions.
Talking about beautiful and poetic… I first saw Pictures of Ghosts back in Cannes and thought about your speech at the festival’s jury press conference back in 2021, about the importance of preservation, the Brazilian Cinematheque and all that was happening politically in the country back then. Two years later, you return to Cannes right after the presidential elections that restored a sense of hope to many Brazilians. I’m wondering how it felt for you to be back in Cannes at that time.
Truly amazing, my god. When I was a jury member in Cannes, we were all concerned about what was being done to the Cinematheque. Imagine a bully taking a very precious piece of art, dangling it out of the building, looking at you with a smile and asking, “Should I drop it?” This is exactly what the government was doing to the Cinematheque at the time.