Interview with Mark Duplass, protagonist and screenwriter of “Language Lessons”

Apparently, like his character, he studied Spanish when he was in high school. Are you satisfied with the experience?

When I was starting high school, my older brother Jay advised me to study Spanish. I thought about it a lot, but then I chose that subject instead of geometry. I continued taking lessons afterwards at university. And the truth is that it has been a good choice, because that has allowed me to communicate with many people and get closer to the culture of Spanish-speaking countries.

when we were preparing Language Lessons, I found the idea of ​​acting in Spanish, and not in my native language, English, very interesting. I had to make an effort to achieve it, but I’m at a point in my career where I’m not afraid to take on challenges and fail, so we keep going. It’s good that he doesn’t master the language, because my character stumbles, and he has to struggle to find the right words, while the teacher corrects him.

mark duplass interviewHow long have you known Natalie Morales? How did the opportunity to work with her come about?

I had seen his work, and we knew each other. He admired her work and had always wanted to work with her. A couple of years ago, I found out that she intended to become a filmmaker, so I recruited her to direct an episode of my series. Room 104. I think she nailed it, but I got the bug to share the screen with her.

During the coronavirus pandemic, I was confined with my wife and two children. Among other activities, I resumed Spanish classes with teachers from Guatemala, with whom I immediately connected. That gave me the idea of ​​shooting a film about a Spanish teacher and her student, between whom a complex relationship could arise. It would be a small, cheap film to make, so my brain went into overdrive.

It occurred to me to call Natalie, and I asked her if she wanted to write the script for Language Lessons with me, since that way I don’t repeat myself, I avoid going back to elements of other films I’ve written. So we made it together.

The best thing about the film is that it does not tell a romantic story, which already abounds in the cinema, but rather one of friendship. Have you ever been tempted to make the main characters of Language Lessons will they fall in love?

At a time as complex and difficult as the coronavirus pandemic, we were clear that we wanted to shoot a film about human connection. We were dealing with a real “shit storm”. We wanted to narrate a love story without romantic elements, because that would lead us to the old scheme of “love is born”, “we fell in love and we are comfortable” and “now we wonder if we will continue together forever or not”. So we decided to eliminate the possibility of both leads getting involved by making my character gay. In the end, we shot a film about a platonic relationship.

Natalie pointed out early on that there really are few movies out there that tackle platonic male-female relationships in this way, that really dive deep into it. However, for me they are quite usual. Let me explain, I’m married, I’ve been with my wife for twenty years and I love her. So romance is off the table when I meet a woman, but that doesn’t mean I don’t connect with her in a platonic way, and we have pretty deep friendships.

The tape seems quite spontaneous, did they stick to the script at all?

No, we allow ourselves to improvise a lot. For example, sometimes my character mixes languages ​​because I couldn’t remember how to say a certain word in Spanish, so I end up expressing myself in Spanglish. Also, we had invented all the background of the characters, so we let ourselves go. For example, we knew there was going to be a scene in Language Lessons The one where my character was drunk, but we hadn’t quite written it, so I started talking about the fish that Adam had, even naming them as we went along. We liked it and we left it in the final assembly.

The film has elements reminiscent of wishing to loveby Wong Kar Wai.

Actually we both know and appreciate that movie. He has been one of our great influences, discarding the powerful and personal audiovisual style of the Hong Kong filmmaker. We didn’t want anything similar, because it had to be a very simple film, but we were inspired when dealing with the connection between our characters. If we have managed to make our humble film remember the work of Wong Kar Wai, it seems to me an honor.

Shooting such a simple film, did you expect it to be released internationally in theaters with such good results?

Whenever I shoot a film, I don’t expect it to be seen beyond the living room of my parents’ house. I always tell all aspiring filmmakers to take every opportunity to shoot a movie. Are you going on vacation for a weekend to a country house with friends? Well, take a camera and shoot something, something interesting can come out.

In this case, we were going to try to make it premiere Language Lessons some streaming platform, and even if we reached a cheap agreement, the film would have been profitable for us. To our astonishment, once it was finished, it was liked more than expected, so it was screened at the Berlin Festival, and some others, and it has been released in countries like Argentina and now Spain. We can only thank the public.

They don’t give me any more time for the interview, but I can’t leave without asking you this. Are you a scriptwriter for the saga of believe, of which I am a big fan. Can you advance some believe 3?

I appreciate you following us. Michael B. Jordan himself has taken over the direction of the third installment, but I have disassociated myself as a screenwriter, so I cannot advance anything. I’m proud to have written the first two, but I feel like changing and shooting different things. So now I too have become another fan, eager for the film to be released so that they can surprise me. Sylvester Stallone is also not going to be on board as an actor, which is a shame, but I trust the rest of those involved.

Remember that you can read more stories from movies and stay up to date with all film premieres on Decine21.com.

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