Raúl Ruiz: An Annotated Filmography
Realismo Socialista (Considerádo Commo Una de las Bellas artes)
BENOÎT PEETERS: I presume that in the films you made in Chile, especially during the Popular Unity period, your relation to any script was relatively minimal. In films like The Expropriation or Socialist Realism, was there a script at all?
RAÚL RUIZ: With these two films, it’s true, there was no pre-writing whatsoever, especially in the dialogue. Nevertheless, in each case there was a scene breakdown, and above all a performance concept – defining basic rules upon which particular scenes could be developed. For example, I decided that there would be a dialogue between someone who spoke too loudly and another who spoke too softly, and that the softly-spoken one would be in command ... These films were indeed constituted around such oppositions. Accent, speaking style, class attitude – these became, beyond the words, the very subject of the film.
I started making films because I had the impression that films could violently introduce Chilean reality: places, faces, ways of speaking that usually weren’t shown. It was an ensemble of elements that we had to organise in such a way as to give them value, not repress them. It wasn’t a matter of someone saying, in a heavy Chilean accent, ‘I want to be a dentist’, and then showing how he became one. He had to speak differently, move differently, and we had to place a value upon everything that was a micro-element inside this reality. That led to the refusal of a script, also linked to what we knew at the time about the Nouvelle Vague and the improvisation methods that it proudly employed.
Games were what interested us. In preparing a scene, we sketched out a situation which could become a sort of ideogram-in-action. Later, I discovered comparable systems in Godard’s films of that time. There are also things of this kind in certain contemporary dance works, especially by Pina Bausch. For instance, we’d develop a chain of almost mechanical actions bordering on a circus routine; but simultaneously we’d work up a text which had no connection with that and which could, in itself, be taken perfectly seriously.
BP: Heterogeneous systems assembled within the same scene?
RR: Yes, like collages generating the action.
BP: And were the principles behind these collages written out? Were they anticipated?
RR: No, they weren’t written, but they were calculated all the same. For example, if you look at the game of repetitions in Socialist Realism, you can see that there are a number of exactly identical shots, of the same length, representing the same movements with minute variations, despite the metamorphoses in the action.
So these were, if you like, script ideas – but not on the level of a story that had to be realised. It’s not at all the kind of arrangement where all the elements were pre-set, but a system open to interpretation. More like a cooking recipe ...
In Socialist Realism, for example, I began from the idea of having two stories that would never meet (like in Faulkner’s Wild Palms), separated by a poem. The link would be made through this lyrical element placed at the centre – the element I eventually decided to throw out. These two stories would touch each other for a single moment, accidentally, and this moment would be secondary in relation to the totality of the film. It was important that the film run a long time – actually, more than four hours. So we have two characters: one of them lives in a petite bourgeoise milieu associated with the bureaucratic structures of Popular Unity; the other is a sort of proletarian sliding towards the lumpenproletariat. For one moment these characters meet each other and connect: that was the sort of basic structure I used. When I arrived in France, I found myself confronted with a completely different system of narration.
© Benoît Peeters 1986, translation by Rouge © 2004. Excerpted from "Annihilating the Script: Raúl Ruiz in Discussion with Benoît Peeters" in the Rouge Press book Raúl Ruiz: Images of Passage (2004).