Challenging the taboos around the depiction of sexual desire in elderly women, Ainhoa Rodríguez’s beautifully sensual music video for singer/songwriter Chloé Bird introduces us to Conchita, a conservative septuagenarian who following the death of her husband breaks free of suffocating social norms to embrace her sexual fantasy. A film we’re excited to premiere on Directors Notes today, I spoke to Ainhoa about the importance of disrupting entrenched societal repression and the delicate task of putting her lead actor at ease for this challenging role.
Fade exquisitely captures the sensuality of a woman in her later years, something which is almost never shown in popular media. What prompted you to break with social mores for this story?
In our societies, the fact that an older woman has an erotic desire is something that can not be possible, many people think that their desire simply doesn’t exist. I think it’s important to visualize female sexuality, especially in the elderly.
The languid cinematography keeps us guessing as to if this is pure fantasy or cherished memory, how did you arrive at that shooting style?
I was very interested in creating a sensual environment, but at the same time, threatening, between naturalism and dreams. Director of Photography Willy Jaúregui and I decided to shoot indoors taking advantage of natural light through the windows and combining it with artificial lighting, so we got that visual state between sleep and wakefulness. The camera (an Arri Amira) being handheld also helped.
The lavish house greatly adds to the film’s tone, what elements were you seeking when scouting out the location?
The house, luxurious but decadent, is the prison of Conchita (Teresa del Olmo). The elements that narrate the life of the protagonist and her social situation were present in the big house that we found as a natural place, it was only necessary to relocate them. In this story, there is an intention to rebel against the repressive strata of Spanish society, against dark Catholicism, against the reactionary army and the antiquated monarchy, and, in general, against the prevailing social customs that repress.
I think it’s important to visualize female sexuality, especially in the elderly.
Did you have any difficulty in casting Conchita (fantastically portrayed by Teresa del Olmo) given the partially nude and sexual nature of the role? How did you prepare her to play this character?
I could tell you that everything went well from the first moment, but it was not like that. It was difficult. It’s a very complicated role, a challenge for the actress. It’s difficult to play that role. Teresa del Olmo and her character (Conchita) are very different people with very different ideologies, but they are close because they are from the same generation, from the time of the Spanish dictatorship and, in this context, sex was a taboo. So, for Teresa, it was difficult to exaggerate the erotic attitude to seduce men in the scenes because they were women in a generation in which their status as women and sex were absolutely socially dissociated (and in most cases, I understand it intimately). In fact, to this day, they still are. It is not easy to expose yourself in that aspect.
Also, Tere did not know me, we had not worked together before, so there was that fear, that logical insecurity of the actor, of not knowing how I was going to deal with these most delicate scenes. However, little by little, essay after essay, we understood each other and she made an equitable interpretation.
What kind of reactions has the film received? Have you noticed any variation between different age groups?
The reception has been very positive at festivals around the world, especially among women. Older women spoke to me excited because they felt identified; young women have taken into account their need for release in the role of Conchita.
Do you have any new projects in the works?
I’m working on my first feature film that will star non-actors and will move between naturalism and surrealism. It’ll be shot in a small town in southern Spain, using the place as a set. The work will speak of the need of societies to fabulate, to give a meaning to life, other related issues are the pain of the loss of childhood and the pursuit of beauty.
Fade is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.