This is how a perfect ‘thriller’ for the cinema is made

“For me the important thing is the structure, because I need to be clear about the composition,” says Rian Johnson. “I am interested in the characters, and the first thing I do is define them”, considers Javier Ruiz Caldera. Both filmmakers have released their last two works on Netflix, and curiously they have coincided in the classicity of their bets and their full integration into a genre, the thriller (Some critics consider the term synonymous with film noir; others, on the other hand, understand its connections although they reject their symbiosis). So the two of you can answer the keys to build a thriller classic and what elements are necessary to comply with the canon of the genre and succeed.

Johnson (Silver Spring, Maryland, 49 years old) has returned to his cocktail of Christie Agatha —drawing a Hercule Poirot for the new times— and modernity in Daggers in the Back: The Mystery of the Glass Onion, a whodunit (the English word that contracts into a term the phrase “who has done it”) of manual. Ruiz Caldera (Viladecans, 46 years old) brings to the screen in A man of action the life of Lucio Urtubia, anarchist bank robber and counterfeiter, a Spanish Robin Hood who in France in the eighties put Citibank in check, a man who fulfills the Anglo-Saxon saying of bigger than life. To recount his life full of small episodes of thriller, Ruiz Caldera has resorted to this genre, creating a game of Russian dolls and moving away from the documentaries that had already testified the adventures of Urtubia.

Johnson insists on the importance of the structure, “because from it the actions, the themes and the characters are derived.” “In spite of everything”, assures the American, “it seems fundamental to me that for the public the film has to be a trip, a walk, not a puzzle. Above all, in a thriller whodunit. The cards must be clear, cheating is not worth it. Because you can’t stop the viewer to decide, but rather the plot has to move smoothly”. In the case of Ruiz Caldera, the challenge was “in general, people’s lives have little to do with cinema, and this is a movie.” For this reason, he reconstructed the characters and, like Johnson, opted for the structure. “The thriller It has to work yes or no. You can’t put band-aids. So either you subservient to it, or you dedicate yourself to another genre, ”she says. “There are many Lucios, we have bet on one.” An unavoidable element for a protagonist in this genre? “Without a doubt, the charisma.”

Juanjo Ballesta and Javier Ruiz Caldera, on the set of ‘A Man of Action’. Photo: Quim Vives (Netflix)

Since it’s not the first thriller, nor the second, by Johnson, his experience has been adding to his inquiries in this genre. “It is true, I have been changing my approach to the genre. It may add more and more layers of complexity, and yet I feel like my commitment to making the ride more enjoyable for the public grows every day. That in the final trick they do not feel that they have been cheated”, he recounts before confessing: “Actually, in a greater or lesser way, all my films advance along that path, although I prefer not to be very aware of it, because I do not want to repeat myself as a filmmaker”. Ruiz Caldera recounts: “Because of how the Spanish industry works, they have only commissioned comedies from me. And I wanted to go out, take risks, enjoy genres like thriller. A man of action It has almost no comedy. Already in malnazidos there was drama, action and thriller Inside a zombie movie. I am as much a director as a spectator: I believe in genres and in playing with them. A man of action hooked by Lucio’s charisma, and also has his antagonist and his canonical macguffins”.

In this new installment of daggers in the back is Angela Lansbury in her last screen appearance, and that links it to the series It has written a crime, another audiovisual product that has sucked from Agatha Christie. “I am happy and proud with that connection in a very funny little moment. Also, I was able to meet her, because I went to her house to explain how we were going to film her appearance, which is done in the script through a group call. I like the detail from Lansbury, she brings more layers,” she says.

All for the trick, nothing for the story

Over time, the thriller has been mutating in the history of cinema. Some elements have been diluted, others have increased in importance. “Currently, the final trick is somewhat overrated, that notion that in the whodunits Let the resolution prevail over the story, when that is the most difficult part of writing a script”, says Johnson. “You can never, under any circumstances, lose the audience’s attention.” Another overrated detail: “Fitting the actors into the characters. You can’t write like that, but first you build the characters and then we’ll see which interpreter fits. Sometimes I see that, and it grates on me.” In the film by Ruiz Caldera, the great French filmmaker Jean Pierre Melville has served as a guide. “Her imprint of her transcends to this day. And that David vs. Goliath subgenre [en el caso de Urtubia, su falsificación de cheques de viaje lleva a Citibank al borde del abismo]… The reflection of a certain morality, a sense of decency, that existed in Melville’s cinema has been lost in the cinema. In my case, since Lucio was of that type, he fits into these codes of honor ”.

Javier Ruiz Caldera, on the set of ‘A Man of Action’.QUIM VIVES/NETFLIX (QUIM VIVES/NETFLIX)

For both deliveries daggers in the back, its creator considers that its great base is literature. “My referent is so obvious that why underline it,” he points out about Poirot and Agatha Christie. “In cinema, my perspective is also classic. For the first I based myself on those intrigues in the libraries of New England; for the second I thought about death on the nile with Peter Ustinov”, before insisting: “This time there is a bigger pirouette”. Says a filmmaker whose first film, Brick (2005), was a classic homage to film noir that adapted the world portrayed by Dashiel Hammett.

What creators do you use as references? “Well, most of them are television. Series from other times like It has written a crime to current as The Afterparty either Only murders in the building. Just seeing Steve Martin solving a crime warms my heart. Finally, of course, Kenneth Branagh’s version of Poirot. And you can always trust the BBC to see a good thriller”, replies Johnson. Ruiz Caldera’s referent was another: the polar, French film noir. “The older I get, the less referents I use, but the fleece marks A man of action, among other things because it takes place in a dirty, cloudy Paris, Melville-style. It is that all this is born from the character, who, on the one hand, complies with the classic rules, but on the other, he is a bricklayer! and he never ceased to be. No one with hands stained with cement has starred in a thriller, and that fascinated me.”

Rina Johnson, with Janelle Monáe on set.
Rina Johnson, with Janelle Monáe on set.

Every day, lovers of thriller they feel more abandoned in the cinema: the films that now boast the label of that genre are usually actually adventures or action with a twist ending. Ruiz Caldera believes so: “And that is why these bets are appreciated.” Johnson is clearer: “It is an adult audience that seeks and cannot find their films whodunits, certain. And I never understood why. When I released the first daggers in the back, I received a wave of love more for bringing this genre back than for the film itself.”

All the culture that goes with you awaits you here.



The literary novelties analyzed by our best critics in our weekly bulletin


Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits

We wish to give thanks to the author of this write-up for this awesome web content

This is how a perfect ‘thriller’ for the cinema is made

Explore our social media accounts along with other related pages