I'm not one but many. . . I'm a mess
With L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE, CÚdric Klapisch presents a spirited snapshot of modern European youth at a time of great change, when the future seems at once terribly uncertain and wonderfully wide open. This atmosphere of excitement and chaos is reflected in the film's inventive digital style, which features naturalistic performances contrasted against playful special effects, a kind of streaming reality broken up by momentary splashes of dreams, fantasies and memories.
"I constructed L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE as a patchwork of odds and ends," says Klapisch. "This became an important principle in the film, because I think it speaks to the nature of things today. These students are searching for cohesion amid confusion, both the confusion of the world and the confusion of being in your 20s and still trying to figure out what you want, what you need, what you care about, and the difference between what you thought the world was like and what it's really like. "
Klapisch chose to use the latest Sony HD24p high-definition digital camera to match the sense of contemporary commotion and youthful experimentation at the heart of L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE. For him, the HD digicam's renowned versatility became a way to play with images and forge a visceral style with emotional as well as physical immediacy.
"I didn't want to make the same kind of digital film as I've seen before," he says. "I think this is a format that allows formidable and incredible freedom, it lets you do things you would never be able to do in 35mm, and I wanted to take advantage of that. The HD camera allows you to capture reality in a new way because it creates less of a barrier between the lens and the actor. One thus feels closer to 'real life. ' In a way it gives directors today what fast film and the new lighter cameras gave to the New Wave French directors in the 60s. It pushed me to play with the camera from a video perspective, rather than a film perspective, using multi-screen, dissolves, different speeds, etc. It was my intention to mix up that sense of documentary footage with the pure fiction of special effects. "
Klapisch says the film's style aims to reflect what he calls the "more and more discontinuous" essence of modern life, punctuated by constant stops and starts, ruptures and breaks, frenzies followed by periods of calm. It also reflects the frisson of emotions that course through a person emerging into adulthood; at times, Klapisch both slows and speeds up the film, sometimes to an almost Chaplinesque effect, in response to Xavier's ever-changing moods.
But Klapisch says he also wanted for his film "a style that is no-style, that takes elements of the romantic comedy, the sitcom, the social drama, but is none of these. That reflects the subject of the film, which is diversity. "
Throughout L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE, Klapisch gives abstract emotions and interior feelings innovative cinematic expression, as when he demonstrates Xavier's intense sensation of being overwhelmed by how many forms he has to fill out to join Erasmus, by overlaying form after form after form over the screen. In other scenes, the camera even journeys into Xavier's brain, merging memories, dreams and visions while Xavier receives a CAT scan searching for the source of his mysterious sensation that he is being followed by the real Erasmus. The digital camera also allowed Klapisch the flexibility to use natural lighting - such as the scene in which the lights go out in the apartment, a scene which was entirely lit by a single match!
Most of all, going digital allowed Klapisch to maintain the spirit of an experiment with a film that is about the European experiment of union and the youthful experimentation with love and life that leads to adulthood. Summarizes Klapisch: "In the end the whole film, the way it was written, cast and shot, was an experiment. It was very different than any other film I've ever made and in the beginning, nobody knew what was going to happen, what the result would be. Like Xavier's journey, it turned out to be a complicated but very happy experience. "
A truly wild city. .. - Xavier
Rarely seen on film, Barcelona has long been considered one of Europe's hippest and most exciting cities, now made up of nearly 3 million people, and often found on the cutting edge of art, architecture, fashion and style. Site of the 1992 Summer Olympics, it remains one of the most popular destinations in Europe for both young travelers and students - and one of the continent's most culturally diverse cities.
As Xavier soon discovers in L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE, the language of Barcelona is not Spanish but Catalan, a delicate and detailed dialect that most Spanish speakers can only understand marginally and is spoken in only one major city in the world: Barcelona. Catalan culture is also entirely unique, with an emphasis on constantly expressing one's individual identity, a way of life summed up by the word duende, which translates to exuberance or the spontaneous expression of emotion.
The city also looks like no other, with dynamic architecture, both new and old, on display everywhere. The city center is lined with wide boulevards, ornate fountains and picturesque shops-- and filled with crowds made for people-watching. The mix of Barcelona's architecture ranges from medieval gothic castles to buildings designed by the renowned architect Gaudi, whose fantastical, curving, color-filled structures are as monumental as they are eccentric and fun.
Among Gaudi's famous landmarks featured in L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE are the Sagrada Familia, a cathedral of eight flowing, symbol-laden towers begun in 1883, and still uncompleted when Gaudi died in 1926; and the Park Guell, a famously romantic spot made up of galleries, towers, mosaics and pavilions, and considered one of Gaudi's greatest masterpieces.
Says CÚdric Klapisch of the city: "Many cities could have worked for this movie, but I chose Barcelona because so very few films are shot there, and I knew the city and had fallen in love with its diversity. For many reasons, it is typical of Europe - because it is both very old with its historical sites and very modern with its incredible nightlife, and both very cosmopolitan but with its own strong Catalan identity. These paradoxes are what make Europe so complex and rich. "
What and Who is Erasmus . . . ? - Xavier
In L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE, Xavier signs up for the Erasmus exchange program, but during his year in Spain, he also finds himself encountering a haunting vision of the Dutch scholar Erasmus himself, a man who envisioned a future of different countries living in peace together.
The original Desideratus Erasmus was a 16th century writer, humanist and globe-trotter who became one of the leading thinkers of the Renaissance, a time during which concepts of science, philosophy and culture were radically changed. Ignoring traditional boundaries, Erasmus studied and taught all over Europe and it was said that everywhere he journeyed he brought new ideas with him. His best-known written work is "The Praise of Folly" (1551), a controversial pamphlet that criticized the behavior of political and church elites. satirized human vanity and called for more love and compassion. He was also noted for promoting the use of Latin as the shared international language of the day.
Named after the great cosmopolitan educator, the modern-day Erasmus exchange program was started in 1987 by the European Commission to promote unity and mobility between universities across the continent. The program launched with just 3000 students in 11 countries, but by now, more than 1 million students have participated in Erasmus, and the program is considered a major success story for the new European Union.
In the year after L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE was released in Europe, the program nearly doubled in popularity.