The celebrated Spanish filmmaker sets out to lift our spirits with his camp, frothy airborne comedy I’m So Excited!
Film3Sixty: I’m So Excited! is a nod to your earlier comedies such as Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown. How was it returning to your roots, as it were?
Pedro Almodóvar: It was very funny to do it, although more for the actors than for me. It’s much tougher to make a comedy and the whole process of filming was one in which I had to have my eyes in the back of my head practically. But the film itself was a celebration for all of us. It was a joy to make because it took me back to the tone of the first films I made when I started off my career. It became unconsciously a kind of tribute to the 1980s.
F3S: It unfolds almost entirely within the confines of an airplane cabin. What made it so difficult?
PA: The filming itself was uncomfortable in the sense that you’re shooting in a tiny little space with a lot of interaction going on between the actors. That was new for me, to have to shoot in such a small space with so many actors. We had to rehearse and choreograph everything – not just the dance sequence [the three male flight attendants perform a rendition of the Pointer Sisters’ titular disco hit], but everything – months before we started filming.
F3S: Having three camp flight attendants front and centre makes it feel like a cabaret. Were you thinking theatrically when you wrote it?
PA: Not exactly. What I did have in my head was the typical American screwball comedy, the films of Ernst Lubitsch and Mitchell Leisen, which are actually based on the French boulevard theatrical tradition where everything takes place on one single set. But of course it would be very easy to make a play with this. It’s a movie based in words. Words are the actions in the movie; the dynamic is pushed by what the characters say.
F3S: Having just come off two darker narratives, Broken Embraces and The Skin I Live In, were you looking for a bit of light relief?
PA: Actually, when I made The Skin I Live In, I had this script already written. The rest of the team at my company, El Deseo, preferred me to do Los Amantes Pasajeros [I’m So Excited!’s Spanish title, which translates to Transient Lovers] first but I felt it wasn’t the right moment so I made The Skin I Live In. And thinking about the situation we are living through now in Spain, I thought it was a good idea to release a comedy in this moment, although it is just a coincidence that the timing of bringing it coincided with terrible times in Spanish society. But I’m happy they did coincide.
F3S: You slip in several references to the Spanish crisis. The airline’s called Peninsula Airways, the pilots drug the economy class to stop them protesting, there’s a dodgy banker on board…
PA: You’re right, all of the characters’ arcs are connected to Spanish society right now. But this is escapist comedy so you don’t really need to know all the details of what’s going on in Spain. The film is a metaphor: the fact that you’ve got a plane that’s going round and round in circles; the fact that no one knows when they’re going to be able to land or how dangerous that landing’s going to be. There’s a happy ending in the film but we don’t know if that’s going to be the case in Spain.
F3S: So what’s the message that I’m So Excited! is sending out?
PA: To celebrate, in these current difficult times, just being alive. To remind people that the greatest gift given to us by nature is sex. And to pay tribute to the new freedoms that we gained here in Spain in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s a good time for people to remember that.