There can’t be many young directors lucky enough to be granted an audience with Guillermo del Toro, let alone get him on board as a producer. But that’s precisely what Guillem Morales, 37, from Barcelona, Spain, did a few years ago. Del Toro got involved almost immediately when he saw the script (penned by Morales) for Julia’s Eyes, a psych-thriller that explores a young woman’s terror as she investigates her sister’s death while going blind.
We sat down with Guillem to ask him what it was like to work with Del Toro, why he loves video games and what he really finds terrifying.
JULIA'S EYES IS OUT IN CINEMAS ACROSS THE UK ON FRIDAY 20 MAY.
YOUR LAST FILM AN UNCERTAIN GUEST WAS A HORROR FILM TOO. WHAT IS IT ABOUT HORROR THAT APPEALS TO YOU?
I feel very comfortable doing thriller horrors. I know some people think that the thriller genre is not as serious as drama but to me it feels like the most flexible genre.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE HORROR FILM?
I like the kinds of films you don’t see much of these days like Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining. They are so subtle and are much more concerned with creating atmosphere. I think we need to recover some classic things that films today have lost.
HOW DO YOU CREATE SUSPENCE AND ATMOSPHERE?
By hiding things mainly and by using space to dramatic effect. For example in Julia’s Eyes there are all the different perspectives. Also there is a section of film when Julia’s eyes are covered by the bandage where the camera doesn’t allow you to see any of the other actors’ faces – I wanted the audience to share Julia’s frustration.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH GUILLERMO DEL TORO?
We met three years ago and he loved the script and got involved very quickly. It has been an amazing experience. As the co-producer Guillermo makes you feel very safe because you know he’s going to take care of absolutely everything. We had a very creative dialogue from the beginning. As a filmmaker he respects your decisions a lot.
IS HE SIMILAR TO YOU?
We are completely different in some ways. For example, he loves the gothic aesthetic but I think that’s a bit old-fashioned. I’m trying to resurrect old styles of film-making in a more modern setting.
HOW DID YOU GET THE CAST TO PLAY BEING BLIND SO CONVINCINGLY?
Actually, we discovered by accident that the contacts the girls in the blind school used to make their eyes look different actually made them semi-blind while they were wearing them, so that helped! We also went to a real blind college to observe moment and so on.
YOU HAVE SAID BEFORE THAT YOU LOVE VIDEO GAMES. DOES THAT IMPACT ON YOUR FILM-MAKING?
I was very interested in one video game – Silent Hill – and I asked my production designer to translate the aesthetic premises into the film. Julia’s world used to be beautiful but not anymore. There is nothing beautiful left to see, and that is quite like Silent Hill, which is kind of a pared down communist aesthetic.
JULIA IS SCARED OF LOSING HER EYESIGHT. WHAT ARE YOU SCARED OF?
I wouldn’t tell you! Fear is the most fragile part of human nature so you have to keep it to yourself. I suppose going mad is quite a scary concept. It implies isolation.