Elena Anaya stars in the forthcoming DVD release, Hierro. Her character, Maria loses her young son Diego whilst on a ferry trip to the island of El Hierro.
Has he fallen overboard? Has he been abducted? Nobody knows. Diego simply vanishes.
Six months later…Maria is fighting to overcome the pain of her loss, to pick up the pieces and continue with her life, when she receives an unexpected call. A child’s body has been discovered; she must return to El Hierro. On the island, in this strange and threatening landscape, surrounded by sinister, malevolent characters, Maria is forced to confront her worst nightmares. As she travels the terrible path that may lead to her son, Maria will make the most unbearable discovery of all- that some mysteries should be never be revealed.
María is the most mature character you’ve played up until now, a mother who loses her son. How did you prepare for the role?
Gabe told me that we were going to make sure María had the full weight and maturity she required, because this is a woman who’s grown up very quickly. She lost her parents when she was young and lived with her sister, and one way or another she has organised her own life from a very early age, living alone with the person she adores so much, her son, who doesn’t have a father and around whom she creates a very particular micro-universe.
Gabe had every single scene in his head, and he explained very clearly to me what story he wanted to tell. After almost two months’ preparation, the character begins to breathe of its own accord. It’s a kind of gestation period, an evolutionary process where you have more options, a greater range of possibilities available, to convey who the character is and who you want the audience to see in her. My job was to breathe in time with the character, to maintain the same state of tension she has to bear: a highly charged emotional state. I lived in María’s world. This very personal and peculiar universe is centered on her son, on her relationship with her son, to such an extent they almost feed off each other. Maria is so attached to her son that without him she feels like she’s dying, she can’t breathe, she can’t accept this new reality, it’s just too harsh for her to take in.
We saw many children during the casting sessions, and many of them were fantastic, but I especially connected with Kaiet. He looked me in the eye and, if he got scared, he didn’t show it, he lived through it, and when he smiled, he smiled with his eyes. I felt like he could have been my son. Shooting the film with him has been fantastic. It’s always a bit difficult with children, because everything is up in the air. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the next take, you just don’t know how they’re going to react… and this kid has been just great, incredible.
To begin with, I was simply very interested in telling the story, but once I met Gabe I began to get really enthusiastic about the way it was going to be told, which is just as important as the story itself. I was practically living at Gabe’s house for a month and a half as we prepped the character. We went through the screenplay for about a month, not only to take the story apart bit by bit, but also to look at every aspect of the film. In Hierro the atmosphere is just as important as my character, and that atmosphere is created by all of the departments: production design, cinematography, wardrobe… All films come down to teamwork of course, but in this one specifically I’ve felt nourished each day by the work of everybody on the set. I needed that during prep, it was very gratifying and a great experience. It had to be that way, it would have been tough to make the story believable with just my performance.
What working method did you and Gabe use?
Gabe is maybe one of the directors who’s given me most – information and affection too. He’s been very precise throughout the process regarding how he wanted the two of us to tell this story… with the help, of course, of an extraordinary crew. It makes no difference if a director comes from the world of commercials or of theatre, if he’s shooting his first film or if he’s already directed two dozen. The very first day he told me “Film making is very difficult,” and I answered back “You’re so right, and it’s great you realise that”. There are people out there who think they know everything and instead of making the job easier, they make it more complicated. One of Gabe’s greatest strengths is that he left absolutely nothing to chance. It’s true we were lucky during the shoot, everything went just as planned, but above all there was lots and lots of work, loads of planning, lots of homework to be done, and that makes things flow in a very special way every day. It’s been such a beautiful experience and I always very much felt that everybody was by my side, which is a very good feeling when the time comes to do your thing in front of the camera.
How do you think Hierro has contributed to your career?
Hierro is the film I’ve enjoyed doing the most. For me it was just like a gift. I lived through the creative process on a daily basis, and that’s a great opportunity for me as an actress. And I’ve also made lots of friends. Given that it’s such a long and tiring creative process, it’s not always easy to come away with the kind of kindness and affection I’ve received every day here.