An Interview with Pedro Costa (Director)
Cinema Travels Across Time
Q: I heard that the initial plan was to make a film more focused on music. Did anything from the original idea carry over to the finished Horse Money?
PC: There’s a famous musician by the name of Gil Scott-Heron, who I’d wanted to collaborate with in the making of a film. The plan was to make a one or two hour film with song and dialogue that would sort of be one gigantic piece of music or something like a prayer. I do feel that remnants of that idea can still be seen in this film. For example, the montage of various local people appearing as the film unfolds, the songs themselves, and especially the elevator scene where you can hear different voices of people behind the two characters.
Q: The scenes are not in chronological order. They seem to be in the order of a random resurrection of Ventura’s memory—is that what you intended?
PC: That’s exactly right. When the production of this film started with the elevator scene, I noticed that Ventura’s storytelling was not linear but kept jumping back and forth. It made me realize that the journey of this film should also be so. It’s like a sensation of travelling through time, as you can see in sci-fi movies. There is no other medium of expression aside from film that’s more suited for this kind of thing, because even a film that is set in the past always shows what is contemporary. Mizoguchi Kenji was a very smart filmmaker who understood this. In his The Life of Oharu (“Saikaku ichidai onna”), which on surface seems to be a story of the past, Oharu stands out as being a woman of today, a woman who will continue struggling with her journey no matter what era she lives in.
Compared to literature and painting which tackle time through freer and more complex approaches, cinema to this day is shackled to a very linear and over-simplified timeline. Time is tragic. We have memories of the past and plans for the future, but everything has an ending. Moreover, that ending is not dramatic but tragic.
Q: Can we save people from tragedy in the movies? In a sense I felt that Ventura was saved a little bit by being filmed by you.
PC: I myself am a very pessimistic person. I tend to think that film and art can do nothing for the people who suffer the most. But saying so would mean I’m attacking Ozu Yasujiro, Mizoguchi Kenji, and Charles Chaplin. I don’t want to criticize them, because they are the ones who actually managed to achieve this challenge. Characters in their films are very beautiful. They are brave, hurt, strong, weak . . . And that indeed is what people are. Chaplin’s movies work with children to this day, so that must mean there is hope.
Q: Can you tell us about the title of this film?
PC: It’s actually very simple. Ventura used to have a horse whose name was Money. I tend to believe that Money is the most evil thing our society invented. Nevertheless, for those like Ventura who have been pushed to the margins of society and want to get out, it’s true that Money could seem like a shining dream. By using the word Money in the title of this film, I thought I could make it resonate differently from the ugly meaning we often attach to it.
(Compiled by Inagaki Haruka)
Interviewers: Inagaki Haruka, Kawashima Shoichiro / Interpreter: Fujiwara Toshi / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Kano Megumi / Video: Miyata Mariko / 2015-10-13