Director Albert Serra will follow up his 2022 breakout “Pacifiction” with “Afternoons of Solitude,” an impressionistic documentary that will explore bullfighting from the tormented perspective of the man in the ring. The filmmaker is also developing his first English-language feature, Variety has learned.
“Bullfighting is one of the most excessive examples of the primitive origins of Southern European civilization,” Serra says of his longtime passion project. “It has a kind of showmanship on the edge of being art, and I like that idea. I like the violence of it. I like the pressure.”
“The film is about the spiritual pain of the torero,” he continues. “Of course we know about the animals’ suffering, but the humans involved suffer as well. I’m more focused on that than on the social debate about the practice.”
Produced by Serra’s longtime partners Luís Ferrón, Montse Triola and Pierre-Olivier Barde through their Andergraun Films banner, “Afternoons of Solitude” quietly began shooting last summer, and will pick up again in Seville, among other bullfighting meccas, once the season begins come spring.
Though Serra and crew will continue shooting through to fall, don’t expect the doc – which will recreate a series of acute mental states – to follow any kind of conventional production schedule.
“This is not a documentary where we follow the subjects for three days here and 10 days there, and then again three months later,” Serra says of his particular brand of slow cinema. “Instead, I want to be present, in the moment, living something unique while being able to manipulate, in a good sense, those feelings that intensify over this short period of time.”
“For me, this is where fantasy and fiction can evolve into something else,” he adds. “When you spend your time simply following people, it’s difficult to create that kind of fantasy, this kind of engagement. And I want to evolve the subject toward something very rough and wild and real. It’s a performance, after all.”
2022 proved to be something of a banner year for the Catalan auteur, who cracked the Cannes competition for the first time, and later won France’s most prestigious film trophy, the Prix Louis-Delluc. Now banking on that greater renown, Serra is developing an English-language feature with international partners.
If many firm details remain distant and undefined (“My inspiration comes from being on set,” says Serra), the filmmaker envisions an English-language project with the same scope as “Pacifiction” and the same singular sensibility. “I will not renounce any elements of my style,” he promises. “And anyway, the new producers don’t want me to!”
Serra’s credits also include “Story of My Death” (2013), winner of the Golden Leopard at Locarno, “Last Days of Louis XIV” (2016), which won a Lumiere Award for best actor for Jean-Pierre Léaud, and “Liberty” (2019), which won the Special Jury Prize in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section.