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Berneri: ‘My generation has a hard time growing up’

Argentine filmmaker Anahí Berneri.

“Aire libre is a film about love, about the tedium of a relationship, about the fidelity to those we love, and about personal treasons,” says Argentine filmmaker Anahí Berneri (Un año sin amor, Encarnación, Por tu culpa) about her new opus, which focuses on a typical couple with a child (played by Leonardo Sbaraglia, Celeste Cid, and Máximo Silva) undergoing a severe crisis as they attempt to make a new family home somewhere outside the city. Before the film’s general release this week, Berneri talked to the Herald about the perils of the quest for self-indulgence and self-satisfaction in today’s society.

What did you feel like doing after your last film?

I wanted to work on a love story: a story about couples, marriage and kids. About what happens to love, passion and eroticism as time passes. I’m talking about my generation, which I think has a hard time growing up and assuming parental roles because we cling to being children. Think that Manuel and Lucía have a strong bond with their parents, and so during the time they try to build a new home for themselves, they both go to their parent’s homes to live.

Why the difficulty in growing up?

It’s something typical of our time, and I think it has to do with our consumer society, which demands immediate happiness and staying young forever. Feeling young is a synonym of feeling good. Yet, I feel better now that I’m more mature, at least I feel there are less fears.

Once Manuel and Lucía move with their parents, things start to change...

They feel liberated from their marital obligations and their living together, they neglect their son, and their bodies are once again alluring and erotic. In fact, they look their best when they are not together and playing the seduction game outside marriage.

Don’t they see what’s happening?

Yes, they are actually facing a crisis they choose not to talk about. There’s something that’s not working in the couple, but they both decide to deny it. So things are left unsaid, but later on the bodies do the talking. If there’s no discourse, there are the bodies. And their bodies no longer belong to one another. That’s why their sexual encounters have to do with domination instead of seduction.

Do you find that bodies can be eloquent?

No doubt. I believe we are sexual beings. In its presence or its absence, our sexuality is always talking. This theme is little explored in Argentine cinema, and I’ve realized that my way of seeing is through the prism of sexuality. I think that talking about sexuality is perhaps the most authentic way to talk about the desires that define who we are.

There’s also a natural beauty in the way you shoot nude bodies...

I wanted to let the beauty in, but in a seamless manner. To show beauty, but not how this beauty is constructed. I needed lots of trust from the actors, since I had to expose their bodies as they are, and not posing for the camera. Yet, from the very beginning, I thought the two leads called for actors with really good looks. Because their sexual and erotic disenchantment was not due to not being good looking anymore. Instead, they cannot desire one another because the other is a territory already conquered. They can’t find anything to discover.

Isn’t staying together important enough?

I think the mandate is no longer “We’ll be together until death do us part,” but “We’ll be together as long as we are having a good time.” People are afraid of arguing, fighting, having a hard time and, of course, suffering. But a great love includes a degree of suffering, like it or not. And so does passion. But it seems romantic that love is totally underrated. Still, I’m a very romantic person.

So you truly believe in love.

I believe love has to be reinvented every day with the person we share our lives with. Or you have to look for it elsewhere. Everything we do is done to be loved, treasured, secured and approved. I guess that’s why many people who have seen the film feel so touched.

What do you mean?

We don’t want to see that we are with someone whom we don’t love as we used to, and that desire is no longer alive. Instead, it seems it’s easier to keep on going just because it’s safe and predictable. We don’t know if we are going to find another person to love, and even if what we have is no longer real love, it seems it’s better than nothing. But the ultimate truth is that you end up paying a very high price for such a life.

— P.S.

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