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Interview: Director Jorge Dorado talks ‘Anna’

Jorge Dorado
Jorge Dorado
Courtesy of Jorge Dorado, used with permission

In the past, Jorge Dorado has worked with great directors like Guillermo Del Toro and Pedro Almodovar. Now, he’s making his directorial debut with “Anna,” which releases to theaters on June 6.

In the film, John (Mark Strong) can access people’s memories via a concept called Mindscape. His latest case involves a troubled teenager named Anna (Taissa Farmiga). John must enter her memories to figure out if Anna is a sociopath or the victim of trauma.

The Chico Movie Examiner recently conducted an over-the-phone interview with Dorado, who was in Madrid, Spain at the time this took place. Dorado spends half of his time there and the other half in Los Angeles.

Dorado discusses what he learned from working with both Almodovar and Del Toro; why the title of the film changed from “Mindscape” to “Anna”; and his use of the color red in the film. Check out the full interview below.

David Wangberg: I knew beforehand that this was rated R, but the reason why it has that rating is because of what happens at the end – and it’s a very brief scene, too. Was there ever a time where you thought you might be able to get away with making this PG-13 if you had altered that scene?

Jorge Dorado: Actually, I was really surprised that it’s not PG-13, because there’s a really soft [scene]. You’re talking about the pictures of the girls, right?

DW: Yeah, that scene.

JD: Yeah, it’s probably because of that. I was expecting somebody to tell me to pad that, but everybody was fine with that. For me, when you make a movie, it’s more about telling the story and without thinking about if it’ll be PG-13 or not. I think the rest [of the crew] were already pretty sure where they wanted to go with the movie, and how they’re going to tell the story in the best way.

DW: So, in Spain, is it a different rating than it is here in America? What’s the rating for it in Spain?

JD: Here, it’s like a PG-13 – something like that. The children can go with their parents. I’m afraid it’s not for everybody, but it’s easier [to access]. If a 12-year-old boy wants to go watch the movie, he can go with the parent. There are different levels [of ratings].

DW: You’ve worked with Pedro Almodovar and Guillermo Del Toro in the past. What’s the one thing you took from working with them that helped you create this film?

JD: For Pedro, I did two movies as an assistant director, so I had the choice to spend a lot of time with him on the set. From Pedro, what I learned is how to direct actors. His world and my world are very different. He’s amazing working with actors.

He’s always working and giving all the details to the acting directors, and I love how he communicates with them to not just finding the story, but also working in Anwar Luke, or capturing one position on the frame. I learned a lot from Pedro about how to lead the actors.

And from Guillermo, it was more about style. We worked together on “The Devil’s Backbone.” He was always nice with me. If I had any question about how he was shooting any one scene, he was really kind to me and showing me the shots or the storyboard.

I think it’s more like a piece of the style of Guillermo; it’s one of the big influences in “Anna.” Because how Guillermo tells the story is with shots, not only with the screenplay or dialogue or even with the actors. He’s always deciding on poetic frames.

DW: I saw that this was originally titled “Mindscape,” but now it’s called “Anna.” Was that because you felt the film is more about Anna than it is about the program?

JD: I wanted to tell the audience it’s going to be a story about this girl. I liked “Mindscape,” but when I think “Mindscape,” I think it’s more about the concept than what the story is about. “Mindscape” kind of plays more to a kidnap [story], or something like that – that’s why I liked “Mindscape.” But with “Anna,” I also felt that this is more like a film noir movie like “Laura,” the Otto Preminger movie.

DW: And it’s a very ambitious film, too. There’s a lot going on with entering someone’s memories and solving the mystery and all that. For this being your feature film, was there ever a moment for you where you thought you might be overambitious – where you thought you might be taking on more than you could handle?

JD: Not really. I worked for so many years as an assistant director, and I did short films and I also worked in commercials. And with commercials, you have the opposite; you have to tell one story in 30 seconds.

Here, you have more time, and you have to be more careful with a particular layer in the story, because you have to be sure [that] you’re never going to put off the audience, and I want my prosperity. [I want to] be sure that the audience is engaged to the story and is understanding what is happening. And then you go into different layers with the ambiance, and you work with the actors and everything.

I didn’t have enough time to think about the big challenge half of it was; it was more like, “I have 42 days of shooting.” So, I timed myself. Every day, it’s a different movie; it’s not the same one. It’s best to focus on the movie you want to work on today. That’s the way I handle everything.

DW: I love how John, Mark Strong’s character, is able to enter the minds of people to see their memories and place himself in the scene. And, throughout our lives, we hear people tell us their stories, tell us their memories, but we have to create our own vision of what they experienced. If you could have John’s abilities and actually place yourself inside someone’s memories, who would be that person?

JD: Wow! That’s a big thing. [laughs]

Certainly one of the talented directors, like Martin Scorsese, because I would love to travel to the sets of “Taxi Driver” or “Goodfellas” or “Raging Bull.” I would love to travel inside of the memory of one of the best filmmakers in the world. That’s clearly an option.

DW: I saw in another interview that you mentioned the film that inspired you to be a director was “La ardilla roja,” and you were 15 at the time you watched it. How would the 15-year-old Jorge react to a film like “Anna?”

JD: Wow! That’s a big question. [laughs]

I don’t know. It’s strange. The thing about a film like “Anna” is that some of it was made in Spain, and most of my career is in Spain. And the actors are from America and U.K. But I’m part of the generation that grew up with American movies from the 70s and the 80s – it’s kind of different.

Maybe a 15-year-old in this century is expecting different kinds of things – it’s very difficult [to figure out]. But a 15-year-old Jorge today, I think he would be impressed because of the amount of levels the story can have.

It could feel like a mainstream movie, if that’s what I wanted. You can try to make a movie that travels along the wall, but at the same time, be more at ease – try to combine a European point of view and American business. Maybe this 15-year-old boy can see that. If not, he can maybe do something to his liking.

DW: I noticed toward the end of the movie that there’s a lot of red coloring that shows up – the flowers, obviously the blood, and also the red house at the end. Is there a symbol you wanted to use with the color red?

JD: I worked with Alain Bainee, my production designer, and also my DP (director of photography), Oscar Faura – the guy who did “The Impossible” and “The Orphanage.” We were working in the car for so much time. And the deal was like in the real world, inside those memories, everything is more one [color].

And inside Anna’s memory with the school and everything, it’s more like different colors. Then we only wanted to use red as a symbol of freedom, but also something dangerous. The best symbol is the rose, and the rose is really part of the making of something that Anna cannot achieve. Not because she’s at the other side of the window; she’s still with the roses that, at the same time, are dangerous because they have thorns. That’s kind of the idea I wanted to play. It’s a nice kind of freedom, but it’s also dangerous.

I like to work with multiple ideas and put them into film. The fun thing with the movie is being able to go and explore more behind the color.

DW: There’s that great moment where Mr. Ortega asks the class if any of them knew anything about photography, and everyone in the class raises their hand. Anna is the last person to raise her hand, because she wants to go along with the rest of the class. Has there ever a moment in your life where everyone around you says they know something and then you just go along with them?

JD: [laughs] Yeah, actually. I was always the lonely guy in the school. Actually, that scene was created in the moment. Because at the beginning, it felt, to me, like there was so much about asking the question and raising the hands. But Anna is not raising her hand, because she never worked with photography before. On the set, we decided to do it where she is the last one, so she could be like, “Hey, I want to be like a normal girl like the other ones, even though I’m not.”

But, yeah, I felt like that so many times in my school. That’s a great question.

This concludes the interview, but the Chico Movie Examiner would like to thank Jorge Dorado for taking the time to talk about “Anna.”