EL LIMPIADOR, The Cleaner, written and directed by Adrian Saba is Peru’s Oscar Entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Award.
The Cleaner is about Eusebio, a quiet man, living his routine and solitary life even as the devastating, mysterious epidemic sweeping Lima keeps him busy from morning ‘til night. A forensic cleaner who sterilizes the apartments of the dead, Eusebio has more work than he can handle as Lima slowly crumbles. Accustomed as he is to working around those who can’t respond to him, Eusebio is understandably taken aback when he finds a young boy hiding deep in a closet at one of the apartments he is cleaning. Faced with caring for the youngster, Eusebio now finds himself challenged with the needs of the living and the empty cityscape of their dystopian drama.
Bijan Tehrani: How did you come up with the idea of “The Cleaner” and what inspired you to make the film.
Adrian Saba: I wanted to tell a story about finding our purpose, taking responsibility for it. I wanted to figure out what this implied. At the same time, I’m very curious about using cinema as a window that can transport us to another world, physically and emotionally.
BT: An amazing fact is that “The Cleaner” is a science fiction movie about now, and making this kind of film and make it believable is very hard, how did you manage to do this?
AS: I never realized I was making a science fiction movie until people started telling me after its first screenings and perhaps that is why. I wasn’t actively making a science fiction movie. And it’s not quite science fiction, or at least it doesn’t have all the stereotypes a science fiction film (because I wasn’t thinking about it) but it is a movie that happens in a world that doesn’t quite exist.
BT: How close is the final film to your original screenplay and how did you develop the characters?
AS: I can’t imagine my movie any different now. I don’t remember how it started, it all gets mixed up in the way. The movie evolves, it grows and there is only one way it can be. I wrote the film already thinking of my two main actors and also mostly all the supporting cast, I was lucky that almost all of them accepted to be in the film. I think that from the script I already imagined the characters quite well and tried to reflect it on their dialogs, or lack of them.
BT: Victor Prada has an amazing performance playing Eusebio as well as your child actor Adrian Du Bois as Joaquin. How did you go about casting the film and how did you work with your actors?
AS: We had 8 rehearsals with Victor Prada and Adrian Du Bois in which we would talk about overall ideas of the characters and then work very fine details, like the voice, the stance, having Victor eat with the left hand so that it felt more clumsy and brute due to the fact that Victor is actually right handed. So it was key to explore the big subjects that could be gathered in the soul of the actor and the little details that can build a character externally.
BT: How was the relationship of Victor Prada and Adrian Du Bois on the set, did that help the performances?
AS: Both Victor and Adrian are wonderful people, very easy going and always happy to give their best. Victor and Adrian would goof around in between takes or while waiting, it was a great atmosphere not just for them but for me too. We had a lot of fun.
BT: You have a very unique visual style in “The Cleaner”, how did you come up with this visual style and how much working with Cesar Fe, your director of cinematography helped to achieve what you wanted?
AS: I love when your other teammates take out the best in you, and when my crew makes me a better director. Cesar was the first person I shared the idea with, he was there since the very beginning, and I think it shows. Before the screenplay was even finished I’d talk with him about the film and he’d listen. And once things were certain that we’d make the film he started asking lots of questions. We talked a lot about the visual style of the film. Cinematography is just as important as the dialogs, it’s just another language. We wanted to develop a dead world, where all the colors had been sucked out. We wanted to find a world without hard shadows, where the camera was distant and cold, just like the main character. We wanted to find symmetry in an asymmetric world. I general I wanted all the technical aspects of the film to be an extension of the anatomy of the character of Eusebio.
BT: How do you see the chances of “The Cleaner” nomination for Best Foreign Language Film Award or winning it?
AS: I think we’re a small movie with a lot of heart. The movie has been a big surprise for me and the world since it premiered. It has been growing slowly and steadily, and hopefully it can keep on growing!
BT: Please tell us about your future projects.
AS: I’m working on my next film titled Donde Sueñan los Salvajes which is also set in Lima about dreams and kids. We’re looking to shoot beginning 2015. We’re basically waiting for the money and the summer; it’s a movie I need to shoot during the Peruvian summer because the summer light and weather is very important for this story.