'Free fall', the journey of self-destruction of a despotic rhythmic gymnastics coach

Laura Jou jumped into feature film direction five years ago with Life without Sara Amat, a teenage drama based on the novel by Pep Puig that won the Audience and Critics awards at the BCN Film Fest.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
15 May 2024 Wednesday 16:33
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'Free fall', the journey of self-destruction of a despotic rhythmic gymnastics coach

Laura Jou jumped into feature film direction five years ago with Life without Sara Amat, a teenage drama based on the novel by Pep Puig that won the Audience and Critics awards at the BCN Film Fest. However, the Catalan filmmaker and screenwriter, who has also worked as an actress and is an acting coach, considers Free Fall, which opens this May 17, as her first film, since the project arose long before her debut. as a filmmaker.

“The film was born nine years ago when I met a 60-year-old friend who had gotten divorced. Her husband left her overnight and she found him two months later with a baby in a backpack next to a younger girl. My friend was going through menopause, in a critical moment and emotionally devastated by a forced divorce since she felt that he could start from scratch and she couldn't," explains Jou in conversation with this newspaper during the last edition of the BCN Film Fest, where the film participated in the official competition section.

The filmmaker confesses that she was very upset by this “very unfair” story and began to write a plot that she presented to Juan Antonio Bayona while they were working together on A Monster Comes to See Me. Finally, the Catalan director ended up producing the film alongside Sandra Hermida, Belén Atienza and Oriol Maymó. While he was developing the script, Jou was able to make La vida sin la Sara Amat and the miniseries Cucut and Fácil. “It has been a very long process and the script has gone through different versions. I became obsessed with the story, I did a lot of field work and I came across very strong testimonies of women abandoned by their husbands,” continues the director, who during this time has also experienced a hectic sentimental life.

The result is a film about the limits of power and sacrifice, centered around Marisol (Belén Rueda), a demanding national rhythmic gymnastics coach who, unable to deal with her painful personal experience, transfers her frustration to the gymnasts, especially a young Ukrainian woman named Angélica who does not have papers nor speaks Spanish well, with whom he behaves ruthlessly.

Rueda's role is inspired by the documentary Over the limit about the former president -“Snow White's witch, a monster”- of the Russian rhythmic gymnastics federation Irina Viner, “I saw that the rhythmic gymnastics environment suited him like a glove. finger to the character. Furthermore, there is no film in history whose context is rhythmic gymnastics and that gave it added value.”

The past of the Spanish scream queen Belén Rueda as a dancer was essential for her to be cast as the protagonist. She “she had the age and everything. She is super versatile and perfect,” she says about the Madrid actress. Ilay Kurelovic, Maria Netavrovana, Irene Escolar, and the collaborations of Manuela Vellés and Brays Efe complete the film's cast.

Free Fall, filmed on locations in Barcelona and in the facilities of the Sant Cugat High Performance Center (CAR), presents us with Marisol who uses contouring makeup every day to start the day. “Mark the light and dark areas. It is fashionable and it is like war makeup, like a mask to go out on the street that very well portrays a generation of women who have needed to dress as men and empower themselves in the bad sense of the word.”

Marisol is a woman who has reached the top in her profession but who has had to adopt a masculine, competitive attitude and does not know how to be receptive. “What is the cost of all this and how is the balance achieved between her most intimate relationships?” asks Jou, who maintains that “we are in a very intoxicated and competitive world” and admits that he has “learned a lot while filming the film, especially about psychology and cinema,” because both Bayona, Hermida, Atienza and Oriol Maymó are producers. perfectionists who don't pass a single one."

For Jou, Marisol is “an extremely controlling, rigid and authoritarian woman. She has needed these attributes to get where she is. But even at home she doesn't allow herself to relax. She hurts others and herself and the only person she is not so harsh with is her husband, but it turns out badly for her.” Free Fall also talks about second chances and emphasizes showing why someone whom everyone fears does what he does.

And, as a reflection, Jou believes that “when that kind of tower in which we think we are safe breaks, in some way we fly through the air to make contact with the earth and we realize how important the little things and self-respect.”