Urban Cinefile
"I find pressure really makes my brain work. I like it, but sometimes that's frightening and the first couple of days I really blew. I just got it wrong"  -Sam Mendes on directing American Beauty
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Oscar-nominated for his first short film, Esposados, Spain’s Juan Carlos Fresnadillo made a big impact (and took home some awards) with his feature debut, Intacto, which suggests that luck can be stolen from people – and here he explains why; you’ll have to see the film to learn how.

Luck can be stolen… Not long ago I met a woman who has held on to a ticket for a flight she missed 17 years ago. She'd had a few too many drinks the night before and her plane had taken off from Madrid without her, probably with someone else in her seat, someone who'd had his name put on the waiting list. Someone who felt a winner to have been chosen by fate at the eleventh hour to occupy that seat on the plane; a feeling inversely proportional to the guilt the woman felt when she woke up hung over and realised that she wouldn't be making an important meeting. At that moment she didn't know that she would never have attended that meeting anyway. The plane crashed. There were no survivors.

"lucky charm"

When I asked her why she still had it she didn't exactly know what to say. After a short silence she reached the conclusion that it was her lucky charm…that piece of paper protected her. That woman was afraid of losing her amulet…afraid of losing her good luck. She was alive and could feel her luck just like the characters in the film "Intacto." As if it were a treasure you can possess and which, if you hold on to it, will make circumstances protect and favour you over and above all other mortals.
I've always been fascinated by the superstitious feeling that, one way or another, we've all at some time been captives. A delirious, magical feeling that turns the abstract and the chaotic, the uncontrollable movements of chance, into something concrete, ordered and tangible - an object that brings me good luck, a charm that brings order to chaos for my benefit.

When we wrote "Intacto" (Fresnadillo and Andrés M. Koppel) we let our imagination run wild and went one step further: not only can you possess luck through some object but if you've been singled out by the gods of luck, you can have the "gift." You can steal people's luck just by touching them. "Intacto" fully embraces that magical and dark notion of luck and takes it to an extreme, to a place of gambling and greed where all mortals have a coin - good luck - that you can win, lose or, if you're among the chosen, steal.

[In Intacto, four people are connected by fate, and discover that luck is something they cannot afford to be without. Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is a young thief and sole survivor of a horrific plane crash; Federico (Eusebio Poncela) has survived an earthquake and discovered he has the power to rob those around him of their good fortune; Sam (Max von Sydow) is the ultimate survivor, who lost everything but his life in a Nazi concentration camp; Sara (Monica Lopez) is a policewoman who walked away from a car crash that killed her family.]

"when luck is made tangible"

Thus when luck is made tangible, material, it becomes a limited, finite thing. Just like money. The inevitable logic of capitalism becomes, in this case, an extraordinary class struggle between those who possess fortune's treasure and those who don't.
But in "Intacto" there's a touch of perversion that gives an extra boost to the film: the "unlucky" ones are unaware of the battle they've unleashed, unaware that they're being robbed. Their luck, their destiny, is being used like a coin in a bet in a dark, destructive game which the very nature of the "lucky" ones has conjured up and laid on as the only relief to the feeling of guilt torturing them. Their luck is not their own. It is the result of a robbery. And, worst of all, a robbery committed even against one's own loved ones.

The sense of guilt and loneliness of the characters in the film is the same as I saw in the gleam in the eyes of that woman who refuses to let go of a plane ticket. A ticket that reminds her she is special…Because others were not.

Two years later, Max von Sydow accepted the role of Sam, the ‘God of Good Luck.’ The next thing we know, Andres and I are sitting across from one of the greatest film actors of all time, going over the lines of what later became the film’s most important scene...the monologue in which Sam describes his survival in a concentration camp.

After those sessions, Max was able to condense the theme of the film into one question, ‘What do you do with undeserved luck?’ It was a very emotional moment hearing that phrase again when he said farewell to us after filming his final scene. He came to me and gave me a hug that practically swept me off my feet. Max is a great man. I was reminded of the scene shot a few days earlier where Sam hugs Federico to take his ‘gift’ -- his luck. In this instance, the quality of the act was more amiable and realistic than that of the scene. It is probably because I felt his touch was a blessing.

I asked Max to sign one of the press books. Max wrote a dedication that is indelibly etched in my memory forever. That same night, someone stole the bag in which among other things, I kept that very special press book.

"a natural cycle of luck"

Good luck tokens come and go in a natural cycle of luck, so what was occurring to me was normal. I think we should all take our tokens of luck and intentionally lose them. The best way to attract good luck is to share it.

I felt that luck again, a year later, when Max von Sydow hugged me at a screening of the film, a gesture by a person whose immense nature comes not from luck or fortune but directly from the heart. At that moment it ran through my mind to replace my precious lost tokens, but there was no need to, as that emotional hug filled the void. There was no more room for anything else.

Intacto was one of the most heralded Spanish productions of 2001, receiving four Goya Awards (the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards), including Fresnadillo as Best New Director, Leonardo Sbaraglia as Best New Actor, Eusebio Poncela for Best Leading Actor, and Nacho Ruiz Capillas for Best Editing. It also received nominations for Antonio Dechent for Best Supporting Actor and Xavier Jimenez for Best Cinematography.

Published November 27, 2003

Email this article

Juan Carlos Fesnadillo


... onset

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020