Julio Torres and Tilda Swinton Talk Comedy, Love Languages, and the Power of the White Witch from Narnia

Julio Torres and Tilda Swinton Talk Comedy, Love Languages, and the Power of the White Witch from Narnia

And I think that’s [there in] Julio, with this film. I think there is really a magical formula that is in this bottle of a film. That it is really about something, and really funny, and really magical, and really moving, all at once, all in one. It’s like that beautiful moment when you’re peeling an egg and that membrane comes off in one and it just goes, blah. It’s like the film is its own creature. It’s like blowing a really good bubble.

I was going to say—one of the things I really love about Problemista is how it shape-shifts throughout the runtime. How it’s like an immigration drama, but then at one point, it’s like a buddy cop comedy between the two of you—and it’s so funny and so absurd—and then it hits us with emotion.

Swinton: It’s convenient and fitting, because that experience of being caught in that nightmare [with immigration status], is very stop, start. Sporadic. Hilarious, nonsensical, bizarre—it’s all of that. The message fits the form, as Marshall McLuhan said. A straight drama about immigration could be quite brilliant, but it might be quite inaccurate, because it might not have that sense of being destabilized. And that sense of looking for the humanity and the weird.

I mean, if you are sitting in a waiting room, in a really desperate situation in a hospital or something, there’s going to be something funny going to happen in the waiting room, and what are you supposed to do? You’re going to ignore it? I mean, no, you take it in and you might even have a little chuckle, even though you’re going to see your dying relation. It’s life. That’s what life is. It’s all mixed up together. You don’t get these sort of soundtracks, gloomy music over everything. It’s just not like that.

Julio, I found the character of the mom in the movie so touching. You’ve talked in the past about what a genius your mom is, and her influence on you. I remember this one Instagram post where you said, “We express love by creating together.” Can you talk about that dynamic?

Torres: You know the term “love language”? Where [for some people, it’s] giving gifts or it’s touch? I think that ours is creation, creativity and collaborating. And some of my happiest earliest memories are of her taking a cardboard box and her X-acto knife and making me little houses to my exact specifications. It was like, “The doors have to open like this, and the windows have to be round.”

And that is so joyous, to make something and to champion each other. And when she’s making something, she’s sending me pictures of the ideas and the complete product. And this is the same.

I think that in directing, I have found a way of having those relationships with many, many, many people at the same time. And that is so exciting and so thrilling that I get to have sort of what I learned with my mother, and I get to have it with actors, with set decorators, with costume people, with lighting people.

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