Beatriz is unsure that her husband is cured in Carlos Sorin’s psychological suspense film El Gato Desaparece.© Guacamole Films / Patagonik Film Group
Argentinean writer-director Carlos Sorin’s latest project, which had its international premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, follows a husband and wife navigating hope and fear in their relationship. In El Gato Desaparece (The Cat Vanishes), university professor Luis is returning home after several months in a psychiatric clinic. He went crazy after convincing himself that his assistant, Pablo, was trying to steal his notes on the philosophy of history, a project they had been working on for 15 years that was to become Luis’ magnum opus. When he also started accusing his wife Beatriz of helping Pablo and threatened her with violence, it was clearly time for psychiatric help. Beatriz looks forward to having him back, although she wonders if he is truly cured. When the family cat disappears the first day of his return, a dark misgiving nestles itself in her mind, fueled by exaggerated rumors of the cat’s death and suspicious behavior from Luis.
Sorin describes El Gato Desaparece as a suspense film with elements of horror. He and his director of photography Julián Apezteguia felt they had a lot of visual references to appeal to, but didn't want to recreate the obviousness of the genre. “Images in this type of film are usually dark and contrasty,” Sorin explains. “We decided to go in the opposite way. The location, a house where 70 percent of the scenes occur, was ample and luminous. Enormous windows shed bright sunlight in every room. It was only in the night scenes, when the situations become disturbing, we would go for the genre's typical ominous look.”
Sorin notes that he generally works with the same crew on all of his films. “It is a small crew, and because we share a lot of experiences together, we have learned to work efficiently. I also plan the mise-en-scène, already thinking about the photography, which makes things easier.”
The overarching classic theme made celluloid an obvious choice for the filmmakers. “From the beginning we decided to shoot in Super 35mm, using (KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film) 5219,” says Sorin. “It was a way to take advantage of the dramatic space offered by the location. There is also a lot of action that take place in second and third shots simultaneously. We used Carl Zeiss Ultra Prime lenses and accomplished the anamorphic process in post-production.
I am also trained professionally with images from photographic film, and it is hard for me to accept the digital image,” adds Sorin.
Camera angles and composition contributed to the look of the movie. “The camera was permanently mounted to a Panther crane, and even in the shots that seem still, there is an imperceptible movement towards or around the characters,” Sorin describes. “The image was always very composed and precise, but they were natural settings with no strange angulations. As a general rule, the camera position was always slightly lower than the characters, but the frequent use of close-ups created the need to negotiate the composition with such a panoramic screen.”
The movie’s workflow included dailies with a digital transfer to editorial. A small percentage of the material was printed to 35mm, so that Apezteguia could get a clear understanding of the look they were capturing and control it throughout the shoot. The anamorphic process was carried out optically, and Sorin obtained a final internegative. A DI was done with this internegative through Assimilate’s SCRATCH®, and the final product was output to 35mm prints on KODAK VISION Premier Color Print Film 2393 for the theatres.