ND/NF: An interview with Unmade Beds director Alexis Dos Santos
Marking his return to New Directors/New Films this year is Alexis Dos Santos, whose debut feature Glue was among the 2007 crop of films. He’s back this year with Unmade Beds. Just picked up for domestic distribution by IFC Films, it centers on a young Spanish man searching for a father he’s never know and a French woman struggling with loneliness and the remember of love’s past. Like Glue, it takes a whimsical, aesthetically adventurous look at the rootlessness of contemporary young people. Set in the hipster precincts of London, the duel protagonists don’t meet until the film’s final reel, but share a sprawling flat with an assortment of other young, bohemian squatters.
“I’m attracted to stories about young people and youth culture in general” said Dos Santos when I chatted with him recently. “I’m not sure why. The films I’m interested in and writing now take place in that kind of world. I feel like I’m still there. I’m depicting things I can relate to, things that I know. I want to continue to make films that feel personal and this is the territory where I feel comfortable making those types of films.” Featuring terrific performances from its leads, the film, despite its wanderlust and visual poetry, is rooted in dueling tales of the search for interconnection with and solace from others; in Spainard Axel’s case, it’s a father who left him at a young age, in Frenchwoman Vera’s, its sustainable intimacy with a lover. About his sustained interest in tales of the young and unhinged, Dos Santos said “It’s something I might grow out of a few years time, but I’m still there. I don’t feel like, oh I’m a mature person, cause I’m not.”
Unmade Beds had its World Premiere at Sundance last January before making its International Premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film is already receiving broad acclaim. Manohla Dargis, writing about the film in The New York Times during Sundance, called it “an intimate, tender feature” that “has a level of formal ambition — the narrative is as elliptical as the lives it concerns, and even seemingly throwaway moments catch your eye.”
“What I’m trying to do in the film is to have two stories told in parallel using subjective film techniques as opposed to having the storyteller/director be omnipotent” said Dos Santos when asked what he attempting to achieve using the film’s duel protagonist structure. “What I’m trying to do is to get into this characters head. Every time you go into one of the stories you go straight into their point of view.”