‘The Delinquents’ director Rodrigo Moreno, photo courtesy of MUBI

Director Rodrigo Moreno On His Argentine Heist Film ’The Delinquents’

By 22 March, 2024

A slow burning heist drama with a twist: Rodrigo Moreno creates a meditative, genre-bending take on a bank robbery gone wrong. This time fusing surreal, slow cinema into a narrative usually associated with a sense of panic and fast-pace. Sounds and Colours caught up with the filmmaker at last year’s BFI London Film Festival

S&C: You’ve had an incredible start to the festival run already, how has your experience been so far?

Rodrigo: It’s really important for me to be able to accompany the film at festivals, in the screenings and Q&A’s in order to gauge the reactions from audiences. As a creator you’re in a bubble in which you don’t get that feedback so it’s important to feel how the film is responded to. The film goes to so many places that it’s interesting to see the reaction the film gets in different places: an audience in London will be very different to an audience in a village in the very extreme north of Argentina, but what I’m finding is that the responses are very similar.

S&C: It’s nice to know that there’s that global connection to a film that’s very specific to Argentina. With BFI LFF especially, we’ve been so happy to see so many Latin American films on the programme this year. How has it felt bringing this Argentinian story worldwide and seeing it play out in different places?

Rodrigo: On the one hand I’m so happy that there are so many Argentine and Latin American films in general but I think within this idea of Latin America it’s very totalising. We tend to be hidden a bit as the rest of the continent, behind Brazil, but I think it’s very important to be able to pick up all those different idiosyncrasies and particularities between Argentina, Chile, Uruguay – all the aspects that make these countries distinct.

S&C: Thinking more about this notion of place, it plays an integral part in your story, specifically the restrictions of city life versus the freedoms that the natural world seems to give in rural areas. Can you speak a bit about these locations in your film?

Rodrigo: From the onset there was this division and contrast between life where things have to be productive, to life where things don’t have to be productive. When I’m filming a scene in a mountain, a hill or a busy street, I’m always filming it through that lens.

S&C: Is that something you connect with personally when you go to rural areas, do you sense that freedom and need to slow down? There’s the sequence of the film within a film, where they capture the beauty and stillness of the mountains.

Rodrigo: Well I grew up in Buenos Aires, I love living in the chaos and noise of the city. I think one of the sensibilities you develop as a filmmaker is the relationship to space and the environment that surrounds you, and also time. Filming brings you in touch with the present moment because the lens is capturing the present moment. There’s something about that connection I make, be it with a city scene or something in the countryside, which is pertinent in both cases: it’s about making a personal connection with those spaces.

S&C: There’s a split between those spaces, the lead protagonists Morán and Román, even structurally with parts one and two. With the divisions and differences between these characters in how they decide to approach the central conflict of what to do with the money, what happens with each of their fates?

Rodrigo: For me it was very interesting that one of them has a plan and he does everything to stick to it, and the other character is someone who is tied to someone else’s plan and finally obtains the same consequences by taking a totally different journey. I found this very funny also, to show both sides of the same fate. It also has to do with showing two different personalities, one is more audacious and the other is more passive. I like these two contradictions because the one who goes to prison and has to see through the sentence for the crime is not who’s suffering, the person who is suffering is the other.

S&C: It’s a brilliant take on the heist form. Could you speak about your choices around pacing and using time as a device to slow down the action that we would usually experience in a very fast way within this genre? 

Rodrigo: I find that these days you get a very conventional and predigested form of storytelling. From the starting point I wanted to break this stereotype that has become so common. When stories are told through film I am always left wanting to know more; I want to open up the film and make the film more generous, exploring all the elements. The discourse that Morán has in one scene around how we only live to work and our time in life is about work, it’s the centre of our existence, and the idea of the use of time having to be productive, I wanted that to be reflected in the format of the film as well. So the film had to have some time to be unproductive and useless. 

S&C: I also loved how money played into it and in another way challenges our expectations of the heist genre, as instead of robbing a bank to live a luxurious life or chase wealth itself, Morán simply wants to stop working and live a modest life. Similarly, the experience of going to the cinema, sitting down with your three-hour film, feels like a huge contrast to the fast-paced, easily digestible way we consume media at home.  

Rodrigo: What I try to offer in this fairly horrible world that we live in, is an alternative to the way things could be. I’d of course like to make the world a better place to live, through the film allowing the audience to wonder about their life condition in an enjoyable way. I’ve attempted to make the film joyful, full of light and bright. It’s my aim as a filmmaker.

The Delinquents is a MUBI release, in cinemas March 22nd.

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