Dover’s 'Devil came to me', a quintessential album for an entire generation, turns 25, and we’re celebrating by chatting to some of its makers and analysing its impact.
An unexpected comeback
Carmelo Gómez returns to the big screen. A decision that could only come from a reencounter with Imanol Uribe. 'Llegaron de noche', which will be released at the Malaga Festival and will be in cinemas on 25th of March, is their sixth collaboration with the director, a story about the martyrs of the Central American University (UCA) which appeals to memory to not repeat the mistakes that erode the human soul.
The last time the audience got to see Carmelo Gómez (Sahagún, 1962) on the big screen was in 2016, specifically in The Tip of the Iceberg. From that moment onwards, the actor, winner of two Goya Awards (Numbered Days and The Method), decided to step away from film and focus on theatre, feeling the adrenaline rush that only the stage can provide. His comeback, which he himself says is a one-off given that the events that led him to take that decision persist, could only happen with Imanol Uribe, a director with whom he has established a trusting relationship, too trusting even. Llegaron de noche recounts the massacre that occurred at dawn on the 16th of November 1989, in the middle of the Salvadoran Civil War, when six Jesuits were murdered at the Central American University (UCA). In this film, the actor puts himself in the shoes of Father Tojeira, one of the survivors.
Llegaron de noche is your comeback to film after five years away, did you miss it?
I don’t feel that way about it. My leaving film was related to events that made sense of that decision. Today the situation is no different. It’s been several years since I’ve appeared on the big screen, and I still believe that I’ll only do so if the project entices me and if I find a trustworthy director. This adventure with Imanol Uribe, who’s also a good friend, ticks all the boxes. If something as exciting as this had come about sooner, perhaps I would’ve given in to the temptation of the cameras.
All these years, you’ve thrown yourself into theatre; what does theatre give you that film doesn’t?
Film and theatre have their own peculiarities, similarities, and differences, and they’re both appealing. The remarkable thing about theatre is the close proximity with the audience, that dizzy feeling, knowing that you’re putting everything on the line every day, the adrenaline rush and great pleasure of telling the full story, uncut.
“The remarkable thing about theatre is the close proximity with the audience, that dizzy feeling, knowing that you’re putting everything on the line every day”
Why come back now or, in other words, which part of the story told by Llegaron de noche drew you in?
I loved the script; I was fascinated by the courage and bravery of the story —a real event that was kept quiet— and its thriller elements. The film unambiguously tells the story of what happened. Also, its moral value, provided by its characters, people willing to do anything for the truth, which is hard to come by these days. So, this is a true story which strongly overlaps with these moments of fake news, detachment, and uprooting.
You play Father Tojeira, one of the survivors of the massacre, how do you approach a role based on a real person?
Tojeira is a real person, but once written down on paper, he becomes a character which the actor and director must come to grips with. I think that clinging to the real character’s features is a waste of time, although it allows you to show the technical mastery of copying gestures and tones and can win you some awards. But I think that moves us away from true creation. Actors have to adjust a fictional character to themselves and, from there, tell a story through them. When I spoke to Tojeira, I felt that his wish was for truth to win... There’s no greater challenge.
At a time when everything seems fleeting and facts are quickly forgotten, how important is it to tell stories, like the story of the martyrs of UCA, which help us remember?
Being aware of history helps us avoid repeating it. If we live democratically, a commitment to things is mandatory, in the end, we’re the ones who can change them. This can only be achieved slowly between us all; nobody should avoid that responsibility.
“When I spoke to Tojeira, I felt that his wish was for truth to win... There’s no greater challenge”
Llegaron de noche is your sixth collaboration with Imanol Uribe, what kind of relationship blooms between an actor and a director after so many shoots?
Imanol makes everything easy. He creates a sense of trust within the teams, and nobody ever gets upset. Knowing each other for so long is both good and bad. It’s good because some things can be left unsaid, but bad because trust can overstep lines that must never be crossed during filming. You have to be very level-headed to not fall into complacency.
You were born in Sahagún (León), grew up in a rural setting in the 1960s and became the “it” actor of the 1990s. Was your background what allowed you to keep your feet on the ground?
Yes, my hometown reminds me that dreams have a solid foundation in the earth. Even today, I can still close my eyes, go back there, and relive it with the deep scents and sensations of eternal happiness that only your childhood can bring back.
People usually say that actors are vain, but from afar you don’t seem like someone who looks for praise, am I on the right track or miles off?
Praise is a turn-off. Even self-made geniuses have succumbed to flattery. I’d go as far as to say that the moment you start to feel too much respect... beware! Lorca said something along these lines: “The theatres are full of deceiving sirens, garlanded with hothouse roses (...) Necessity and struggle temper the artist’s soul, which easy flattery destroys.”
After a career like yours, do you think that talent is born or made?
It’s born, and then something that’s more than talent is made. Our capacity to see is something innate, but what you do with that perception is also talent, but above all, life is what gives you the tools. And then there’s perseverance.
“Our capacity to see is something innate, but what you do with that perception is also talent”
What do you think Julio Medem, Imanol Uribe, or Gonzalo Suárez saw in that young Carmelo Gómez?
(Laughs) Let them answer. I’m sure they’ll agree on some things and disagree on others. It’s funny how what they saw can’t be seen today. “Never look for birds of this year in the nests of the last,” said none other than Cervantes. It’s hard to understand how one day’s values are no longer virtues the next day. Why does this happen? Are we such slaves to fashion? Really, this life is just a passage, and this profession even more so.
On your website we can see that you’ve given acting lessons, what advice would you give someone starting out?
If you like it, do it, but if you’re not sure, don’t even try. This job entails a lot of obstacles to happiness if you’re not willing to experience disappointment, unpaid work... If it’s not your true calling, you can easily end up in the dump. Finally, I recommend a short by Pasolini: Che cosa sono le nuvole?