Interview Kiti Mánver “Laughing is one of the best therapies”

Born in Antequerana, María Isabel Mantecón Venalte, better known as Kiti Mánver , made her film debut at the age of 17 in Chicas de Club under the direction of Jorge Grau. Since then she has been combining her work in film with theatre, her true passion, and television. Throughout her extensive professional career, Kiti Mánver has given us excellent performances in films such as Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón, Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios, La comunidad and Todo por la pasta (a film for which she won the Goya for Best Supporting Actress in 1992 under the direction of Enrique Urbizu).

Kiti Mánver is one of the best known faces in Spanish cinema. She has participated in films that are part of the history of our cinema and has worked for some of the best filmmakers on the national scene such as Pedro Almodóvar, José Luis Garci or Álex De la Iglesia.

After her role in the film El Inconveniente directed by Bernabé Rico, in El Antequirófano we have had the immense pleasure of talking to this wonderful actress. One of the most versatile and beloved actresses on the current scene. Kiti Mánver, an actress who has been making herself thanks to her passion for her work. Here we leave you the interview. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did doing it.

Interview Kiti Mánver

The ante-operative. As a result of this conversation we had the opportunity to review her career and the truth is that it is impressive. There has been a lot of talk about this being perhaps the best role you have ever played in your life. Do you feel that this is really true?

Kiti Mánver. “No, I don’t, no. This role has been a gift but, throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to play wonderful characters.”

EA. How would you describe Lola, the character you play in the film?

KM. “Lola is a woman who is given up by the doctors. But she doesn’t pay much attention to the recommendations and decides, in the time she has left to live, to have a little better economic possibilities and so she decides to sell her flat. I know this story very well because we had to convince our mother to do the same”.

EA: What things do you share with the protagonist?

KM. “I’m quite energetic too, but I take care of myself quite a lot. I’m conscious of my age to get down the mountain as well as I can. Because life, as a good friend of mine says, is about going up the mountain and then coming down it. And to be able to go down the mountain you have to be as well as possible physically, spiritually and intellectually. And for that you have to take care of yourself, without a doubt. In that sense, I don’t look like Lola. But I do energetically. I also like to laugh a lot like her. I tend to be a cheerful person”.

EA: How did you prepare for the role, did you have a chance to talk to a doctor or study anything about the pathology your character was going to suffer from?

KM. “Well, no. No, because I actually had people very close to me who could be similar to the character. In this case I thought it was better to focus on my partner, on the director and on what I wanted to tell and to find a way to make people buy this possible friendship between these two very different women. Because that was the rarest thing in the film and difficult to achieve. Because if you don’t get that in the film, the film is a failure. So we focused a lot on that and I think that the proposal, which of course Juana (Acosta) quickly accepted, to study it together, was the real preparation. The preparation of characters is not just knowing the text, it involves delving into the stories of those two people.

The daily study of that for a month, that was the real preparation. Seeing how these “little pearls” emerge as you work. The director had already worked with us for two weeks and had laid the foundations of what he wanted to tell in the film and what he wanted the characters to be like, and we worked with those foundations. I have never enjoyed being in the studio as much as I did while we were making this film. I had a partner who was 100% committed, that was a total discovery that made my work much easier because it was pure enjoyment. The whole process has been very creativ.

The power of cinema

EA: Do you believe in the power of film as a tool for popularising science? Can film be useful in bringing certain pathologies closer to the public? Do you think that film makes us more empathetic?

KM. “Of course it does. Everything that is audiovisual, everything that comes from culture, including painting and film, is of course a very valuable tool for disseminating, for teaching, for advising, for criticising too, of course. Even to denounce things that are not right. For example, the thousands of things that pharmaceutical companies do to “make a fortune”. But, of course, to teach and to educate, without a doubt”.

EA. El inconveniente walks between drama and comedy. Do you lean more towards one of the two genres?

KM. “No. Not at all. My favourite genre is tragicomedy. This film is a tragicomedy. In fact, nowadays, they call them dramedies. For me it’s a genre that is my favourite, also in theatre, because it requires a mastery, an alertness, a fine-tuning because you have to be very truthful in both things. And in the course of two seconds, from one word to the next, you have to make the audience go from laughing to tears. I love tragicomedy. I also like to do dramas, I also like to do comedies, but of course I find tragicomedy richer and more beautiful.

EA: Do you believe in the healing role of laughter, that laughter can be part of a therapy?

KM. “It’s very old, isn’t it, that the best therapies that exist are based on laughter. It is absolutely recommended. I think it is the therapy par excellence. The problem is that, unfortunately, the society we are creating means that children who laugh so much when they are very young, as soon as they start to grow up, we start with this education which, in my opinion, we don’t know how to do any better. With this no, no, no. Logically, limits have to be set, but this is done by killing other parts of creativity. And laughter has to do with creativity. It is an essential part of being human. To laugh. To have that capacity, starting with oneself. It seems to me that you have to start from there, to have the ability to laugh at yourself in order to be able to make others laugh. You can’t laugh at others, you have to laugh with others”.

EA: What weight do you think such human feelings have in the film, and unfortunately now so close to us, such as the fear of loneliness, death and suffering?

KM. “It is a theme that has always haunted human beings. Our western culture is a little ‘slow’ in preparing us for it. The Orientals, for example, have a culture that adopts death as part of life, as something much more natural, without so much fear of death. What happens is that religions, in general, always use fear for their own business and, frankly, they don’t help to prepare us for that moment.

If there is one thing that is clear, it is death, which will come to all of us. And yet we do not prepare ourselves or we are not prepared for it. There is a lot of fear. Look at the number of depressions that are occurring now, not only among the elderly. Because the elderly, in short, have been practising loneliness for some time. We were very surprised with this film, The Drawback, by the number of very young people who were fascinated by the film, and I have the feeling that since they have seen the light of day with the issue of loneliness and the pandemic and having to seclude ourselves and all this, it’s like they are more sensitive.

I think there are many things to change in education and teaching and one of them is this. Linking religion to education does not help us to come to death in a more serene way. I don’t want to die, of course, because I like life very much, but I have to arm myself with things, with studies, with whatever it takes, with preparation, with some therapy, to understand that this is the way it is and that we cannot fight against it but that we have to accept it and live with it as a more natural thing. I would like that to change, but that has to change from education, from an early age”.

EA. We consider El inconveniente to be a real ode to optimism, second chances and unconditional friendship. Do you feel that way? Do you consider the friendship established between the two protagonists to be somewhat utopian?

KM. “Not utopian at all. This is another of the things that have been told as a maxim, about how bad we women are with ourselves, the envy. This is not real. There is envy in all sexes, in all conditions and in all classes. But the reality is that it is not like that. The reality is that there are so many women who do so much for other women. And if they would let us do more, for the whole world.

Because it is time for there to be more power with women in the world because the other has been tried and tested for millions of years. It is obvious, it has been tried and tested ad nauseam. Even the governments that have more and more women are reaping incredible results. Because they know how to distribute better, to manage better. The issue of competitiveness is not as exacerbated as in men.

There are a series of conditions that I think would be good for humanity, if we were really more, not imitating, but being free. That would bring great things to humanity. The friendship of the protagonists in the film is not so unconditional, but respecting each other’s side, one can reach very deep and very satisfying friendships for both parties. And this is a story of sisterhood, of affection between women, because two women help each other. Not only do they help each other, but they grow with this friendship personally”.

EA: Do you think this is a film we could recommend to patients?

KM. “To patients, to children, to the elderly. It’s a film that has something vital about it, you don’t expect it, moreover. At the beginning, it seems like it’s going to be a “comedy” but little by little it turns into a story that has a lot of depth, something that touches us all very deeply.

Moreover, the film also has its share of denunciation, that is to say, why so much for the future? We have to go to the time. And now is one of the clearest moments. It is suggested that now is the important thing because, from one day to the next, everything changes completely. It happens to Sara’s character. Because Lola already knows that she is going to die because she has her heart disease and she is knackered and she is also a slut who doesn’t stop smoking and drinking. But, for the other one, it’s a surprise. And it is also a very beautiful film precisely because of the number of surprises it contains. Many people around us identify with these characters”.

EA: Do you think cinema, theatre, show business will recover, will we get to know it again as we knew it before the pandemic, do you think we will have a second chance?

KM. “I don’t think anything will be the same as before this pandemic. Not the cinema, not the theatre, not anything. What we should learn is how ephemeral everything they try to sell you is and not go back to the same old things. Film and theatre people have been reinventing themselves by leaps and bounds because it is one of the most punished professions. The situation of our profession is painful. There are lots of families who, fortunately, the association of our image rights, the foundation, has created aids and is supporting many families with very important aids to be able to survive.

Because the profession is not just the four actors who occasionally appear on TV. There are a lot of professionals behind us. It is a team profession that tends to show solidarity because we work as a team. Without a make-up artist, without the person who dresses you, without the man who sets up the lights, the one who sets up the sound or the one who gives you the apparatus you have to have in your hands at that moment, without all those people, those workers, we wouldn’t be able to work.

The entertainment sector has been one of the hardest hit, despite the generosity with which they have behaved during the pandemic. Because you have to look at the number of musicians, writers, poets, actors, singers, who have given and how they have given, how they have given, how they have given, so “on the nose”, so that people could have that time more covered and have the opportunity to learn, laugh, vibrate, sing, feel music. All for FREE. All the people of culture. But without the institutional support of culture it is very difficult. The most advanced and richest countries are the ones that invest the most in culture”.

Kiti Mánver

Kiti Mánver: the role of women in cinema today

EA: What is your opinion on the role of women in film today, and do you think we are closer to equality?

KM. “Not at all, there is still a long way to go. Three years ago there was a very good step and a lot of things started to happen but the following year it was another disaster. You can see something in the awards but the reality is that right now it’s difficult for a woman to get her script produced or a production company to make it. The percentage is vastly different, it is very far from what equality means. But not only in the production of films, but also in the characters.

Look, I’m “flipping out” that I got this jewel and this gift because if you’ve seen 10 Spanish films the male characters are at least 70%. That is a reality. So there is still a lot left because women have a lot to tell and a lot to contribute. I think we are good educators and we could go on telling many things. So, we are nowhere near equality. We have to keep working.

Culture and education are two things that should go absolutely hand in hand and benefit everyone, from the cradle and from us who also have to relearn certain language that we are using. We do not realise this and we encourage this, from school, from all places, from all areas. And culture and education are essential because that’s where everything starts from”.

EA: Where does your love of acting come from, and is there any character you have yet to play?

KM. “I’m sure (laughs), let’s hope so. Let’s see, I’ve been very “all-rounder”. I love cinema but my strong base is theatre. Let’s say that I am in this profession because of the theatre. I am a vocational actress. I think I’m an actress because I couldn’t be anything else. I can’t think of a specific reason why I am an actress. It’s part of me and that’s it. And I’ve withdrawn many times, because I don’t know, I couldn’t find my place. In fact, I’ve even spent two years in a row without doing anything, something that happens to a lot of actors.

After that, I’ve been developing, training and working. At the age of 25 I was lucky enough to have two colleagues in front of me who got me into a production story and from then on I started to lose my fear and to go deeper into this profession. If you produce, you learn to know this profession in more depth.

I’ve been very lucky, I’ve done characters. Not so much in films. I’m not one of those actresses with leading roles, I’m more of a supporting actress, the eternal supporting actress, as I’m often called. In fact, in this film I’ve been given awards for the leading role and I’ve always been presented as the eternal supporting actress. And it’s true, but let’s say that I have a very calm ego because theatre has many things. Although when they give me a role, even a small one, I have a great time too”.

EA. Kiti, can you recommend a book and a film to our readers?

KM. “Now I don’t have much patience for films but if they show To be or not to be I’ll watch the whole thing, Lubitsch’s, because it’s a masterpiece. Or Gilda. There are so many films that I love, in so many different genres. One film that I loved, that I found breathtakingly beautiful and very strange is Fanny and Alexander by Ingmar Bergman. But if I have to tell you one, there are so many, I couldn’t tell you. And in our cinema there are films that are real gems. Of course, The Holy Innocents. There was also incredible cinema in black and white. Calabuchby Berlanga or Atraco a las tres by José María Forqué. I’ve seen so many good things. But I couldn’t say: “this made me become an actress”.

And with regard to current cinema, I really liked Adú. Then, I’ve seen documentaries that have impressed me. For example, I’ve seen one that even made me cry a bit, called Palabras para un fin del mundo (Words for the end of the world ) by Manuel Menchón. It moved me to tears. It talks about Unamuno and the birth of the Second Republic. It is based only on real documents. The voice is provided by the maestro Pepe Sacristán and it’s marvellous.

There is also another funny film, in a different style, El plan de Polo Menárguez. It is a very simple film, with three actors. It also starts off as just another comedy and yet I loved it. I saw another documentary a few days ago, Rol and Rol by Chus Gutierrez, another wonderful director, in which she talks about gender equality. The problem of women in the world of culture. It’s a documentary film featuring female directors and actresses. I really liked that one.

I’m re-reading a lot now. Right now I’m reading Saadat Hasan Manto, he writes short stories. I had already read Ten Rupees. Stories from India. This one is very good. It’s like another culture and another way of telling things that is very strong because he talks about things with less modesty. Very interesting and recommendable”.

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