Fabián Bielinsky

Nine Queens

Interviewed by Tom Dawson

Argentinian writer/director Fabián Bielinsky makes his directorial debut with the acclaimed con-artist thriller "Nine Queens"...

"Nine Queens" was a huge commercial and critical success in Argentina, but apparently it took you two years after writing the screenplay to set up a production deal. Why was it hard to find backers?

Partly it was because I was a first-time director whom nobody knew. Also, people told me that they wanted to make something more commercial. Before "Nine Queens", in Argentina if you wanted to make money with your film, you had to do a stupid comedy with television actors. "Nine Queens" proved that you could make a personal film, without big stars, which wasn't a comedy, and that it could still make a load of money and get good reviews.

How did you develop the screenplay, which is so intricately plotted?

I started out with a particular universe - that of the con-artists in Buenos Aires. Then I compressed the timeframe into just one day, because I wanted to make things easier for myself and to have less choices. Then I started to concentrate on these two characters, one who is the master, and one who is the pupil. And I followed them from scene to scene - it was almost like watching them. I only discovered the structure of the script after I completed it.

What made Ricardo Darín and Gastón Pauls so suitable for their roles as the conmen?

Ricardo is nothing like [his character] Marcos in real life, but he has this charm, which makes you believe that he can smooth-talk somebody into something. He can switch in and out of comedy in one second, and he can change his look in one second because he's a great actor. Gaston, the younger guy, has this baby face which was perfect for Juan. There's a purity about him, something child-like.

To what extend did you intend the film as an allegory for the current economic and social chaos in Argentina?

I knew I was making a social comment on society. But I wasn't saying that all my countrymen were crooks and conmen. I was talking about a feeling you could have in a certain environment that everybody is cheating and lying, and that nobody is telling the truth. If you see con-game films from other countries, you never think that the director is giving you the picture of the whole society.

"Nine Queens" opens in UK cinemas on Friday 12th July 2002.