By Jordi Clusella
What does it mean to possess an object, but care little if at all for what happens to it? And what does it mean to possess the time one spends with another person? In either case, is this person who takes these things really, by definition, a thief? Barcelona-based filmmaker Jordi Clusella, along with screenwriter Marta Luque, explores these and other question in the new short film Kleptomaniac, which we are premiering today on DREAM.
In the short film, a character played by Pol Fernández is a kleptomaniac, manically stealing objects. That is, until young woman, played by Antonella Macchi, enters his life. Soon, the kleptomaniac finds himself at a crossroads. The compulsion to take endures, but now intersects squarely with love.
Clusella recently spoke to DREAM about the genesis of Kleptomaniac. How he and his collaborators researched the condition, but also how they aimed to make a more honest film about two very different types of compulsive behaviors—love and theft.
DREAM: How did the idea for Kleptomaniac come about?
Jordi Clusella: We tried to make a love story, but the starting point was the objects. So we tried to mix objects with a love story, and then we made up the idea of a kleptomaniac person who had a love for a woman, and was trying to be honest with her. That was the main idea in the beginning.
The way you treat kleptomania is interesting. In a lot of movies with kleptomaniac characters, the screenwriter and filmmaker don’t really get into the psychological motivations. The kleptomania seems rather superficial or shallow—a character trait that quite easily creates on-screen drama. Whereas you dive into the character psychology. From the beginning, your kleptomaniac seems more complex and torn by his behavior. The love he feels for the female character only seems to amplify this sentiment.
JC: Yes, that was the idea. In fact, we worked a lot with Pol, the main character of the short, to find the line between a kleptomaniac and a thief. For us, the differences between the two were key points for the construction of the script. We didn’t want to be shallow with the illness or the compulsion, so we found that a kleptomaniac is someone who doesn’t plan what they are going to steal. It’s like an instinct that they cannot control.
We watched a lot of video footage on the internet of kleptomaniacs taken from security cameras in shops. They are people who cannot avoid the feeling of wanting to take objects from a shop. So with the videos and articles on the internet, we had some cool material from which to build the character.
So did these videos inspire the way the actor moved as far as the scenes in which he can be seen taking objects?
JC: Kind of. The main question that the screenwriter, the actor, and myself asked was, why does our character want to steal objects? Well, he wants to possess things. We tried to be deep in exploring this part of the psychology of the kleptomaniac.
In choosing the objects you used as props in the film, was the selection process as random as a kleptomaniac is in taking things from people and places?
JC: Yes, that was the idea. We didn’t want to use strange or unusual objects. We tried to use objects that every one of us can see every day in a store, market, or on the street.
When researching this condition, did you gain any insight into what kleptomaniacs do with the objects they take?
JC: What we learned is that the main reason they steal things is because there is an emphasis on the moment that they steal things, but they aren’t supposed to be compulsive as far as saving or collecting these objects. In our case, we made our kleptomaniac’s home have a lot of boxes where he was storing the objects. This was a license to create an ending—the moment when he burns the objects, which for us was burning the past or trying to go to a new type of stealing. The stealing of [the girl’s] time.
This idea of the stealing of a person’s time is intriguing. Did you hit upon this idea early in the writing process as a sort of romantic notion? That is, the idea that when you are with someone you like or love, then you essentially are stealing time from them.
JC: Yes. This idea, for us, was beautiful because the kleptomania ends up being a declaration of love from the kleptomaniac. At the same time, we didn’t want it to have a Walt Disney happy ending. So we asked ourselves, is our character really going to stop stealing everything? Once you are no longer stealing objects, what do you have? We said, okay, this guy is going to steal time from people, which isn’t a material object, but he cannot control this compulsion to steal.
We’re kind of happy because we tried to be honest. We could have tried to do a more artistic or metaphysical short, but we chose to be more narrative or cinematic, and we’re very happy with the results.