Petra began in 2010 after a performance by Teatro El Publico of Carlos Diaz’ adaptation of The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, starring Fernando Hechavarria and Alicia Hechavarria . There was so much to be captivated by: Petra’s self destructive nature, Sidonie’s cruel and insensitive sentiments said with warmth and a loving candor, Marlene’s calm, collected and continuous flow of actions that were a constant source of chaos and confusion on stage, and being unable to confidently discern which roles were played by male actors or female actors, a layer added by Carlos Diaz that made the theme of duality in Fassbinder’s text palpable on stage. I walked away imagining, wondering, questioning. Las Amargas Lagrimas de Petra Von Kant would cement itself in my unconscious, unresolved until 2018 when I opened Man and His Symbols by Carl Gustav Jung.
Triggered by Jungian philosophy, I developed an insatiable interest in the Human psyche: dreams, archetypes, archaic symbols, and human spirituality. This study resurfaced a curiosity for Fassbinder’s text urging me to watch the original film and that’s when I finally understood the power this work had over me. A whole new underworld in the work was coming to light for the first time. I truly understood then what Carlos Diaz surely had understood from the beginning: The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant is a glance into Fassbinder’s own psyche, a man who addressed a film camera and said, “To be a whole human being, one needs to double oneself,” just hours before his death. It is that sense of introspection, that pursuit of wholeness as an artist and Individual, and that attraction to duality that is at the core of our film.
With Petra, I dig into my own psyche and paint a film around my own interpretation of the Principle of Duality. I’m 32 years old now and although I have already established my career as a Cinematographer, my dream remains to craft films that provoke thought, inspire introspection and help immortalize the Art that inspires me. Petra presents me with a multifarious opportunity: to bring my own psyche to life, to create an uncompromising film that is unique, honest and bold, and to do my part in promulgating theater by offering it to audiences through film, helping them understand the power Theater can have in all our lives.
The film was shot using Arri Alexa Mini and Cooke Prime Lenses. We opted to utilize mostly wider lenses so we could keep the camera close to the actors, preserving an intimate and theatrical atmosphere throughout the film. Since we were transforming male actors to play female roles, we decided to add a subtle diffusion to the lenses with Black ProMist Filters and we were very excited to see what this optical quality added to the surrealism of the world our production designers had created. We opted for a 1.67 aspect ratio for three reasons: First, because I had been shooting film photography as a visual study while writing the script and had become enamored with the composition opportunities a square frame provided. Second, we wanted people to perceive right out of the gate that we were making an odd film with artistic intent. And lastly, it was clear that the script was in every way centered around the characters themselves so we wanted a format that would allow us to fill the screen with the actors and not with whatever was surrounding them.