“I Think in Musical Terms”: Alejo Moguillansky’s on THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL

Moguillansky (center) with Cecilia Barrionuevo and Matías Piñeiro.

Moguillansky (center) with Cecilia Barrionuevo and Matías Piñeiro.

By Guillermo Severiche

Last Friday, March 2, Argentine filmmaker Alejo Moguillansky presented his most recent film The Little Match Girl / La vendedora de fósforos at the Lincoln Center in New York City as part of Cinema Tropical’s program Neighboring Scenes. After the screening, Moguillansky held a conversation on stage with co-programmer Cecilia Barrionuevo, and New York-based Argentine director Matías Piñeiro. 

“The film began when we were shooting a documentary about an opera, The Little Match Girl, at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires”, said Moguillansky referring to the origin of his movie. Later, Moguillansky reunited Helmut Lachenmann, the opera’s composer, with Margarita Fernández, one of the few pianists in Argentina who played his music and included this encounter in the final cut.

However, the documentary style did not pleased Moguillansky enough and he started to “surround the film with fiction.” He stated that the trigger of the fictional aspect of this project was a national strike led by workers in the transportation sector in Argentina. “We saw this Marxist composer (Lachenmann) facing a strike in Latin America and this was a very interesting image for me.” Furthermore, when he learned that Margarita was rehearsing Schubert’s Piano Sonata No 20, the famous song in Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthasar (1966), he decided to incorporate this cinematic reference to his film. Thus, Moguillansky’s final idea consisted on linking all of these different elements in one single film, including Anderson’s short story The Little Match Girl.

Regarding the humorous aspect of his work, Moguillansky added “I think that humor is for me a defense mechanism, a way of surviving.” After being asked about the use of repetitions as a formal strategy, Moguillansky responded that “repetitions are a conscious decision, because this kind of film is thought in terms of rhythm. As an editor, I have that particular way of thinking. I think in musical terms. I am bad with storytelling, so I feel more comfortable with musical forms and materials; both inside the shot and in the structure as a whole.”

Moguillansky was one of the three visiting Argentine filmmakers featured at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Neighboring Series series along with Santiago Mitre (The Summit) and Anahí Berneri (Alanis).