They turn the Tabacalera into a mental health center

From the Part Alta converted into a battlefield in the Civil War to the Tabacalera transformed into a mental health center at the end of the 70s with its gardens full of inmates on the run after a terrible fire. Tarragona has been the scene of numerous filmings. The result of one of the most recent can be seen since last Thursday in cinemas throughout Spain. 'The crooked lines of God' it was largely shot in the city.

“We were looking for an isolated building to reflect the stigma that people with mental illness suffered at that time, but we couldn't find it. In the end We saw the Tabacalera and we fell in love. I had everything against me because it was in the middle of Tarragona and we had to make a great technical deployment, scan the building and 'take it to the mountain'... but in the end we opted for the Tabacalera because it symbolized the idea we wanted to show", he explains. in an interview with 'Diari' the director of the film, the Barcelonan Oriol Paulo.

An idea that was reflected in the exterior scenes of the asylum (as it was called at the time) because those inside had to be shot in the old Mercedes factory in Barcelona.

Paulo: «Shooting in Tabacalera was quite a challenge because of the state it is in. I was very sorry for the abandonment. As soon as I saw the photos I said 'wow, this is what we want', but when we got there we all felt bad. We did not plan to shoot the interiors for the danger of filming indoors. There were even parts that could sink.

'The crooked lines of God' is the adaptation of the homonymous novel by Torcuato Luca de Tena. It is a psychological thriller, with crime includedset in a mental health center in which a private detective (Bárbara Lennie) infiltrates and confronts the director of the institution (Eduard Fernández). Loreto Mauleón, Javier Beltrán or Pablo Derqui are other members of the cast. Paulo's address is a guarantee. His latest film, 'Contratiempo', is excellent.

“We have reproduced what was a mental sanatorium in 1979. Patients with different pathologies were mixed and carried a stigma, but a new psychiatry was also emerging”, says Paulo. "We have shown a very normalized look, explaining how the patients lived," adds the filmmaker, who was thoroughly documented with psychiatrists.

Filming in Tarragona lasted a couple of weeks, during which the team lived in the city. Paulo already knew her because his mother is from Montblanc. “The experience was fantastic. We were able to shoot very comfortably”, says Paulo. They had the collaboration of the Tarragona Film Office.

«There was a more comfortable part, the one that we filmed during the day, in which we explained the day to day of the sanatorium. And a harder part, the night scenes, in which we had rain, a fire, a lot of figuration... Lighting and making it rain throughout the building was an important deployment. Many of the extras were from Tarragona and some of us take it to Barcelona. The extras were characters in themselves”, recalls Paulo.

Among those figures were Ángeles González, Julia Sánchez, Olga Sala, María del Carmen Figuerola and José María Tuset. All, except Julia, already act in amateur theater groups.

The five remember with special affection Fina Eloyanother of the extras who died last May, a year after the filming that took place between the end of June and the beginning of July 2021. They all became friends with Fina, who was the soul of the filming.

«The casting team traveled to Tarragona and selected the extras by the usual methods and perhaps by others not so usual», reveals the director. Certain. Olga explains that Oscar Valsecchi, one of the two responsible for the casting, «He began to whisper to me in the middle of the test 'you are ugly, you hate the world'. He whispered so many horrible things in my ear that I started to pull my hair out, I threw myself on the floor, I pulled on my shirt... I was crouched on the floor and Oscar came up to me and said 'I'm your elixir, your nurse, your goddess...'. I took the camera from him and started drooling.' The other responsible for the casting, Laura Cugat, was impressed. Olga was cast on the spot to play a woman with schizophrenia.

Olga, born in Switzerland but settled in TGN, studied lyrical singing in her native country. He not only sang as part of his role but in the breaks. Fina also entertained them with her jokes.

Tuset, who participates in Tarraco Viva with the Taleia group, gave life to a mentally ill man who believes he is Napoleon. «I was shouting 'à la guerre!' and, without knowing French, singing 'La Marsellesa'. A colleague, who is French, told me 'Napoleon wouldn't sing it because he wasn't a revolutionary' and I replied 'what does it matter, I'm crazy!' », He recounts between laughs.

The shooting was fun, explain the extras, but also hard, especially in the rainy scenes. The extras ended up soaking wet for several nightsapart from having to repeat more than one scene due to a small mistake by another extra. They charged 60 euros a day for a few days that went from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. the next day.

Josep Maria was surprised by the internal state of the Tabacalera. “I had never been inside. It's very sad as it is. With the amount of people that need a place, it could be a hotel of entities. But this is an endemic disease in Tarragona. La Savinosa has been abandoned for 60 years », he says. Her companions fully agree.

Àngeles, from the group 'Totteatre.som', represented a woman who has been in a psychiatric hospital all her life and has barely seen the light of day. She highlights the humanity of Oscar and Laura, who acted as 'coaches' for the extras: «They took great care of us. They were attentive and human. They were very attentive." Ángeles suffers from Parkinson's and remembers that "Oscar calmed me down" when she felt bad. She was fine and the rest of the extras also supported her.

Some of the extras from Tarragona moved to Barcelona to shoot the scenes inside the sanatorium. They performed alongside people with real disabilities and mental illnesses. "I would like to claim the need for them to be given a voice and visibility," says Àngeles.

Julia played a woman with Tourette's syndrome (a disease characterized by repetitive tics and, in some cases, by the person being unable to avoid saying obscene words or insults). “I had to show aggressiveness and not let anyone get close to me. looked down on everyone», he recalls.

Already retired, she found out about the casting because the daughter of a friend sent her a WhatsApp with the news of the 'Diari' in which the casting was announced and decided to try her luck. She did the test so well that they signed her right after finishing it.

Carme, who is also part of Totteatre.som, played the role of a woman who regresses to her childhood. She reveals that the extras got into the role so much, even in the breaks, "that she seemed real and there were times when they were scary». The five will go down in the history of movies shot in the city. The list is long.

Among the best-known films, 'La Gran Familia' (where the Residential Cityto which the 'Diari' dedicated another pelacanyes chronicle), 'La Teta y la Luna', 'The city of wonders', 'Soldiers of Salamina', 'I am Juani', 'Julia's eyes', ' Son of Cain', 'Kidnapping'... And among those with a geek touch, 'The Super Rowdies' (with Jackie Chan) and 'Tollywood Jame Bond' (a Bengali remake of the super agent).

Tarragona has been a film set for more than a century. On April 7, 1922, for example, the film 'Heroisms' was released. According to the director of the Municipal Newspaper Library, M. Elena Virgili, it had been shot entirely in the city and her goal was to raise funds to start up a hospital.

The actors belonged to the pelacanyes high society of the time and the script had been devised by the former director of 'Diari de Tarragona', Lluís de Salvador. The film included images of the cathedral, the walls, the Balcony of the Mediterranean, the Mèdol quarry... so it was also a kind of promotion of the city.

A decade and a half later, during the Civil War, 'L'Espoir', based on the novel by the French writer André Malraux, was shot in Tarragona between July and September 1938. The film was renamed 'Sierra de Teruel' and various streets of the Part Alta appear as the scene of bloody street fighting. The film was shot with live firewhich caused controversy by scaring the neighbors who thought that Franco's troops were approaching the city in the midst of the Battle of the Ebro.

It was even more controversial 'Tarragona Balcony of the Mediterranean'. Produced between 1956 and 1958 by the City Council itself, it was a visual, historical, religious and folkloric journey through the city. It had to be a form of international promotion, but, as detailed by the head of the Municipal Archive and Documentation Service, Jordi Piqué, it was a fiasco and also the budget skyrocketed.

A municipal disaster? Exorbitant costs? Time definitely does not pass by Tarragona. Pelacanyes reality always surpasses any fiction.

See the pelacañas chronicle about the Residential City

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