Private Project


  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 24 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    June 11, 2015
  • Production Budget:
    2,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    Spain, United Kingdom
  • Language:
    Catalan, English
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Pre-Selected Festival International de Cinema Nador
  • Pre-Selected Eurocinema Film Festival
  • Pre-Selected Austria International Film Festival
  • Pre-Selected Malta Film Festival
    St George's Bay
  • Pre-Selected Cinema New York City
    New York
    United States
  • Pre-Selected Festival FICMA
Director Statement

Ponç Pons (1956-) is one of the most prolific and prize-winning writers in the Catalan language. His ‘eco-linguistic’ poetry argues for the defence and protection of the environment and culture of his island, Menorca.

This no-budget film is inspired by Pons’ works and influenced by the 1960s New Wave cinematic style. It was filmed in London and Menorca with just a photographic camera Canon 60D and a tripod.

The film’s title comes from the Latin ‘littera’, a ‘letter’ of the alphabet. In the plural (‘litterae’), it is used for ‘letter’, as in written correspondence, and also for ‘Literature’ and the ‘Fine Arts’. So the title highlights how letters combine in a meaning or word, and together those words create written messages that may transcend into ‘Literature’. For this reason, the letters L-T-R from ‘litterae’ are presented in specific parts of the film to reinforce the idea of producing Literature, and ultimately, promoting Culture. For example, the opening credits are based on Piet Mondrian’s ‘pure abstraction’ works. They tie in with one of the last scenes of the film, where a relationship is made between ‘cave’ and ‘action’ painting, or between ‘prehistoric art’ and ‘abstract expressionism’, to show people’s constant need to leave their mark, to have their voice heard: ‘I was here’; ‘I belong to this place’.

James and Nicole (the leading characters) discover the pleasure of reading through Pons’ poetry in a Catalan Culture seminar at a London university. Just a haiku inspires them to start a mythological journey. The story unfolds in parallel to this seminar, as can be deduced from the quotations from Pons’ works, the lights-off screening of the documentary about him, and the seminar itself at the end of the film. Briefly, James and Nicole start their journey in search of what they think is revealing and new. The beginning of such a fairy tale adventure could be compared with the setting off on a blank page to explore the limitlessness of imagination and the self. This explains the predominance of white (like an empty sheet of paper) in these scenes:

• The White Labyrinth. In order to achieve self-discovery, it is said we have to overcome the obstacles along our path. We see ants crossing one of the labyrinth walls, a small tribute to Salvador Dalí, and a metaphor for attempting to shed the fears and phobias hidden in our subconscious.

• The Potter’s Studio. There is a long tradition of ceramics throughout the Mediterranean. The main objective here is to show certain cultural expressions that define the identity of a particular region. So the glazed ceramic tile that James is holding and gazing into is made of red clay. It goes without saying that clay comes from the earth, from the land. He looks at himself in the mirror/ceramic tile to begin a kind of introspection in the hope of finding who he really is.

• The Quarry. Typical Menorcan houses are made from natural sandstone called ‘marès’, mined from a quarry in 70kg blocks. The scene conveys the idea of building a ‘common’ home and shelter, given that Pons defines Literature as a ‘universal homeland’ (‘pàtria universal’) where everyone is welcome.

• The Apartment. The living room is almost completely covered by white poster boards to picture the dreamlike atmosphere to which fiction leads us when we start reading or writing. The egg that James places in front of his eye, a reference to René Magritte, stresses the notion of seeing through the lens of imagination and fantasy. Besides, the lines along the poster boards represent the edges of the island that both characters are thinking of exploring. They could also be compared with a heart rate scan as a way to express the excitement of embarking on a literary journey.

Speaking of which, in the scene in the prehistoric ruins (Bronze Age megaliths known as ‘Talaiots’), the leading characters find themselves in a web of legends, myths and epic heroes (e.g. Ulysses), in other words, immersed in the Ancient Mediterranean culture to which Pons makes numerous references throughout his books. On a final note, the image of James lying on the rock should be linked with the female mythological figure from the ‘Allegory’ file’s last page that he finds in the Fine Arts archive scene. This image is inspired by one of Pons’ most popular lines: ‘I can’t be and I’m not anything other than literature’ (‘No puc ésser ni sóc més que literatura’). That is why, later in the scene, Nicole spreads ink over James’ body.

Now, given how the main actors are introduced in the film, we should pay attention to who James and Nicole really are: is Nicole a college student? Is she the Nicole with a ‘Grace Kelly’ dress, or rather the other one in black, based on the clothing of the two female protagonists from Bergman’s Persona (1966). Is Nicole perhaps the ‘girl with the keys’, a hypothetical estate agent who helps James move into the house he has rented. Or is Nicole a new Venus, a personification of ‘Literature’, seen as a sort of divine entity that embodies wisdom, hope, inspiration and love. She actually reappears dressed as such throughout the film, as in the scene where the memorable kiss part from Flesh and the Devil (1926) with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert is remade. In this scene we can actually read James’ lips delivering Gilbert’s lines: - ‘When you blow out the match’... Furthermore, who created all these characters: James the college student? Or that other James with a black tie and white shirt, a nod to Alain Delon in Melville’s The Samurai (1967), when he’s back at his hotel room and finds out that the Police are spying on him.

We could argue that when we share a passion for a given writer, sometimes we find ourselves as readers in a common dimension created by that writer. So why not the college students Nicole and James meeting each other in Pons’ literary world due to their shared attraction for his poetry? In this new world they will fall in love, and will become who they want to be. The possibilities are infinite. What is clear is that both Nicole and James constantly invite us to participate in their land of fiction, as in the apartment scene when they quote Ophelia from Hamlet: ‘T’have seen what I have seen, see what I see!’

Lastly, it is worth mentioning how some documentary and feature film features are interlinked throughout LITTERAE: in the quarry scene, James in black has been inserted into the ‘real’ daily work routines of a quarryman. In the pergola scene, James in black again, before hiding a folded piece of paper under an iron door, says: ‘I’d like people from there to come here to read it’. We come to the conclusion that he’s expecting some people from another dimension to be part of his. And in fact that folded piece of paper is still hidden over ‘there’, waiting for someone to pick it up, and unfold it to read what is written inside. Even the seminar scene is a fusion of ‘fiction’ and ‘reality’. Indeed, it was filmed at King’s College London, where Nicole and James (their real names) were studying Catalan, in that same classroom. Additionally, the actor who plays the role of the lecturer currently teaches Catalan Culture at King’s College London, and is the same person who directed LITTERAE.