Truth be told
Director Amora Mautner tells DQ about helming Hidden Truths 2, a Brazilian series that blends mystery, eroticism and seduction in the secret world of fashion.
In 2015, Brazilian broadcaster Globo launched Hidden Truths, a telenovela that told the story of a teenager, Arlete, who comes to São Paulo to fulfil her dreams of a career as a top model. But instead, she starts working as a high-end prostitute named ‘Angel’ and meets powerful businessman Alex, who becomes mesmerised by her.
To stay close to Angel (Camila Queiroz), Alex (Rodrigo Lombardi) pretends to fall in love with her mother, Carolina (Drica Moraes). But at the show’s conclusion, Carolina discovers Angel and Alex together and kills herself, leading Angel to promise to avenge her death.
Six years later, writer Walcyr Carrasco (Sweet Diva) picks up the story in Hidden Truths 2, which is produced for streamer Globoplay. Across 50 new episodes, the show begins with the search for the truth behind Alex’s death, as his daughter Giovanna (Agatha Moreira) believes Angel killed him. As conflict between the pair erupts, the arrival of private investigator Cristiano (Rômulo Estrela) – hired by Giovanni to get closer to Angel – leads to a love triangle that threatens to reveal their deepest secrets.
Here, directed Amora Mautner (Brazil Avenue, Precious Pearl) tells DQ about helming Hidden Truths 2, reuniting with writer Carrasco on the show and the secret of directing such long-running series.
How does the series follow the original Hidden Truths?
The telenovela continues with a new story, but now it’s got a whole new atmosphere moving beyond the first story, based on a tragedy and moving towards a captivating erotic thriller.
You previously worked with Walcyr Carrasco on Sweet Diva (A Dona do Pedaço). How would you describe your partnership?
My relationship with Walcyr Carrasco goes way back, even before Sweet Diva. We worked together on The Thorn & the Rose, which I enjoyed very much, and that was the first time we met. After that, we collaborated in Sweet Diva and now on Hidden Truths 2. This partnership works so well because we can tell each other anything, and that’s how we do our best work. We enjoy our partnership in every way because we listen to each other. I am very happy with it.
Do you have a particular directing style?
I always start working on an abstract level. I try to understand how the text speaks to me and then I move on to research, where I study many different things. Rapha Leite [assistant director] and I began by organising all of that and researching references. We dove into the Nordic film scene, decoupage, plans and even wardrobe, as if we had a cloudier São Paulo without as much sun. It was very much based on Nordic films. We also studied 1990s erotic thrillers.
The series is described as a sexy and provocative thriller. How did you create the tone?
The greatest challenge, other than building the atmosphere these uncommon characters deserve, is to understand what is being described and turn it into a look and an atmosphere that, at first, may be odd and which is odd by design. Every 10 episodes, it becomes more genuine and we start to realise why everything is so odd in the lives of these characters, because we get to be inside their lives, and that makes them more and more human to the audience.
But that’s not all: another great challenge was shooting the sex scenes in a way that was comfortable for the actors, so that they would genuinely interact and give their input. I could say they and I directed the sex scenes together, and one of the challenges was to make these scenes feel organic to both the audience and the actors.
How do you prepare for a shoot?
I prepare by trying to be whole, by trying to understand what the energy on the set is going to be like. I try to induce a particular climate on the set so I can extract as much truth from the actors as possible. I also try to have the courage to always experiment with new things. On an objective level, I prepare by listening to music and reading, and that’s what I think is the greatest source of nourishment for our subconscious.
How would you describe the characters in the series?
They are amoral and kind of Nietzsche-like, in the sense that they live above good and evil, outside the limits of any moral compass. In this show, we don’t have any ‘heroes.’ They are all amoral, they all display the dark side of humans, and that’s what leads to the thriller feel. We try to fill the screen with an atmosphere that represents the subjectivity of these characters.
What techniques do you use to keep viewers hooked until the end of the show?
The secret lies in surprising the audience with plot twists and cliffhangers throughout. When you have a tightly framed text, you have a different process, as if you know what is coming ahead. In an open story like this, the challenge is to surprise viewers
The most important thing to me is to have a well-rounded concept from the get-go, because even if the story changes and takes a path elsewhere, we can’t lose the DNA of each character and the DNA of the story, which is connected to several aesthetic choices both in direction and tone. In an ideal world, that is set in stone from the beginning so we will always be in the same familiar atmosphere. That’s a big challenge people in the business understand – even if the story is in constant renewal, it’s got a common and consistent DNA.
You have directed hundreds of episodes of shows such as Sweet Diva, Rules of the Game (A Regra do Jogo) and Precious Pearl (Joia Rara). What is the secret to directing such long-running shows?
Directors have their own particular style. Directing is a point of view, and people have their own unique point of view. I have mine and it can vary, because I am the type of person who likes to be in constant transformation. I believe in movement above anything else.