Attracted by crime movies and sordid atmospheres, which he portrayed so well in films such as Manila, Susanna and Volverás, Antonio Chavarrías has written and directed the story of an episode that has become part of 20th-century history: the assassination of Trotsky by the Catalan Communist Ramon Mercader in August, 1940. Mexican actor Alfonso Herrera plays Mercader in an ambitious international production, shot in English. There was no need to add much to the script: the real story is already a genuine spy thriller in itself.
Mercader and Trotsky is not just any story, it's the story of the 20th century.
It does reflect that period well. First, because they were convinced about changing the world. It was a time of ideologies: Fascism, Nazism, Communism, all confronted during the Second World War, which was just beginning. They were all convinced they were right. This gave them a lot of force and explains the brutality, they were also very determined, compared to now, when we are a bit agnostic.
How would you define Mercader in a few words?
It's hard; he was a man who fought to change the world, to make it a better place. For me, Ramon Mercader was a victim.
He sacrificed himself for his ideals, at a high price.
Yes, he had a partner in Barcelona and he left her and everything else to become another person, even going against his own morality. But after all I've read about his life, my conclusion is that he was a moral man, with principles and humanity. He wasn't a fanatic. He was intelligent, sensitive, which makes the story more terrible.
It has all the ingredients of a spy story.
Indeed. After putting together the research, you end up with a thriller: he was recruited by the Russians, trained, successfully infiltrated, achieved his objectives while being confronted with personal problems and dilemmas. This is all history; we didn't have to invent it. I only had to create the dramatic atmosphere, the dialogues and the humanity of the characters.
As well as Mercader and Trotsky, there is a host of interesting characters.
The problem writing the script was deciding who to choose. Trotsky was a personality of the time, locked up in his house in Mexico, waiting for death; he knew they'd kill him. He was always joking about it. His secretaries were also interesting, loyal and involved, but they let themselves be fooled by Mercader.