Life Has Been Wonderful To Me
Ismael Tounia in conversation with Ángela Molina
Photography Gorka Postigo, Styling Nono Vasquez
Ángela Molina started her acting career at a young age. Upon making her first movie at 18, she became one of the leading actresses of the period known as the Transición Española. It refers to the era following the death of Franco in 1975, in which Spain transitioned from a fascist dictatorship to a democracy with the consolidation of a parliamentary system, recognised rights and freedoms and a profound shift in society that was reflected and enhanced by the new cultural scene. It wasn’t long before Ángela Molina began working with renowned directors such as Luis Buñuel, Pedro Almodóvar, Elio Petri, Allain Tanner, Ridley Scott, Bigas Luna and Marco Bellocchio, earning her place as one of the most celebrated and awarded Spanish actresses of all time with around 100 titles under her belt.
Born into a dynasty of artists and the daughter of Antonio Molina, one of the nation’s most famous singers,Ángela Molina has been an icon in her country and abroad for over 50 years.
DUST met with Ángela Molina to discuss herself and the past, present and future of Spain.
Angela Molina wears MiuMiu
Ismael Tounia – Hi Ángela, how are you? Where are you now?
Ángela Molina – I’m great. I’m happy. I’m in Madrid this morning, but I have a plane at 3pm. I’m working on a middle-ages-themed series in France until mid-December. I am enjoying it very much. In general, life has been wonderful to me, and I’m still building on it.
I.T. – Let’s start from the beginning, when your career started.
A.M. – The past is so long, remember that I’m a thousand years old.
I.T. – Haha, you sure don’t look like it. Let’s briefly say that your career began in the mid-70s during the transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Young as you were, you were part of Spain’s most committed and liberating art scene while the country was still pretty much repressed at the time. Were you aware of how much of an impact you were having not only as a public figure but also due to the characters you were playing?
A.M. – Yes, I was. We knew we were doing something different. It was a complicated time in Spain; there was a lot to handle at that time. Nevertheless, I was fortunate to find people who became my allies in many ways. These people taught me how to grow, how to observe, how to trust, and how to take an active part in the ʽcompromise’ Spain needed to move forward. We needed to move towards truth as a society. That was the process we pushed forwards. It had to do with philosophical truth because philosophy is a fight and its weapons are reason and knowledge, while its enemies are ignorance and violence. I lived all this at a very naive time of my life, these were my first years working, and as I said, I had the fortune of meeting people who became my supporters and teachers. All those directors and actors at that time made art with a lot of truth and magic. They were innovators, and they took on themselves a change that was much needed for society and culture. They envisioned a path forward.
I.T. – Your very first character was Lucia in No
Matarás, a movie from 1974 by Cesar F. Ardavín. Lucia is a village girl who moves to Madrid, where she ends up having an unwanted pregnancy and decides to have a clandestine abortion. In the intervention, the woman dies, and her family chooses to find another reason to justify her death, as abortion at the time is seen as the worst of sins. What relationship do you have with this character and with these themes that are so relevant today?
A.M. – I think there’s freedom of action in humankind, and only individuals know the motive for their own choices. Science and reason have to work in favour of these actions. The story of this character I played when I was 18 is about a young girl who couldn’t have a proper abortion and ended up losing her life trying to exercise her freedom of action. She was a martyr of society because society couldn’t give her the freedom she needed. I think, in many ways, this has fortunately changed, but we should always be vigilant to ensure that women are respected in their actions and decisions.
I.T. – Many characters you played in your career were mothers. Most recently, you played a troubled mother in Eduardo Casanovas La
Piedad. Motherhood is about bringing life and reconnecting with one’s own roots, culture, and past. How did these characters impact your perspective of being a mother?
A.M. – Playing a character is to love them infinitely. You meet a character that’s not you but will become you at a certain point. You must trust them, and in doing so, you’re trusting yourself. Through these characters, I lived lives and observed thoughts that weren’t mine, and because of that, they made me grow. I am thankful they helped me comprehend realities I didn’t understand before. Life gives us back to us what we give to it. Sharing all these mothers, even the last one I did with Eduardo, is so important to me. Mothers exercise miracles. To experience this creates something so unique and so powerful that it is capable of moving the world.
I.T. – You also played Conchita, in Ese oscuro objeto del deseo, the 1977 masterpiece by Buñuel. This movie launched your career internationally outside of Spain; you could’ve easily made a career outside of this country, but you decided to stay in Spain…
A.M. – Spain is my roots, it’s my life, it’s my memories, my village, and I love it. Spain is one of the places I feel at home no matter where I go. Spain is its people, and because of this, I love it. I also love Italy, which has many similarities with Spain. Almost half of my career has been spent there. I was 21 the first time I worked in Italy. It was in a movie directed by Luigi Comencini, with Alberto Sordi, called L’Ingorgo. After that, I came back many other times working with Elio Petri, Marco Bellocchio, Lina Wertmuller, and Gabriele Salvadores. Every time I went, I felt more and more connected. Even in Italy, I found a family in each place I went.
I.T. – Talking about family, you come from an important family in Spain: The Molinas. In many ways, your family became a family for everyone in Spain. Your father, Antonio Molina, is one of the most popular singers in Spain; you and your siblings are all actors or singers, and now your sons and daughters, carrying on the family tradition, have become part of Spanish folklore. What is it like living in this dynasty?
A.M. – It’s an absolute satisfaction—a real one. Growing up in such a creative family is the most valuable gift life gave me. I remember whenever I went out with my father as a child, I never knew when I would return home. The many people who recognised and loved my father were impressive, to say the least. And he loved interacting with them. The most important thing for him was his art and sharing it with his people, his public. He loved it so much. At home, it was always my mother who kept the family in balance. She had an immense task and knew how to do it with harmony and grace. My mother and my father loved each other so much. They made us grow up in a house full of love and creativity.
Angela Molina wears MiuMiu
I.T. – Your father was very well known in Spain, undoubtedly leaving a mark on Spanish people. But how did Antonio Molina mark Angela Molina?
A.M. – Most of all, his feelings and the care he had towards feelings. Due to his popularity, it was as if he was a member of everyone’s family. And the main reason was that he connected to them through his own feelings. That inheritance of raw emotions goes beyond time. It’s infinite. His songs and his voice were his way of expressing his feelings. In a way, for me, he was like a prophet. He felt music in a profoundly spiritual way.
I.T. – Music is also very special to you. You have a musical career of your own, too. You made a record in 1986, Muertos de Amor, with Georges Moustaki, the Greek musician. You sing in the iconic Las Cosas del Querer, and you also said in some interviews that you have a ballads album recorded, but it’s not out yet…
A.M. – I come from music. It’s in my veins. I am music. My father always sang to me before sleeping. Actually, he talked as if he was singing. I hear music in everything. In the rain, in people’s steps, in the wind, in trees. I come from flamenco, the rawest and most beautiful flamenco. But of course, I listen to a lot of music. Music possesses me in so many ways. One of my favourites is Billie Holiday. I have the fortune to have a musician as a son. I love his voice. He’s one of my favourites too.
I.T. – And what is your relationship with clothing and fashion as an actress?
A.M. – I’ll tell you this. I was preparing for a role in this film, but I was not fully able to get the character’s spirit yet, and it occurred to me that I wouldn’t know who this character was until I wore her clothes. Fashion and clothing are indispensable allies for actors and, in general, for everyone. It is a way to understand and express your identity. It’s a companion, a fellow traveller, maybe.
Angela Molina wears MiuMiu
I.T. – How do you view the current situation in Spain with its political and social climax and the changes the country is experiencing? Having lived through so many pivotal moments in Spanish history, how do you view today’s Spain?
A.M. – I think that, as always, we are in a state of transition, but we know progress is something that we owe one another. It’s very complex, but I believe we know how to transform things for the common good. We know how to advance. We don’t stay silent, and that’s very powerful. It seems to me that people my age are in good hands with the new generation. I admire the generations with such noble values that want society to be fair! We wanted that as well. And now this generation is telling us that we must be fair, that we owe happiness to each other, and that they are carrying forward in their way the values we fought for so long. I also realise that the generations that went out of Spain to seek a better future following the economic crisis are now coming back because they need and want to be still a part of what they are, and that’s Spain. Spain was, is, and will be a fighter. We fight, and this is a gift.
I.T. – What do you want the future of Spain to be?
A.M. – My wish for Spain is for everyone to feel at home and belong to this family with all their dreams and sacrifices, no matter where they come from. I want Spain to be ahead of time. Every moment counts in our progress as a country, and I want Spain to be aware of that. I want our sons and daughters to feel protected by our art, culture, and the passion with which we create. Not only protected but proud and guided. Always guided towards freedom.