The Dose (La Dosis) is a 2020 Argentinian drama/thriller movie which follows Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi), an experienced nurse who works the night shift of a private clinic. A veteran in his field, Marcos uses his position to help suffering patients find early peace. One day, a new nurse named Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers) starts working at the clinic. He is young, charming, and good-looking. Gabriel finds out Marcos' secret, which ignites a battle of wits and seduction.
In an interview with Borrowing Tape, the writer/director of The Dose (La Dosis) Martín Kraut told us all about the filmmaking process — from finding the inspiration for the screenplay, the casting, the cinematography, to the character motivations.
Where did the original inspiration for the movie come from?
The script for The Dose was inspired by real events that happened in Uruguay in 2012: two nurses were accused of killing patients. One out of mercy ... the other, for unclear reasons. That was my starting point. Eventually, the case was not resolved and that allowed me to go my own way with the script and write the story that I wanted. So I continued for several years until 2019 when we finally begun the shooting.
What was the screenwriting process like for The Dose (La Dosis)?
I started as soon as I read the news about Uruguayan nurses, in 2012. As it was my first feature film, it took me many years of corrections, twists, and turns. I even took it to workshops and script doctors. It was exciting to be able to follow the evolution of the plot, the characters, the conflict. Even until the last day of shooting I was working and correcting details.
This is your feature film directorial debut. How did you prepare yourself to take on a full feature?
I have been preparing myself since I started studying film in 2001. I feel that being a film director is the epitome of a lot of activities: understanding the implications of the script, working with actors, having a visual concept, managing the rhythm, exploiting the advantages of the sound, manage groups. I have directed short films and other audiovisual works and I always felt that each learning was aimed at this: directing feature films. I hope there are many more on my way.
The casting choices were excellent — Marcos and Gabriel both exhibited different energies on-screen (calm and chaotic, good vs. bad). Can you tell us how you went about casting the movie?
To play the role of Marcos, I needed an actor whose physical power was outstanding. He also had to convey seriousness and tenderness. Carlos Portaluppi is very well known here in Argentina and besides being a great actor he is a great person, we are friends now. He was quickly drawn to the proposal. Then we had to find someone who was the opposite of him for the role of Gabriel: seemingly fragile, likable. Ignacio Rogers was the perfect solution and I think they both generated great chemistry.
Marcos' bosses say to him, '"We were worried about you. Now you are in the other team". There's a clear division between patients and nurses, with the power at the hands of the healthcare professionals. Marcos panics when he's a patient. Can you tell us your intentions for highlighting this?
While the medical system is full of good, hard-working people, there is also a tendency to view patients as mere numbers, devoid of feelings and afflictions. The health system saves lives but it is also a business with strong capitalist characteristics. We all know it, and Marcos better than anyone. Feeling vulnerable, the character knows that his life is at risk: it is the perfect opportunity for Gabriel.
When Marcos is at home, it's an uninviting space — needing renovation, inadequately furnished, loud. In comparison, the hospital appears relatively homely and peaceful. The colors blue and green feature heavily in the hospital scenes. How was it working with Cinematographer Gustavo Biazzi to produce the aesthetic for The Dose (La Dosis)?
The work with Gustavo Biazzi and also with Juan Giribald (art director) was very interesting. We had to build a dark and somewhat surreal world for Marcos' work life. And create a contrast with his private life: although he is surrounded by sick and dying, his kingdom is the ICU. Outside there he feels uncomfortable and therefore his house looks neglected.
I showed Gustavo and Juan a large number of reference images, both for the climate, the light, the art, and the rhythm that he was looking for. Movies from Chan Wook Park, Polanski, Kim Jee-Woon, Yorgos Lanthimos, and many more. We put together the set in an abandoned intensive care unit, which allowed us to transform it into what we needed. This previous work allowed us to generate the necessary climate.
What were your favorite scenes in The Dose (La Dosis) — while on the set filming and in the final cut?
There's something I really liked about The Dose process: there was a different ending in the script than there is in the final cut. We developed that ending as a team: with the actors, the producers, even the AD, and the DOP. I like to work as a team and that's how it was: the last scene on the last day of shooting was to transform the ending into what we were all looking for. I do not say more to avoid spoilers!
Where was the movie filmed, and how long did production last?
The film was shot in January and finished in September 2019.
For readers who've seen The Dose (La Dosis), what can you disclose about Gabriel's character motivations for killing patients?
It is difficult to find the true motivations of a serial killer. He says that his mother was a nurse and that something from that world attracted him since he was a child. I think that, in the end, he is a kind of psychopath who enjoys the power that gives him to decide about life and death. And although he is a fictional character, he is not as far from some real cases like that of Niels Högel, a German nurse who killed patients because he felt “bored” and to look good with the nurses because he was the only one who really knew what was happening when resuscitation began.
Which films/directors have influenced you as a filmmaker, including The Dose (La Dosis)?
I'm certainly a fan of Hitchcock and Kubrick movies. I am a fan of the Coen brothers, I admire how they manage to mix thriller with black humor in many of their films. Also the cinema of Korean directors like Chan Wook Park. I really enjoy handling tension and discomfort in directors like Ruben Östlund, Michael Haneke, and Thomas Vinterberg. The work on privacy and solitude of the great Cassavetes. Before I named some influences: Yorgos Lanthimos, Roman Polanski. I also really like Luis Buñuel, Lucrecia Martel, and Lars Von Trier.
What are some of your favorite movies from the past decade?
From the past decade, I really enjoyed: We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay), Melancholia (Lars Von Trier), The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg), Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund), A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson ), Alps (Lanthimos), Mommy (Xavier Dolan), Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson), Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev) and I should stop now!
Which themes and subject matters interest you as a filmmaker?
I am interested in various topics. On the one hand, identity: what happens when something or someone questions what we are, or think we are. The characters that hide something, like Marcos.
I'm also interested in jobs and their routines, especially in little-known jobs. For my next film, I am working on the conflict that a police infiltrator feels when he begins to feel attracted by the ideas of the group that he must investigate: his whole world is in doubt.