The Gentleman’s Guide: Film Director Miguel Berzal de Miguel On Modern Masculinity

As one of Spain’s upcoming artistic personalities, Miguel Berzal de Miguel is a Spanish artist that is simultaneously developing his career in the creative realm as a writer, film director, and, surprisingly, a lyric tenor.

Being a man of many talents, Miguel’s achievements have been lauded by numerous awards. His books, namely  El Refugio, are on the list of the Casa del Libro’s best-selling books and, most recently, Las Horas Muertas ( The Dead Hours)
In the film industry, Miguel’s visual eye has been praised by international critics and audiences for his work in short films. Sin Novedad received 19 official selections for the 2019 Premios Goya and 7 selections for the Premios Forqué (including Best Film).

British Thoughts sits down with the talented young personality as we get his thoughts on what it takes to be a modern man, taking on the world one step at a time.

Miguel, thank you so much for taking the time to be part of this new series we have for British Thoughts, The Gentleman’s Guide, where we start conversations about the new definition of masculinity for the changing times. And to begin, we would like to ask you for your personal opinion. What is a gentleman in this modern world?

First of all, thank you so much for having me. It is an honour. I have been interviewed many times about my work, but never about social issues. Thank you very much for valuing my opinion. It is a new type of interview for me. Thank you for this chance. About your question, I believe that a good upbringing is not related to money at all. A gentleman is a person who is, above all, courteous. And being polite means treating everyone well, respecting others, being a good person. Being polite is the most chivalrous thing in the world. Being polite is making a difference in this society, which is sometimes so cold, so brusque.

As a man who is always on the move with your newfound musical career, writing and film. How do you keep yourself centred and grounded by balancing work, personal relationships, and social events? 

Of course, it is not easy. But the most important thing in my life is not work; it is the people I love. Love is the strongest and greatest feeling in the world. But, at the same time, affections are so fragile, so delicate: they need time to be dedicated to them. So, the people I love are my priority in life. Then comes my work. I have to say that very few people really understand the artistic professions. It is not only being on a set, on a stage, or at the presentation of your book, or at an awards party: that is the last part of the journey. To get there, you have had to work a lot at home, alone. That invisible work, so to speak, that no one sees, is the most important. As an artist I also need to be alone to create, to reflect, to write, to study music, to sing, to study my scripts and know how I am going to direct my actors, what shots I am going to do, etc.

Can you describe your philosophy in life and who do you look up to the most, and how these people have left a lasting impact on the way you conduct yourself? In saying this, how would you describe the kind of man you are?

I have not had a model or a figure in my life that inspired me to dedicate myself to the arts. I am the first one in my family to dedicate myself to literature and cinema. In music, it was my brother, the composer Javier Berzal de Miguel.
My vocations arose spontaneously. I was six or seven years old, and one Sunday afternoon, I started writing stories and I have not stopped writing since. The passion for cinema and music also began in my childhood. I always wanted to be part of those worlds, I did not know in exactly what role, but I felt that the world of the arts was my place. I do not go in for hero worship, but, of course, there are many, many artists that I admire. I also try to stay current with what is happening in music, theatre, cinema, television, dance, sculpture, etc.
In my personal life, my family is my role model, especially my mother, María Jesús de Miguel de Miguel. She knows how to forgive; she knows how to separate the good from the bad and keep the good from what she has lived. She immediately forgives those who have hurt her. I admire her very much. She is the best person in the world. It is not because she is my mother: it is the truth. There is not an iota of malice or resentment in my mother. She is all goodness. It takes me a while to overcome suffering, and it takes me a while to forgive, it takes me a while to cleanse my heart of bad feelings when I have been hurt. I want to always be a good person. I want to have a clean heart, pure like my mother’s. I want to be a good man, a good son, a good brother, a good friend, a good boyfriend, a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather: I want it all (laughs).

If we were to talk about the stigmas that revolve around the definition of manhood, which do you think needs to be highlighted the most? What are your thoughts on healthy and toxic masculinity?

Masculinity is not about being a brute, a bully, or the bad guy who hurts those he thinks are weak. Masculinity is not brute force or lack of sensitivity. Sensitivity is something men and women have in common. Fortunately, it no longer looks bad for a man to cry or get emotional.But there have always been examples of good men. In your country, for example, Charles Dickens always created male characters full of sensitivity and good hearts like David Copperfield.

Since this impacts today’s youth, how do you make yourself an excellent example for the younger ones around you?

Really? I do not think I am an example to anyone. I am just trying to be a good person while I keep struggling to earn a living with my artistic vocations. But thank you very much for your kind words.

Could you tell us about The Refuge and how did that catapult your career in a different direction? 

“El refugio” (The Refuge) was my first book. It was published in 2012 and it was on the list of the Spanish Casa del Libro’s best-selling books in that summer. It received a lot of very nice reviews. I am still very grateful. This September, Ápeiron Ediciones published the second edition after it had been out of print for years. To celebrate the second edition of The Refuge, none other than the Danish star Thure Lindhardt (always so kind to me) and the conductors Daniel Harding and Christian Schumann (always so good to me as well) wanted to read an excerpt online. In the end, it was the wonderful Spanish orchestra director Pablo Urbina (such a beautiful soul) who did the honours. Imagine how astounded and grateful I feel.
At the same time, I was developing my career as a film director and screenwriter. And then I began my musical training and finished my academic studies.
So, I don’t quite understand what you mean by “a different direction”, I have never stopped writing. I cannot.

And lastly, what are your two cents on making it work as a gentleman in this global community? 

Of course, be a courteous person. But I think that a gentleman must know how to dress for every occasion. Because dressing well to go to the opera or to a film festival is also a form of courtesy, of gratitude, of respect for artists: it is a way to be a gentleman.

For more on Miguel Berzal de Miguel:
– IG:  miguelberzaldemiguelofficial

Related links:
Portrait of Miguel Berzal de Miguel, the Great & Eclectic Artist
Miguel Berzal de Miguel: 4 libros, 4 películas y una poderosa voz metálica