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Caroline Deruas • Director

"Open up the borders between what’s real, what’s imaginary, and dreams"


- We caught up with Caroline Deruas to talk about Daydreams, which is being shown in competition at the Les Arcs European Film Festival

Caroline Deruas • Director
(© Festival de Cinéma Européen des Arcs / Alexandra Fleurentin et Olivier Monge)

Unveiled in the Filmmakers of the Present section at Locarno, and in competition this week at the 8th Les Arcs European Film Festival, Daydreams [+see also:
film review
interview: Caroline Deruas
film profile
 (which will be released in France on 1February by Les Films du Losange) is the debut feature film by director Caroline Deruas, who also notably helped to write the screenplays for Philippe Garrel’s last four films. Her second feature project, Sad Liza (being produced by Les Films de la Capitaine) also put in an appearance at Les Arcs, in the Co-production Village.

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Cineuropa: Daydreams is set in the Villa Medici in Rome, where you did a residence. When was the idea for the film born exactly?
Caroline Deruas: During my residence. Initially, I came to write a film project about Italian writer Elsa Morante, but it’s a long-term endeavour that I want to take my time with. I was obsessed with the Villa Medici, I had dreamed of going there over 15 years before taking up residence there. After finally passing the competition when I got there, I decided I wouldn’t stop there. My relationship with this place was almost obsessive, almost amorous, and I wanted to experience something even stronger with the place. So why not make a film? I started to write about these ghostly presences, which fascinated me, such as that of the Cardinal of Medici. Then I did some research and initially envisaged doing a film Lucienne Heuvelmans, the first female resident of the Villa Medici in 1911. Then slowly but surely, I threw a lot more things into the project. It’s a cliché for a debut feature, but I wanted to try lots of different things in the same film. Very quickly, I decided this would be dangerous, and it risked ending up a stodgy mess. But it also presented me with a challenge: to travel through all these worlds, open up the borders between what’s real, what’s imaginary, and dreams.

Even though the timelessness of the place quickly plunges the film into a world wrapped in dreams, the backdrop to the story is the daily lives of creative people at work.
The film actually starts on terra firma, with the personal life of Camille (editor’s note: played by Clotilde Hesme), the main character in the film, who arrives with her husband. She’s a young writer sort of looking for her own space, to come into bloom. And her husband, who’s a famous writer, is both a somewhat overwhelming presence and a role model for her. I wanted to show this laborious side, even if it’s not very glamorous, to then show how beautiful the human imagination can be, that we can go so far, that it can be so uncontrollable, the extent to which we can project ourselves into the imaginary. Above all perhaps in places like the Villa Medici, where we want to be our characters, as they’re a lot freer than us and a lot more heroic than us. I wanted these two sides, and for the young writer to project herself onto this photographer (editor’s note: played by Jenna Thiam), who has a freer relationship with her art, a very direct one, and who represents a sort of ideal embodiment of the artist for Camille. 

Your debut feature, a film that mixes lots of different genres, and was filmed in Italy. Surely producing the film wasn’t easy?
It was very difficult. The Villa Medici was rather scary with its elitist side. What saved me was Arte France Cinéma. Ciné+ then followed, along with micro-funding. And I had the extraordinary good luck of happening upon Eric de Chassey, a director of the Villa Medici who really threw open the door of the place, and injected life back into it. For example, I above all didn’t want him to read my screenplay so that I would feel freer, and he accepted that, which wasn’t easy for him. And I was allowed to film for free, as a former resident.

What is your new project, Sad Liza, about?
It’s a story that came to me as a teenager. The year I sat my baccalaureate exams, I lost my best friend. I was 17-years-old, we lived in the South of France, and it was a time when we were very naive, full of dreams and looking towards the future: coming to Paris, making films for myself, dancing for her, making love with a boy for the first time… It was a happy time, and when she was torn from my life I felt very alone and really guilty that I had the right to live whilst she didn’t. The film is about this ode to adolescence, this joy, and for the more dramatic elements, I’m going to come back to using fantasy and dreams.

(Translated from French)

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