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Interview: Nathalie Boutefeu • Actress

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The multiple sources of the imaginary process


- In the role of the strange heroine of Pale Eyes, director Jérôme Bonnell’s favourite actress looks back at the origins and shooting of the film

Interview: Nathalie Boutefeu • Actress

In the role of the strange heroine of Pale Eyes in which the camera tracks her from practically first to last shot, Nathalie Boutefeu, director Jérôme Bonnell’s favourite actress, looks back at the origins and shooting of the film. A spontaneous analysis provided by an actress who, during her ten years in the profession, has worked under directors such as Patrice Chéreau (His Brother), Marc Recha (Pau and His Brother) and even Arnaud Despleschin (Kings and Queen)

What was it about pale Eyes that made you beg Jérôme Bonnell to develop the script?
Nathalie Boutefeu: The script would have made an interesting short film, but the subject was such that it deserved to become a full-length film. The character of Fanny in particular was very intriguing and original and totally new and unexpected to me. I was attracted to the transformation of this woman who is ignored by others. But do we ever know why we are drawn to a particular character? As in real life, we know when we’re in love, but not much more. Same thing with a role: deep inside, you just know.

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How did you get under the skin of Fanny, and her schizophrenic nature ?
Jérôme and I discussed the role in great detail. He really developed the character – he had, after all, invented her – while for my part I tried to glean as much information about Fanny as possible to meet Jérôme’s expectations. We spoke about fairy tales, in particular those of the Grimm Brothers and Hans Le Hérisson, we enjoyed a second viewing of some old movies, especially Cronenberg’s The Fly and Milos Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and also studied some of Munch’s paintings. But the character that really inspired me was Mouchette in Bernanos’ (Under Satan’s Sun) because of her wild side. You take all those elements on board. That’s what counts most when you’re getting into a character, the whole imaginary process that starts up and which will draw from a host of different sources, including the people I got to know who are in the same psychological state as Fanny. Nothing, however, was really planned and I really didn’t know how things would work out during shooting. One thing that didn’t worry me was the second part being dialogue-free. I played the role as simply as possible since, with or without words, feelings are always expressed.

What makes Jérôme Bonell, under whose direction you have filmed two shorts and two full-length films, so special?
Jérôme has gained in maturity. He’s now even more discreet and knows exactly where to aim the eye of the camera. He loves actors and grants us great freedom of movement while trying to discover how the camera can reflect that freedom. But for Pale Eyes he used a camera stand so he had every specific ideas and it is a very framed movie. But you can experience freedom even within 20 m2.


international title: Pale Eyes
original title: Les yeux clairs
country: France
year: 2004
directed by: Jérôme Bonnell
screenplay: Jérôme Bonnell
cast: Nathalie Boutefeu, Lars Rudolph, Marc Citti, Judith Rémy

main awards/selection

Berlinale 2005 Forum (selection)

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