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Interview: Robin Campillo • Scriptwriter and editor

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The tick tock of fiction


- Robin Campillo co-wrote and edited all of Laurent Cantet’s films. In 2004, his first feature film, They Came Back was screened in competition at the Venice Film Festival

Interview: Robin Campillo • Scriptwriter and editor

Cineuropa : I suppose that being a film editor and director changes the way you perceive an adaptation?
Robin Campillo: I am not fascinated by the screenplay. If we could do without it, it would be fine with me. In France, people are obsessed with developing screenplays! If you told me that a screenplay was being used to find funding, I would understand. The problem is that it just adds to the list of "to dos" for the production. A screenplay is not a set of problems that need to be solved. In cinema, we lend too much weight to the idea of a piece of fiction relying on the screenplay.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)Cine Iberoamericano Int

Do people think too much in terms of the story?
Exactly, they confuse the story and fiction. I think the important thing is that the book or novel on which a film is based has the sort of structure that lends itself to cinema, a mechanism that, like the heart of a robot, can be embedded in a film. Deep down, it's not so much about the story you're telling. It's not so much about the pictures or the acting as about the dynamics at the heart of the story. The way things are developed and the structures seem to me to be very important points, more important than the dialogue, for example, which comes one after the other. In the end, they just take care of themselves. During filming, for example, you see what the actors can manage and cannot manage to say. You need to let the film emerge rather than go out and look for it and end up being knocked over by it.

What is this machine in Heading South?
This Dany Laferrière collection interested us because it's a fake novel or a collection of fake short stories. You can't separate them from each other, they build upon one another. This choppy style smacks of Haiti, of situations, characters, of their being unable to grasp an impression of their environment, their culture, their nation. There is something about them which is a bit like 'La Nef Des Fous', the painting by Jérôme Bosch: crazy details that create a setting, a machine in which you could write a piece of fiction. Laferrière is a writer who re-writes his own novels, who works on them over and again, and this is not pejorative. His writing has an obsessive quality about it. It is a time loop that revolves around a secret that doesn't exist. These short stories show that there is no centre. They are satellites revolving around nothingness. The short story that inspired us is made up of three monologues.

Did you work on three short stories?
Yes, because we wanted elements not completely based on fiction, counterpoints which are faithful to this "island chain" structure. We mixed together other novels and things that he told us. In addition, we used what a woman told us. Once again, it is not so much what she said that struck a chord with us, but what she embodies. We saw something of the characters from the short stories in her. She said really fascinating things: that in France she was no longer desirable to anyone, as well as what you had to accept and what you had to experience. Not being desirable means no one looking at you, getting no attention. I also think that the issue was not just that she pulled herself together and took her fate in her hands, but that this move to go to the islands made her independent.


international title: Heading South
original title: Vers le sud
country: France, Canada
sales agent: Celluloid Dreams
year: 2005
directed by: Laurent Cantet
screenplay: Laurent Cantet, Robin Campillo
cast: Charlotte Rampling, Karen Young, Louise Portal

main awards/selection

Venice 2005 Official Competition Marcello Mastroianni's award best promising actor/actress (Ménothy César)

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