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Interview: Sam Garbarski • Director

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"A politically incorrect romantic tragicomedy"


- After a directing career primarily in commercials, Sam Garbarski has made his second feature for the big screen – a film rich in improbable mixtures and bitter-sweet stories

Interview: Sam Garbarski • Director

As a man, how do you go about making a film about a woman?
Sam Garbarski : I think you just have to like women (smiles).

In the film you deal with topics that are quite vulgar in nature: the sexuality of an older woman, brothels.
Listen, why should a 50 year-old woman live without love or sex?! Anyway, I like telling stories that seem completely impossible but in such a realistic way that you say to yourself “why not?” And why not, indeed, find love in places where we thought it impossible, to be loved by people who we never even dreamed existed? I think that’s nice. We were often asked to pitch this project and told "But what is the story? It’s ridiculous!" When you watch the film, the story could be almost real. Everything you see exists in reality, the walls, the sex shops. What’s interesting too is telling a story in a world, which for many seems almost unimaginable, a world about which we have prejudices, but that exists nevertheless and has humanity.

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The visual treatment also adds to this impression of reality.
With our DoP Christophe Beaucarne, we did a lot of thinking. We spent three weeks editing shot by shot. We made artistic choices that proved very helpful, for example working with 40 or 50 mm focal length lenses to always remain very close to Maggie, with wide openings in order to show the context by often leaving it blurry, without having to use long focal length lenses. Moreover, the camera, very subtly used throughout the film allows us, to a certain degree, share Maggie’s anxiety. By under developing the film a little, we get a slightly dichromated image with soft contrasts. The blacks are still lively and are both realistic and poetic. I hope they are in any case. We worked a lot on that.

You also avoided falling into the voyeuristic trap.
Before shooting, we knew that we wanted to make a funny film, one that had subtle humour. And if it had to include sex scenes, we would film them with decency and elegance. It would have been very easy to make a satirical comedy or to fall into the trap of vulgarity. What I like in tragicomedy is the poetry of humour. And the English language, regardless of its socio-cultural links, portrays a fabulous humoristic outlook on life. This quality for self-derision is very dear and very important to me. It gave the film that little bit extra. We wouldn’t have had that dimension, this subtle humour, if we had made the film in French. On top of that we didn’t realise how funny the film actually was until it was shown at Berlin and heard the audience roar with laughter or applaud in the middle of a scene.

The story develops with slight variations of repetition.
I think the film is very well written because it was written and rewritten. Philippe Blasband came up with the idea originally. Then when writing, we spotted some difficulties so Sébastien [Delloye], Philippe and I rewrote the French script several times. When we realised that we couldn’t make this film in a French-speaking environment, we decided to transpose the story to an English-speaking context, and we called on an English scriptwriter. He didn’t translate the script. Instead he completely adapted it and integrated the elements that we wanted to include but didn’t know how. After that we rewrote Martin Herron’s script to polish it up more. This film is the result of much preparation. We were also worried about how we treated repetition from different angles.


main awards/selection

Berlinale 2007 Official Competition

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