The art of breaking the ice
by Françoise Deriaz
- Director Jeanne Waltz spent many years in Portugal where she made several shorts and one feature. Now she has come back to Switzerland to direct her second long feature
Director Jeanne Waltz spent many years in Portugal where she made several shorts and one feature (From Here to Joy, 2003). Now she has come back to Switzerland to direct an extremely feminine film, A Parting Shot [+see also:
interview: Jeanne Waltz
interview: Pierre-Alain Meier
Why did you base the story of your second feature in the Swiss Jura?
Jeanne Waltz: The location of this town, which I find very cinematographic, resembles the double personality of the main character: it is a big city in the middle of fir-trees, very rough at first but then welcoming and nice; and it’s a border town. Many people find the Jura depressing, but for me it’s a quite strange Swiss psychological cliché.
A Parting Shot is feminine film. Was this intentional?
Let’s say that women, with the exception of the child, get by better than men. Or at least, they are stronger. Having said that, I really like the character of Marco’s father: he’s weak, but also tender. I’m also very fond of the doctor-in-love. It’s a real pleasure to work with these actors, who have small roles alongside Isild Le Besco.
Isild Le Besco accepted the role the last minute, almost in mid-step. Why was this?
For the role of Fred, I had thought for a long time of another excellent actress. But nothing became of it. I couldn’t write for her. Before it was too late, I spoke to my two producers and by chance, Isild Le Besco was free.
Fred, a young nurse, stumbles into the stony scenery of the Swiss Jura, but especially into the superciliousness of a cold and authoritarian father.
He’s direct, psychorigid and violent, who taught her to shoot a gun: more than likely because he would have preferred to have a boy! Clearly, Fred fails in entering her father’s military model, as her boyfriend is a uniformed customs officer. In order to survive, we are often attracted by structures that we wanted to escape, although personal liberations often take torturous ways.
Marco, a 14-year old, finds Fred’s heart…
Perhaps it’s because he is younger, less uptight, Marco cracks and opens up to Fred. But Fred doesn’t have any strong feelings for him. In short, he evolves quicker than she does. At one moment, I thought that this film could have been called “The Defeat” in a literal sense – the thawing, the melting of ice. The film closes with the appearance of a beautiful smile, just before the river starts to flow, just before spring.
How do you explain the choice of Marco’s mother (Lio), who left husband and son to work in Portugal?
I think that she needed to free herself from a burdensome daily life and work, but she is suffering from the separation and the rejection of her son when she rushes to his bedside. She hopes that one day he will understand why she left. I also wanted her to escape from her being portrayed as a cliché immigrant, who always concentrates on the sordid aspects of life. Lio plays her role with a reserve, a sadness and a powerful sense of inner nature comparable to the strength of Isild.
In the end, how would you define this kind of film?
Could we say coming-of-age?
…and its moral?
Do we need one? The moral of the film – far from being moralistic – is quite simple: we are better off with others than all alone. As regards the story, I’d say that it’s always better to face up to things.