"The vulnerability of a human life"
by Fabien Lemercier
- From journalistic beginnings at the "Cahiers du Cinéma" to an acclaimed feature debut at the Cannes Film Festival, young French-Danish director has swiftly climbed the ladder of film fame
Cineuropa: What was your starting point for the three-part script of All Is Forgiven [+see also:
interview: David Thion
interview: Mia Hansen-Löve
film profile] and for the film’s story, spanning a decade?
Mia Hansen-Löve: The original scene was that of a happy reunion between a father and his daughter at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. I very quickly wrote the script with the aim of going backwards, understanding and telling the story that leads to his reunion with very distinct parts and large ellipses. What touches me as a spectator is that a film does not deal with everything, but only certain moments in life. Retracing ten years in 90 minutes, is illusory, but that also expresses the vulnerability of destiny, a human life. I didn’t want to direct them in a fluid, progressive manner, but rather in blocks with a void in the middle, recreating the mystery that surrounds certain moments that we leave in darkness and which are part, in my opinion, of the cruelty of life.
Drugs play an important role in the couple’s break-up.
I didn’t set out with the intention of making a film on this subject but it was impossible to treat the character I had in mind without discussing it. I therefore tried to treat it [the character] in the most direct way possible. Victor’s character is very ill and drugs are the expression of that. It is his destructive behaviour, which makes the film progress. There are many insinuations, especially in the first two parts, as I observed around me in couples where one partner is taking drugs. There’s a great ability to block out things using drugs. Annette becomes increasingly aware of what is going on; in fact, she knows from the start that Victor is taking drugs, but there’s always the sense that it’s only temporary, that he is not a real drug addict. Deep down, Victor is looking for grace and doesn’t find it. He is haunted by the desire to write, experiences a real phobia of material life, lives in the nostalgia of childhood and the refusal to enter into adult life. Filming the opening scenes in Vienna, in a country not his own, was a way to affirm from the start his difficulty of being anchored in this world.
How did you choose the main two actors, France’s Paul Blain and Austria’s Marie-Christine Friedrich?
I met Paul at a retrospective of his father’s films (Gérard Blain). I was struck by the presence and impression of sincerity he left, so I offered him the role right away. I was introduced to Marie-Christine by DoP Caroline Champetier. I found her very charismatic, attractive and very mature. Her experience, especially in theatre, created a balance with Paul, who is an instinctive actor, as well as with the whole cast, which included several new actors, children and amateurs.
What did you have in mind before you started directing?
I wanted to avoid sticking to a traditional directing style, a mistake made by many a debut film which tries to create a false radicalism. In terms of editing, I was looking for conciseness and simplicity. I also opted for a very bright first and third part, while the second is much darker. And I went for a soft and rather warm image with the costumes, décor and the way of using space.
What are your main cinematic influences?
The list is long, but French directors are the ones I admire the most: Rohmer, Truffaut, Doillon, Garrel, Desplechin... But I also love Nanni Moretti, Cronenberg, Michael Mann, Tarantino, Scorsese, Larry Clark... What I like in cinema is the human aspect.
Are you already preparing a new project?
I’ve finished writing a screenplay entitled Le père de mes enfants and I hope to film next summer.