A road movie in reverse
by Mathieu Loewer
- Interview with a director who favours the mixing of genres and analyses the inner workings of her contemporary family fable
After several documentaries and a television drama for Arte (Strong Shoulders), Swiss-French filmmaker Ursula Meier directed Home [+see also:
interview: Kacey Motten Klein
interview: Thierry Spicher
interview: Ursula Meier
film profile], her feature debut for the big screen. Isabelle Huppert and Olivier Gourmet head the bill in this claustrophobic drama about a family on the edge of a motorway co-produced between Switzerland, France and Belgium.
Cineuropa: How did a young director like you come to make a debut feature as ambitious as this one by Swiss standards?
Ursula Meier: As I always say, each film I make involves taking risks. I like to approach the unknown. But my TV movie for Arte – shot quite quickly in video, with a small team – was as ambitious as the production of Home. There is no art without ambition – ambition in the means you have at your disposal, in your desire to try new things, in the way you question film language. It’s true, though, that I have everything people tend to avoid in a feature debut: a well-known cast, sets to build, cars, children, animals…
How did you choose the actors?
I thought of Isabelle Huppert while writing the script. She loved it and quickly agreed to do it. Olivier Gourmet was chosen afterwards. I thought that by choosing two such different – and talented – actors, we would achieve an impressive mix. As for the children, I loved Adélaïde Leroux in Flanders [+see also:
film profile]. We found the youngest two in Switzerland.
You have confessed you share with your characters their same uncompromising attitude. Is that a necessary quality (or fault) for making a film?
Yes, you have to hang on in there! I realise that I’m always coming back to that theme. Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang once said something that sums up my way of thinking: "When we are in an extreme tragic situation, there is no escape, we are trapped. And that's when we manage to set ourselves free, that's when we find the strength to react".
How would you define the genre of your film?
I think it is quite a particular film. I wanted to mix tones and genres, jumping from a dramatic scene to another one that’s a bit more burlesque. I kept in mind both Tati and Pilat. The way I filmed it also followed that concept: We start with the hand-held camera and finish with still shots. There is only movement in the last shot, seen from the road perspective. We therefore go back to the starting point of Home: from a car, I had seen houses on the edge of the motorway and I told myself it would be interesting to reverse that gaze. Actually, Home is a road movie in reverse.
And how would you define its moral?
It is a contemporary family tale; it is about isolation turning into madness. There are strong intimate ties between the characters, which will be revealed by the motorway. It becomes the screen onto which each of the characters projects their own neuroses. It is also a mirror of the world – violent, aggressive, and polluted – which enters the homes of people who thought they would be able to live alone, set apart from society. In this sense, it is a film about Switzerland.
What are your forthcoming projects?
I am still thinking about it, but I know I feel like shooting quite soon, in Switzerland and in winter.