"We’ve been friends since childhood"
by Emmanuel Cuénod
- Actress-directors Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond have known each other for almost 30 years. The Little Room marks their debut narrative feature
Cineuropa: Making a debut narrative feature can sometimes be a long and difficult struggle. What was your experience?
Reymond: We were lucky because Luxembourg soon showed interest in the project. The co-production support made it possible to get the film made more quickly.
What was the total budget?
Chuat: 3.4m Swiss francs (about €2.72m).
Reymond: That’s what we were told anyway!
The Little Room [+see also:
interview: Véronique Reymond, Stéphan…
film profile] is produced by Ruth Waldburger. She is also Jean-Luc Godard’s producer and has worked with directors including Olivier Assayas and Alain Resnais. Was it difficult to persuade her to get on board?
Reymond: When we met her, she didn’t want to make any more debut films ... And then, in the end, she took the project on.
Chuat: From that moment on, she always had faith in us. At all stages of the project.
Even so, did you have to fight to assert some of your choices?
Reymond: Only once. We were absolutely set on Rose being played by Florence Loiret-Caille. She has a really striking look.
Chuat: We were looking for someone who didn’t look like an actress, someone who could express a range of emotions without wondering whether her face was lit correctly or whether we were filming her from her good profile. That was essential.
How long have you known each other?
Chuat: We’re childhood friends. We did all our studies together, up to the baccalaureate.
Reymond: And we’ve been working together for about 15 years now…
Co-directing a film often proves complicated. Was that the case here?
Reymond: No, on the contrary, it was very straightforward. We shaped our imagination together. We’ve shared the same references since we were ten years old. When it comes to school, teachers and disappointments in love, we have the same vision. This common ground helps us to make up stories.
Chuat: That said, we’re also fundamentally different from each other. Initially, we exploited these differences when staging clown routines.
That’s why you made a documentary about Howard Butten…
Chuat: Yes, we were much more into clowns back then. If, at 18, someone had told me I was going to make a film starring Michel Bouquet I don’t really know what I’d have thought. It wasn’t my goal in life at all. I wanted to be a clown and actress.
This leaves us all the more surprised by the film’s tone. The storyline is quite dark. You deal with subjects like old age and the death of a child.
Chuat: Fortunately, there are brief moments of light-heartedness…
Reymond: … but it’s true that the tone is rather serious. They’re subjects we’ve had on our mind for a while but we never planned to make a drama out of them.
Chuat: We worked a great deal on the tone, to find something reminiscent of life. In other words, times which can be terribly hard but are also interspersed with rather funny, comical things. It’s also one of the things which struck Michel Bouquet. He told us he liked this tone as it was quite close to reality.
Is that what convinced him to accept the role?
Chuat: We dreamed of sending him the project but we didn’t dare. We knew he refused almost all films offered to him. And then, finally, we plucked up the courage! Two elements apparently worked in our favour: he really liked certain aspects of the screenplay and Vega Film’s filmography immediately gave him confidence.
Reymond: For someone like him, names like Godard and Resnais carry weight.
Chuat: On the other hand, at no time did he ever treat us like two young women making their first film. He says he is himself very intuitive. We were touched by his total faith in us.