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Interview: Alain Guiraudie • Director

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“Nature can make us dream”


- Alain Guiraudie deciphers his audacious Stranger by the Lake, winner of the Best Director Award in Un Certain Regard in Cannes.

Interview: Alain Guiraudie • Director

A nudists' beach by a lake, burning desires, passionate love, a crime and an investigation: with his 4th feature film, Stanger by the Lake [+see also:
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, French director Alain Guiraudie hit a homerun at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, earning the praise of many critics and winning the Best Director Award in the Certain Regard section. Encounter in Paris with a filmmaker who is masterfully pursuing a very personal path, which has already led him to be selected three times for the Directors’ Fortnight (in 2001, 2003 and 2009).

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Cineuropa: Where did you get the idea for Stranger by the Lake ?
Alain Guiraudie: In general, many ideas collide in my movies and I am all for mixing different genres. I wrote the screenplay quite quickly, in a month-and-a-half. I wanted to start from a real world that is familiar to me, a microcosm, and really talk about the world of homosexuals. I based the set on a place I know, at the edge of a lake (which isn’t the one where we filmed). Then I wanted to work towards something very pure, very simple, while still asking questions about love with a very passionate and sexual story, and, as a counterpoint, another story which is more disconnected from sex.

Why did you throw thriller elements into the intrigue?
I had decided to put my hero in an impossible situation between the desire and love he feels for a man, and certain moral questions which naturally crop up as soon as he sees him commit a murder. So he has to deal with these questions himself, but someone from the outside, the police inspector, also has to come and ask him these same questions. The “evil” character, very attractive and charismatic, also has his own place in this universe.

Paradoxically, the film does contain a few comic moments.
I inverted the trend as compared with my previous films, which were more comedies with a hint of anguish. In this film, I wanted anxiety to take precedence, but I certainly didn't want to give up comedy and burlesque elements, which are essential for me. And I think tragedy becomes more tragic when there are also touches of comedy on the side.

How did you play with the circular rhythm of the plot and the repetition of movements and variations?
The idea was to create a rather open "closed session". No matter how vast it is, the characters remain in the same location all the time and keep coming back to it. Each day is pretty much the same as the last, except that they are really very different. There is a clinical procedure that kicks in with each trip. I liked this feeling of recurrence and it goes back quite a while, as my first short film functioned that way as well. It also has to do with theatre, a simple kind of geography, people who always come across each other in the same place, and the tension in the film.

What about the non-simulated sex scenes?
On the one hand, there was an intimate reason which was to finally confront my own sexuality and represent it in its entirety. But there was also a more aesthetic desire to show that what is too often set aside as pornography can also be beautiful, and above all to link love-making to organs that are usually classified as “dirty”, to combine passionate embraces with the sexual organs in a more flowing manner. In passion, there is sex, and in sex, there are organs that penetrate or interpenetrate each other. I had even more non-simulated sex scenes, but I decided not to show them in a way that was too ostentatious.

How did you work on the film’s very successful lighting?
I was not very happy with some of my films, with the way I had handled the night, neither sufficiently artificial, nor sufficiently artistic. I wanted to make a truly naturalistic movie in the sense that, as Flaubert used to say, the most beautiful thing is to behave just like nature, and set people dreaming. And nature can make us dream. So I wanted to use the greatest electric master, which is the sun, and work with the passing of the hours, with light like that at the end of the afternoon, that of dusk and after dusk. It gives a richness to the lighting that makes an important contribution to the film’s sensuality.

(Translated from French)


international title: Stranger by the Lake
original title: L’Inconnu du lac
country: France
sales agent: Les Films du Losange
year: 2013
directed by: Alain Guiraudie
screenplay: Alain Guiraudie
cast: Pierre de Ladonchamps, Patrick d'Assumçao, Christophe Paou

main awards/selection

Cannes 2013 Un Certain Regard
Best direction
New Horizons Film Festival 2013 
New Zealand International Film Festival 2013 
Melbourne International Film Festival 2013 
Sarajevo Film Festival 2013 
Toronto International Film Festival 2013 
Gdynia Polish Film Festival 2013 
Atlantic Film Festival 2013 
Festival du Film Français d'Helvétie de Bienne 2013 
Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival 2013 
New York Film Festival 2013 

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