"I wanted to talk about the passing of time"
by Fabien Lemercier
- In competition in Cannes for the first time, the director explains her work method for A Castle in Italy.
Encounter on the Croisette with Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, who unveiled A Castle in Italy [+see also:
interview: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
film profile] in competition at the 66th Cannes Film Festival.
What was the starting point for the screenplay?
I started writing five years ago with a scene between Nathan and Louise in the car. Then, I wanted to write about this house, this family. I had images like someone shouting something from a window. Slowly, things came together with Noémie Lvovsky and Agnès de Sacy. But the screenplay took a long time to write: it took us three years.
Auto-fiction and autobiography are often mentioned in reference to your work. How else would you define it?
I am interested by intimacy, when you direct actors, when you write. Words like auto-fiction and autobiography don’t correspond to me, because I think it nearly cancels all the work we do. The fact that we work a lot, that we elaborate, means that we remove ourselves form the work. Also, this word calls for a kind of voyeurism that I do not like at all. We just had fun writing a screenplay. We begin from the starting point that is life.
Does this transformation work happen more during writing or filming?
It happens mostly with the screenplay. I need a lot of time to feel good about my screenplay. Then, this transformation happens during casting, which is a very important stage for me. I re-wrote the film by finding and choosing actors who work together with chemistry, couples. There is a mixture of actors and non-actors that I like and which I find very fertile and inspiring for everyone. Finally, this work obviously takes place during preparation, filming and especially editing, where there is another writing. In fact, there are maybe three or four different writings.
Why did you choose to extend the film over three seasons?
I wanted to talk about the passing of time, in relation to this disease that was progressing. I wanted to show the inescapable and tragic progression, which, only a few years ago, could get spectacularly worse every three months. The use of the words Winter-Spring-Summer, in three seconds, with a bit of snow, a few birds, and flowers, straight away gave the spectator the notion of the passing of time without having to do anything else. In three seconds, we also felt the passing of time in the love story. To tell the story of an encounter, showing the first kisses and then a sign that says Spring makes the spectator understand straight away that three months have passed. What happened during those three months? They have got to know each other a little, and the first three months are important in a love story.
The film deals with the end of a world and existential questions. How did you avoid the trap of pathos?
Because I didn’t want it. If during filming, in the game of the actors, or during editing, we noticed pathos, we saw the danger and we tried to avoid it. At the same time, the root of the word pathos is suffering. So I am not scared of pathos because I think we shouldn’t be scared of talking about human suffering. But the changes in rhythm may be the reason why this pathos is avoided because when it is there, the film rapidly moves on to something else, like derision, or comedy.
In the film, Louis Garrel’s character mentions his disgust towards his job as an actor. Did this ever happen to you?
I have felt like a puppet before, not knowing why I do what I do. I love acting and meeting great directors, but I have lost that desire regularly and then I find it again. I actually find this loss of desire interesting. I mentioned it in my previous film, Actrices, and I talk about it again in this film as much for my character who stops acting than for that of Louis Garrel who wants to stop. I really like the film by Manoel de Oliveira, I’m Going Home. I find this theme fascinating.
(Translated from French)