Drawn to contrasts
by Fabien Lemercier
- Simplicity and extraordinary emotions, mixture of genres, things left unsaid, accuracy and truth: the promising French director deciphers Tonnerre.
Encounter in Paris with a very promising French filmmaker who was noticed in 2011 with the award-winning medium–length movie A World Without Women and now passes the first feature test with Tonnerre [+see also:
film profile], discovered in competition in Locarno in 2013 and distributed in France by Wild Bunch (which also sells the film internationally)
Cineuropa: What was the starting point for Tonnerre ?
Guillaume Brac: I had been thinking for a while about a story on the betrayal of love, passionate obsession and a love encounter gone wrong. And for several years, I had wanted to make a film in Tonnerre, which is a town I know very well. These two desires merged: the atmosphere and name of the city appeared like an evidence for the love at first sight and madness I wanted to depict. The third motivation was to write another role for Vincent Macaigne.
How did you work on the screenplay?
When we started writing, my co-screenwriter Hélène Ruault and I realized the film would be much stronger if there was also a relationship between the father and son that could attach itself to the love story. It gave the story a kind of universality and magnitude and kept it from maybe being quite closed in on itself. The writing process was quite fast, for about six months, due to a desire to film quickly. It was during editing that many little subtleties were established.
The film mixes genres. Why?
By nature, I am very drawn to contrasts between minor things and more important ones. I wanted to depict the euphoria and carelessness of the early stages of love, but also the great suffering, feeling of abandonment and consequences of these on the protagonist, and then as a ripple effect on others. This slip between tones, or genres, was not calculated. It was quite intuitive and spontaneous. What probably characterizes my cinema is starting from something very simple, very ordinary and close to me and the spectators, and going towards more extraordinary feelings, while at the same time maintaining a search for accuracy and truthfulness.
Why did you choose a rock star, a journalist and a football player in this very rural setting?
What was interesting for the rock star was the contrast and what his incongruous presence could lead to in this town. And also the aura around this type of character, which could explain why this young girl is interested in him. She seems to lack self-confidence and, as if by chance, she is attracted to public figures: a football player and a musician. The characters are slightly socially marked, but we forget that quite quickly. I catch them in moments of pause or ellipses, outside of their professional universe. They are open to what can happen in the field of feelings. As a result, they take in emotions very rapidly and strongly, because they are slightly out of their routine, uprooted to some extent.
How did you experience the funding and production aspects of filmmaking?
Before, I was the producer of my films and I have found it a little difficult to let go. But the encounter with Alice Girard was key and the philosophy of production of Rectangle suited me perfectly: they give a lot of freedom to directors and adapt to the scale of the project. I was put under no pressure for the cast and I worked with my technical team. I simply realized that when you move to features, everything costs more and from a film I thought could be made for very little money, I ended up spending 1,3 M€ for production, which is still not a huge amount. But for now, I don’t regret my independence.
Where are you with your next project?
I am just starting the writing and it won’t be filmed before 2015, at best.