"I found myself as the sole heir to this project"
by Aurore Engelen
- Cineuropa sat down with producer and director Hubert Toint for the release of Mirage d'Amour, his first feature-length film as a director
With Mirage d’Amour [+see also:
interview: Hubert Toint
film profile], Hubert Toint leaps wholeheartedly into directing. It's a tale of love, both epic and inevitably fatal, set in a mining community in Chile at the start of the 20th century. The project was originally initiated with Bernard Giraudeau and Bernard Rapp.
Cineuropa: Tell us about the project’s story.
Hubert Toint: This film is the fruit of my great friendships with both Bernard Rapp, whom I co-produced the film No Big Deal with, and Bernard Giraudeau. The latter wanted to make a film adaptation of Hernán Rivera Letelier's best-selling novel, Fatamorgana de Amor con Banda de Música, and Bernard Rapp had to produce it. I was a co-producer for the film, but after Bernard Rapp, and then Bernard Giraudeau, fell ill, I found myself as the sole heir to this project. It was an ambitious project, especially for my directorial debut, but I always thought that it was well within my reach. I felt like a skier who hadn't been skiing in 20 years, who had been pushed to the top of a black run. In the end, I didn't stumble, and I found the journey exhilarating!
How did you approach working with the cinematographer on this project?
We shot the film at Humberstone in the north of Chile. A mining ghost town on UNESCO's world heritage list: it was pretty much a character of the film, too! I worked closely with Carlo Varini, the cinematographer, who unfortunately passed away as well. From the very start, I decided that we would use a CinemaScope lens. I wanted the film to have a desert feel, as well as a love-story feel. A reconstruction is to recreate a world. In terms of colours, for example, I muted any vibrant colours and most of the blues as well. We also decided to use the day-for-night technique. It was a bit risky, you've got to do it just right, but it adds a truly magical quality. We paid homage to the westerns of old. It was a tribute to a certain cinematic culture.
Music is at the heart of this project; how did you work with the composer?
The orchestra is one of the main characters in the film, and the two lovers, the film's heroes, are musicians. Bernard Giraudeau decided very early on that his friend Osvaldo Torres would do the music. He composed the diegetic music as we went along with the pre-production of the film. During pre-production, we decided to give each of the two main characters their own theme, and these two themes join up with one another and intertwine at the end.
Was it difficult to find the right balance between the epic love story and the social struggles?
The two levels of meaning had to be perfectly interwoven, something that we worked hard on during editing in the end. We'd put a bit of anachronistic information in the film subliminally, which referred to Chilean history, in particular the time of Pinochet. Chile was, at the time, the final frontier. You would find people from all over the world going there, with the English and the Americans chief among them. It was sort of like the Tower of Babel, where everyone spoke many different languages.
How did you go about casting the film?
At the beginning, Bernard Giraudeau only wanted European actors, and he loved his meeting with Marie Gillain, who I'd spoken to him about. Marie and I, it's a long story: I produced the first feature film she was in and I've been working with her for her whole career, right from the early days. Her character is no longer a little child; however, the character had to have a childish side, something that Marie possesses. For Hirondelle's father, we went with Jean-François Stévenin, who came in right at the end of filming. As for the hero, you must realise that Eduardo Paxeco is a real star in Chile. He's starred in several telenovelas. Given the book is so well known in Chile, there was also a lot of interest from local celebrities who came on board, even for small roles.
So it's Saga that will be distributing the film in Belgium?
That's right; Saga will be distributing the film in Belgium. It hasn't been easy to find cinemas, but the film has the support of BrightFish (a publicity company for Belgian cinema), which has allowed us to have a lot of publicity in cinemas. We've also had some good media coverage, thanks to Marie Gillain's participation. I'd be willing to wager that it will be a popular film, even if it has a bit of a particular flavour, and mixes genres, something that isn't necessarily going in the same direction as the industry.
(Translated from French)