"I enjoy the unexpected"
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2016: We caught up with French director Justine Triet, who opened Critics’ Week with In Bed with Victoria
After her highly acclaimed debut feature, Act of Panic [+see also:
film profile], French director Justine Triet opened the 55th Critics’ Week at the 69th Cannes Film Festival with fanciful comedy In Bed with Victoria [+see also:
interview: Justine Triet
film profile], shown out of competition.
Cineuropa: Why did you decide to use Victoria to once again tackle the subject of a woman trapped between her professional activities and her personal life?
Justine Triet: I really wanted to paint a portrait of a woman who’s quite complicated. In Act of Panic, this was split between the female and male characters, when the idea this time round was to show the point of view of the woman and portray a pretty powerful woman who takes a tumble, explodes mid-flight, and is reborn. The film was born out of this desire. Then I had the idea of her being a lawyer and this idea of her two lives, quickly followed by the idea of sex sweeping over everything without seeing anything of it, with all the characters talking about it: her ex talks about Victoria’s sex life, she talks about it with her shrink, her best friend talks to her about his sexual problems, etc.
The film is made up of lots of different layers. Was the screenplay difficult to write?
It was very difficult to pitch (laughs). It took a lot of time to polish the writing. The screenplay ended up being rather classical, but the tricky part was getting everything in there and making it tie together fluidly, as there are a lot of elements to this two-sided story that is part of Victoria’s life.
What about the choice to use the comedy genre?
Right from the writing stages, I realised that I was taking great pleasure in freeing myself from the naturalism of Act of Panic. Initially, I started off with something that was perhaps less fanciful, but I noticed very quickly that to paint the portrait of a lawyer, I would need a series, and that series did that a lot better than me. So I had to push the envelope for it to be interesting. Then when we started filming, I told myself that we nonetheless needed lashings of emotion, that it wasn’t just an ultra light comedy. Incidentally, I don’t even really know myself if it’s a comedy in the truest sense of the word or a dramatic comedy.
A dog, a monkey: you put some unexpected characters in the film…
I enjoy the unexpected, and animals allowed me to inject a bit of fantasy and absurdity into the film, to distance myself a bit from the "gloomy" side of sex scandals. And I like filming with disruptive elements: children, animals, amateur actors.
What were your intentions in terms of staging?
It’s not because the film portrays chaos that we had to film it in a chaotic way. It was actually the opposite: it was a lot more interesting to film it in an accurate and controlled way. You can’t delude yourself: films depend a lot on the budget they have to work with. For Act of Panic, we didn’t even have €500,000, and filming using a shoulder-mounted camera was a choice, but it was also a necessity. With the three months we had to film In Bed with Victoria instead of the 24 hours we had for my previous film, questions came up that had never come up before. I wouldn’t have the time, for example, to work out whether I wanted the wall of the court to be dark blue or red, I would have had to work with what I had in front of me. At the end of it all, I really feel like I have the same fixations and that the film is just as personal as my previous one was in terms of subject matter, setting, atmosphere and chaos.
(Translated from French)