"A film about meeting the Other"
by Bénédicte Prot
- CANNES 2016: Interview with Alain Guiraudie, who teased out some of the many threads of interpretation of Staying Vertical, which is being shown in competition
We caught up with French director Alain Guiraudie, who presented Staying Vertical [+see also:
interview: Alain Guiraudie
film profile], a film set in the countryside that is only simple in appearance, in competition at the 69th Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Staying Vertical centres around the notion of returning. It’s a film that you shot in the Causses, and here, the proximity of nature that we also saw in Stranger by the Lake [+see also:
interview: Alain Guiraudie
film profile] is absolute: we’re completely free from the temporal and spatial constraints of society.
Alain Guiraudie: Yes, I think there is a certain sense of nostalgia running through the film: all the same, I do touch on worlds that are disappearing. I think I try to make films that are still a bit like that, somewhere between nostalgia and the mythical. I try to get by with my own childhood nostalgia – I’m referring here to the shots of Leo sleeping in the sheep pen with lambs in his arms, which are images from my childhood: when a cow was going to calve, my mother would go and sleep in the cowshed and she’d take me with her… Beyond that, there’s the idea of rediscovering an original world: there was a time when humans and animals were very close, when their lives were basically one and the same. So more than a return to my roots, I think what I’m trying to do here, is to unearth the mythical through modern-day people and modern-day concerns. I use these elements to bring me back to a kind of mythology that is, quite frankly, almost biblical.
What always worries me when I make a film is that I tell myself it’s good to address the problems of today, but what I really want to do is address them in a way that’s different, to offer a point of view, a singular point of view that is all my own, and above all, what I want to do is to lift my life, my ordinary life, into another dimension. Anglo-Saxons use the expression ‘bigger than life’, and that’s what I want: to make films that are bigger than life. For me, dreams and film are very close. The two are certainly not to be confused, but actually, in a dream, space and time have no structure whatsoever, it takes you into another dimension.
This idea of entering into another dimension is something you humorously flag up right from the start, as the first line in the film is when Leo asks this attractive young man: "are you making a film or what?".
There’s a bit of a double meaning there (I like playing with double meanings): maybe he actually is a director looking for an actor, but maybe he’s quite simply telling fibs to try and chat him up.
Speaking of sex, the characters go about their activities indifferent to physique, gender or age, with complete sexual freedom like uninhibited primitives.
In Stranger by the Lake, we were dealing with sex professionals, whilst sex here is an everyday occurrence, part of normal life. The characters don’t need to go searching for it in a special place: desire is born in everyday encounters. Staying Vertical is incidentally a film that I put together somewhat as a counter to Stranger by the Lake. That’s often how I work: after making films with characters that weren’t particularly seductive, I felt like I shouldn’t forget about the good-looking guys either, so I made Stranger by the Lake, and then I wanted to come back to people who were more ‘normal’. I really like the idea of desire not being tied to the laws of supply and demand, of it only concerning beautiful city dwellers with money. Also, fundamentally, I think we desire the people we meet. I realised, by submitting the film to Cannes, just how much this is a film about meeting others. When I think about it, often in film, the protagonists already know one another: we don’t see them meet – whereas that’s really what this film is about. Here, Leo meets everyone. Apart from the producer, he knew none of the other characters beforehand: he meets them all in our presence. So it’s a film about desire, yes, but above all, it’s a film about meeting the Other – and of course, the two things are interrelated.
They’re also brought together by their loneliness.
Yes, it’s a film about loneliness, but the loneliness of a group. For me, the characters are alone, but they are alone together.
(Translated from French)