Ursula Meier • Director
by Mathieu Loewer
15/05/2008 - After several documentaries and a television film for Arte (Des épaules solides), Swiss-French filmmaker Ursula Meier directed Home, her feature debut for the big screen. Isabelle Huppert and Olivier Gourmet head the bill in this claustrophobic drama about a family on the verge of a highway co-produced between Switzerland, France and Belgium.
Cineuropa: How did such a young director like you come to make a first feature as ambitious as this one by Swiss standards?
Ursula Meier: As I always say, each film I make means taking risks. I like to approach the unknown. But my TV movie for Arte – shot quite quickly in video, with a small team - was as ambitious as the production of Home. There is no art without ambition – ambition in the means you dispose, in your desire to try new things, in the way you question film language. It’s true, though, that I have everything that people tend to avoid in a feature debut: a well-known cast, sets to build, cars, children, animals…
How did you choose the actors?
I thought of Isabelle Huppert while writing the script. She loved it and agreed to do it quite quickly. Olivier Gourmet was chosen afterwards. I thought that by choosing such two different – and talented – actors, we would achieve an impressive mix. As for the children, I had loved Adélaïde Leroux in Flandres [trailer]. We found the youngest two in Switzerland.
You have confessed you share with your characters their same boundless ambition. Is that a necessary quality (or a default) for making a film?
I realise that I was coming back to that theme. Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang once said something that sums up my way of thinking: "When we are in an extreme tragic situation, there is no more escape, we are trapped. And that's when we manage to set free, that's when we find the strength to react".
How would you define the genre of your film?
I think it is a quite particular film. I wanted to mix tones and genres, jumping from a dramatic scene to another one that’s a bit more burlesque. I kept in mind both Tati and Pilat. The way I filmed it also followed that concept: We start with the hand-held camera and finish with fixed shots. There is only movement in the last shot, seen from the road perspective. We therefore catch up with the genesis of Home: from a car, I had seen houses on the verge of the highway and I told myself it would be interesting to reverse that look. Actually, Home is a road movie in reverse.
And how would you define its moral?
It is a contemporary family tale; it is about isolation turning into madness. There are quite strong intimate ties between the characters, which will be revealed by the highway. It becomes the place where each one of the characters projects their own neurosis. It is also a mirror of the world – violent, aggressive, and polluted – which enters the homes of people who thought they would be able to live alone, set apart from society. In this sense, it is a film about Switzerland.
What project are you working on now?
I am still thinking about it, but I know I feel like shooting quite soon, in Switzerland and in winter.