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“Hand-picked moments of happiness”

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Thomas de Thier • Director


- With The Taste of Blueberries, Thomas de Thier has made a philosophical fable about an elderly couple who are rediscovering the emotions of their childhood. Cinergie caught up with the director

Thomas de Thier  • Director

Thomas de Thier is just as surprising and paradoxical as his films. With The Taste of Blueberries [+see also:
interview: Thomas de Thier
film profile
, de Thier has created a philosophical fable about an elderly couple rediscovering the emotions of their childhood, as they head along the path towards death. He may talk about it openly, but he doesn’t give everything away. He says yes, then no, he theorises, almost sure of himself before giving up with a soft, “I don’t know”. He has flecks of silver in his hair and casts looks of childlike wonderment. He’s present, yet he seems to float a little; he’s somewhere else, far away, far from everything. A meeting with an ambitious and modest director, slightly harsh yet tender, just like his most recent film.

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Cinergie: There’s been a ten-year gap between Feathers in My Head [+see also:
film profile
 and The Taste of Blueberries. Have we missed something? Or was this film particularly difficult to complete?
Thomas de Thier: You haven’t missed anything (laughs). After Feathers in My Head, I co-wrote a big-budget ensemble film with Sophie Museur, my partner, which is called Déluge for the moment. It has around ten main characters, a bit like Short Cuts or Magnolia. It’s a very ambitious and complex film. Writing it took us several years, and we soon realised it would take quite a long time to produce. All the same, I wanted to start filming, so I wrote the script for The Taste of Blueberries quite quickly. But in the end, finding the funding was just as complicated: it’s quite an introspective film about two old people, which builds up an unusual temporality not often seen in cinema. It asks something of a willing audience, but also of generous producers, and investors who are capable of understanding this kind of project and allowing this type of cinema to exist. I say “I”, but there was an entire team behind me, a team that understood what I wanted to do and encouraged me to do it. In any case, making films is so difficult that I can only work on projects that I am connected to and feel passionate about. I couldn’t make a film a year, like some can. I get the feeling I wouldn’t have reflected long enough on my project; that I, and what I want to say, would be missing. I’m a very slow director, it’s true (laughs). But now, I’ve got two projects ready for shooting! 

Was the adventure of filming the movie as challenging as it is to watch?
I don’t know how the audience is going to respond to the film. But what was challenging was waiting for filming to begin. Once we began, the shooting of the film itself was an absolute pleasure. The major difficulty was actually the editing. The movie has a different narrative structure to the kind of film that is usually made in the industry. It progresses on several temporal planes. There is the present, the reality of these two aged people who meet once a year to go and have a picnic. The film tells the story of this journey; it’s a road movie with plenty of surprises. However, on another level, the story is told with a voice-over from these characters, as if they were already no longer with us. This combination creates discomfort among the audience, allowing us to turn inwards on ourselves, to go on an inner journey. During the editing process with Marie-Hélène Dozo, we decided not to include everything in the story. We only wanted to show certain moments. It is up to the audience to construct the story. Hopefully, if there are 30 audience members in the theatre, then there will be 30 different versions of the film by the end. Obviously, it’s disconcerting, but if you approach the film without any prejudice, accepting the presumption that our external lives are made up of our multiple internal lives, the story is extremely simple, I think. Two people spend the day together – the film tells the story of their time in the present, a day of hand-picked moments of happiness, as well as their internal lives and the suicidal thoughts that hide within.

Read the rest of the interview on Cinergie (in French).

(Translated from French)

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