Alan Rickman • Director
by Héctor Llanos Martínez
- Alan Rickman’s second film as director A Little Chaos has been screened at festivals the world over and is now being shown at various European markets
After making his debut with The Winter Guest in 1997, actor Alan Rickman is trying his hand at directing again with A Little Chaos [+see also:
interview: Alan Rickman
film profile], a romantic drama starring Kate Winslet. This British production revolves around Sabine, a woman who defies the gender and class divides when she puts herself forward to design and build one of the main gardens at King Louis XIV’s new palace at Versailles. Since bringing the programme of the Toronto Film Festival to a close last September, Rickman’s movie has been presented at other gatherings such as Marrakech and FebioFest in Prague. Following the screenings, it is refreshing to see how a European production set in 17th-century France can attract such a young audience. This throng of viewers is made up of the substantial group of admirers that the actor, who specialises in Shakespearean theatre, has inherited thanks to his appearances in the Harry Potter saga, in which he played enigmatic teacher Severus Snape. Over the next few weeks, the film is being shown at an impressive number of European markets, including some in the United Kingdom and Germany.
Cineuropa: Your first work as a director, The Winter Guest, which features Emma Thompson, is an intimate drama that, apart from also starring a woman, is a very different project to A Little Chaos.
Alan Rickman: I enjoy directing women because they usually have a great sense of humour, which is essential for any good actor. Coming back to directing posed some major challenges for me, as this was very different to my first film. The story of A Little Chaos is more grandiloquent; it demands more technical and visual resources, such as coordinating teams of extras consisting of up to 80 people, for instance. That’s what the movie is about, a simple love story in which everything that surrounds it is complex. Chaos has no meaning without a little bit of order to balance it out, and vice versa. The story of Sabine and the architect La Notre (played by Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts) is the tale of two people who need to find out who they are as individuals before they get together. While I was shooting this time, I learned that the pre-production process is crucial in order to ensure that the movie moves forward appropriately. That applied especially in this case, as we had a very limited number of shooting days – barely 40 – and a budget that was also limited for a project of this type.
Almost 20 years have passed between that film and this one.
I took so long to direct again because a filmmaker devotes a year and a half to each project, whereas actors only get involved for a few months during shooting. Although, on the other hand, it’s true that as an actor, you’re responsible for everything you do in the movie, and when you’re behind the camera, you delegate tasks among your crew. I, however, like to get my actors involved when I direct, asking them their opinion and sharing the responsibility. That’s how I like to be treated by directors.
Did the fact that this is a historical movie pose an extra challenge for you?
Although Kate Winslet, the DoP (Ellen Kuras) and I travelled to the Gardens of Versailles to do our own research, historical accuracy wasn’t one of our obsessions. To start with, it stars a woman who has a professional career, which was not very plausible at that time. Although having said that, it is that exact anachronism that was one of the intentions of the film.
Why did you decide to also take on the responsibility of playing King Louis XIV, the epitome of the opulence and sophistication of the era?
I had not intended to also appear as an actor in the movie. I have always believed that when you do both things at once, it’s very easy to lower the level of the demands that you place on yourself. But what is true is that the production saved quite a bit of money in this way.
As an actor, what criteria do you follow when it comes to agreeing to play a certain character?
Although you can’t always choose, I have a very peculiar relationship with the scripts that get sent to me. I am always hoping that an inner chemistry will be sparked up that I cannot explain precisely. I’ve just been a jury member at the Marrakech Festival, judging many new directors, and while I was watching their works, I thought that I would like to work with quite a few of them. I realised that there is a lot of talent out there, and sometimes we actors must do our homework and get to know the people behind the texts that they send us.
(Translated from Spanish)