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“I wanted to revive the anger that Molière portrayed in his original text”

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Vincent Macaigne ­• Actor, director


- LOCARNO 2015: Actor Vincent Macaigne talks to us about his first feature film as a director, Dom Juan, a post-modern version of Molière’s work

Vincent Macaigne  ­• Actor, director

Some years ago, the prestigious theatre company La Comédie-Française launched a collection of cinematographic adaptations from its most celebrated repertoire, with the help of the European television channel ARTE, attempting to reach a younger and more international audience. After having collaborated with Mathieu Amalric and Arnaud Desplechin on other projects, Vincent Macaigne has taken it upon himself to bring Molière’s work to the big screen. This will be the famous French actor’s feature-film debut, Dom Juan [+see also:
interview: Vincent Macaigne ­
film profile
, having also experienced great success as a theatrical director adapting Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky. After presenting the film at the Locarno Film Festival, Macaigne talks to Cineuropa about his post-modern version of the theatrical character.

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Cineuropa: Bearing in mind your career path, you touch on perfection in La Comédie-Française and ARTE’s project.
Vincent Macaigne: For me, the offer to do a Molière adaptation was like a prolongation of the work that I have been doing up until now. I feel comfortable working with classic theatrical texts. But equally, there were moments of great stress. We had to shoot the film in just two weeks and with the same actors who had already interpreted their own version of the work a year beforehand in French theatres.

So there was as much urgency with this Dom Juan as there was for Molière in his day.
When Tartufo was released, it was almost immediately banned in Paris, so he wrote this piece in just ten days, basing it on a character that already existed within literature. He was very angry with the French State and society when he wrote it, and I wanted to bring this anger to my film, albeit in a modern context. With the passing of time and the successive versions of his work, I believe that people have forgotten the rage that the original text conveys.

In fact, the Dom Juan that you portray is a darker character than the La Comédie-Française’s version; he is an anarchist who is more focused on seducing death than women.
Exactly. He is waiting to die. I wanted to shoot the last day of this person’s life. For me, there isn’t any seduction with this character; that’s not what’s important. When you read Molière’s work in more depth, you will find other subtexts within him and in the way he treats women.

When we say that someone is like Don Juan or Lolita, we tend to forget that the original literary versions are very far removed from the glamour that surrounds the characters in real life.
With these characters we don’t pay attention to the original intentions of their authors. Therefore, for me it wasn’t important to include Dom Juan’s father figure. In this case, he is a soldier who tries to impose his life expectations on his son and also the way in which he thinks he should live it. For this reason, the protagonist behaves how he wants to. In one part of the film, he complains that hypocrisy, being a widespread habit, ends up being considered as a virtue.

When creating a modern decadent ambience, you look to the protagonist’s nocturnal excesses. Julien Roux’s work as director of photography is very interesting.
As we didn’t have much time to work on the film set during the two weeks of filming, we studied each sequence a lot beforehand. I sent him photographs so that he could get an idea of how he wanted each sequence to appear on screen. In some cases, we looked for a pictorial or oneiric effect in the situations experienced by the protagonist. As we didn’t intend to be naturalists, we didn’t need to be very precise. The lack of time would have prevented us from being so.

(Translated from Spanish)

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