Antoine Desrosières • Director
"A film about consent and the different ways to interpret it"
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2018: Antoine Desrosières talks to Cineuropa about Sextape, a radical comedy about youth and sexuality, screened in the Un Certain Regard section
We met up with Antoine Desrosières, whose daringthird feature film, Sextape [+see also:
interview: Antoine Desrosières
film profile], was unveiled in official selection at the 71st Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard program.
Cineuropa: Why did you decide to tackle the subject of men's sexual oppression against women and the ways in which women can free themselves from it?
Antoine Desrosières: It's a film about consent and the different ways to interpret it. One of the key problems relates precisely to the difficulty that a number of characters have in understanding the concept, including some of the female characters, who only begin to understand and assert their rights towards the end of the film. I made a film (the medium-length film Haramiste) about how the clothing ban can cause frustration. This time, I wanted to work on the link between frustration and violence, and the plot of Sextape allowed me to tackle the subject matter. This is a true story, an account I heard – among many others – while making my previous film, a story that is sadly somewhat commonplace as it happens so frequently.
The film is also a portrait of the youth of working-class neighborhoods.
Initially – due to it being an extension of Haramiste – I worked with the same actresses. I couldn’t place them in a universe other than this one. I also feel like we suffer from not seeing these young women represented in cinema. We regularly reduce them to limited roles and deny them their humanity. I feel like you either look at these characters from afar, with some form of contempt, or you take a closer look. Those who know these people don't necessarily have the means to represent them in all their complexity. My approach was to give them the stand (the actresses co-wrote the film), precisely because I felt like we don't hear their voices enough. I gave them the floor to talk about their experiences, i.e. the universe described in the film.
Why did you opt to tackle such a dramatic subject with a comedic tone?
It’s a way of opening up a gap in the viewer's head to allow him or her to accept questions that might otherwise be painful or difficult to broach. But I certainly don’t make fun of my main characters, I have no intention of showing how monstrous they are. Even the bad guys. The idea being that everyone has their reasons, which can be appalling when committing these acts. I hope that we understand why they do what they do and how they are trapped in a way of looking at things that exceeds them in some way. We musn’t relativize the gravity of the actions of these boys who behave badly, because it’s very important not to give them excuses. Perhaps instead, we should try to help them to understand. It’s interesting to understand what leads them to do what they do. The film is meant to question both girls and boys in this situation.
What about girls' awareness of their freedom of choice and the power of freedom of speech?
I didn't just want to show that these young women can fight adversity. I also wanted to demonstrate how they could free themselves by re-appropriating their desire and stating that they ultimately get to decide what they do and with whom. I had no intention of stigmatising sex, but rather negative sexual experiences, non-consensual sex, sex that doesn’t respect the equal desire of men and women. It was very important that the film showed positive sexual experiences, as consensual sex is fulfilling and absolutely not a negative thing. It's very much guilt surrounding sex in society in general that results in these bad experiences, abuse and violence. The film doesn’t merely denounce violence but instead focuses on a utopia in which sexual equality and equality vis-a-vis desire can exist and are liberating for men and women alike.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.