Quentin Dupieux • Director of Deerskin
“A film about gentle madness and freedom”
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2019: French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux discusses his new film, Deerskin, which just brilliantly opened the Directors' Fortnight at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival
Back on the Croisette, where he presented Rubber in 2010, the very original Quentin Dupieux (Wrong, Wrong Cops, Réalité, etc) talks about his latest creation, Deerskin, starring the excellent Jean Dujardin and Adèle Haenel, and which has just opened the 51st Directors' Fortnight at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: What was the genesis of the project Deerskin?
Quentin Dupieux: I first wrote it in English for an American actor I know, thinking I could make a really grotesque film, and it was almost just a big skit. The project stayed in my hands because I felt it was missing a little something. One day, I rewrote it in French, and that’s when I shaped its depths a little more, when I added lots of human parameters that I necessarily master better in French. And it became Deerskin, which to me is a film about gentle madness and mostly about freedom: what do we do with our freedom?
Drama, comedy, and even horror film: how did you strike a balance between this mixture of genres?
There is no scientific method for mixing genres. I’ve always loved playing with genres. A simple comedy whose sole function is to make people laugh is something I wouldn’t know how to make. Lots of people do it well, though fewer and fewer of them, actually. When I make a film, I can’t stand everything staying in the same sandbox; I need to mix the toys up. I’m talking about this film in a playful way because that’s the way I am: I’ve been a consumer of horror films, of auteur cinema, of crass comedies, and I don’t see myself choosing between one or the other. Here, I didn’t make a film about a killer, I wasn’t interested in spending ninety minutes with a serial killer, that would deeply bore me. So, I sew. I love it when a screening room breathes, as well, when it laughs. When one minute there is a moment of tension and the audience is focused, and the next minute, people are laughing again. I like to play with all that. On that level, I don’t want to talk about a science in the editing or the writing, but there is something at work: I like to make the curve of a film evolve.
Did shooting in the French province influence the style of the film?
As soon as I decided to make a film in French, it had to be thought through again, and I had to create a world of solitude and a no man’s land in France. We therefore explored a zone I didn’t know. I shot four films in the United States, but that was purely out of a desire to be abroad to make images, thinking that I was incapable of filming at home.
What about the fact that the character films himself with a little camcorder?
I had no desire to philosophise. Seeing a guy filming and watching the images on a television, it’s a situation that brings me pleasure. It certainly reminds me of my beginnings when I was 14 years old, of my first emotions as a video maker. In my opinion, that’s the only reason. I need to be connected to childhood and to the roots of my desires. I’m extremely terrified of becoming a boring adult. I love knowing that I’m telling a story about things that I know. When I give this character a camera, it’s a way of staying very strongly connected to him, a way of loving him, of being close to him, of understanding him, of being in a small world that I know well. There is no film within the film, because we evoke the possibility of a film but we don’t see it. Cinema that tells about cinema is a rather boring topic, and I’m trying to avoid this idea of a film within the film a little bit because, for me, the camera in this film and in that context is a bit of a gadget.
For the film to remain credible, it needed a very subdued performance from Jean Dujardin. How did you work with him?
Very simply. We both wanted the same film, a realistic one, with all the effects erased. All that we wanted with Jean was to remain at ground level, in reality, for things to appear real. We put all the sliders down for it all to be a bit neutral, real, his rendering of the character a little muted, for things to look neither forced nor far-fetched. It wasn’t about creating a performance. Here, it was the opposite, it was finding excellence in nothingness, in the actor who doesn’t act. It was complicated, but because Jean is gifted in his field, it was very easy to obtain.
(Translated from French)
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