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CANNES 2019 Directors’ Fortnight

Erwan Le Duc • Director of The Bare Necessity

"When you’re telling a story, it’s a question of conveying emotion"


- CANNES 2019: Erwan Le Duc tells us about his feature debut, The Bare Necessity, screened in the 51st Directors’ Fortnight

Erwan Le Duc • Director of The Bare Necessity

In the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, Erwan Le Duc has presented his feature debut, The Bare Necessity [+see also:
film review
interview: Erwan Le Duc
film profile
. Cineuropa met with him to ask about the way he constructed this simultaneously rich and simple story, starring Swann Arlaud, Maud Wyler, Fanny Ardant, and Nicolas Maury

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Cineuropa : The Bare Necessity is rich in ingenious details and colourful characters, but it addresses fundamental themes: existence, love...
Erwan Le Duc : That was the gamble from the start. I wanted to talk about the emotion of being in love, and to have a very simple premise (boy meets girl), but I also wanted to show how a decisive encounter turns everything around it upside down. So around the two main protagonists, I wanted to build a whole universe — a family world, a professional world — and to gradually add different groups, each with their own characteristics, which doesn’t mean that the film’s central question cannot be found in each of the many different characters. The film’s humour is also related to that, I believe it can’t be separated from the film’s tragic dimension: these characters ask themselves extremely deep questions which they sometimes answer in a funny way, but other times not. But because it’s a film about the idea of encounter, it seemed coherent for me that there would be this mix, these people meeting, these contrasts exposed. The sublime and the trivial could mingle to create a tragicomedy where we could go from one tone to the other without that shift appearing gratuitous. This is done at the writing stage, but it also depends a lot on the work done by the actors. It couldn’t become an exercise in style, on the contrary, it had to always remain extremely sincere.

The characters who suddenly become introspective in this small village in the Vosges region are initially hindered from going through this self-examination process: Juliette (Maud Wyler) by her desire for independence, captain Perdrix (Swann Arlaud) by his sense of responsibility, Thérèse (Fanny Ardant) by a certain conception of true love...
Yes, but the characters are also in a kind of balance, or stability. This stability may not always be easy or future-oriented, but it exists. The Perdrix family, for example, is made up of different individuals, each with their own specific universe, but they live together, and they get along. They’re not a dysfunctional family to me. What happens next, indeed, is that because some of these problems aren’t solved, Juliette’s arrival and the changes this brings about provoke — even accelerate — the face-off of each character with themselves.

You play a lot with clichés, by flipping them on their heads.
I’m dealing with groups of characters who are very easily identifiable at the start (they even have uniforms: the cops’, the nudists’, those of the people who reenact historical battles…). Establishing these very striking worlds gave me the opportunity to then play with their codes, and to have them work against each other. On the one hand, there is the “re-enactor” who claims he is never realer than when he is fake, and on the other hand, we have the nudist revolutionaries, who want to get rid of everything superfluous, of all frills. The idea was for all of this to always echo the trajectory of the main characters, even if it meant playing with genre codes. For example, in the case of the cops, we’re not in a detective thriller, where policemen play fast and loose with the law. Here, it’s the opposite: we’re in a much more intimate mode, which is why the scene of the unit meeting becomes a sort of collective psychoanalysis session.

You use a lot of music.
From the start, I’ve always been passionate about mise en scène: everything that allows you to tell a story without necessarily resorting to dialogue; the image; the framing… When you’re telling a story, it’s a question of conveying emotion, and music naturally falls into that.  But it has to be pertinent for each sequence, to support the scenes, and there needs to be a general coherence even if the selection of songs is quite varied: from Gérard Manset and Niagara to Vivaldi and Grieg… The choice to use music was also part of a certain desire for cinema, of this decision to really go looking for adventure, to offer that kind of enchantment, and therefore to go towards something lyrical and big, spacious, with the kind of operatic music that takes a lot of space. All of these songs are also coherent with the original score from Julie Roué, who composed the film’s theme. 

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(Translated from French)

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