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FRANCE Luxembourg / Belgium

Filippo Meneghetti • Director of Two of Us

“We all lie, all the time”

by 

- Cineuropa met up with director Filippo Meneghetti at Unifrance’s 22nd Rendez-vous with French Cinema to discuss Two of Us

Filippo Meneghetti  • Director of Two of Us

In Two of Us [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Filippo Meneghetti
film profile
]
, coming out in France on 12 February, Nina and Madeleine (Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier) are neighbours, about to start enjoying their retirement. Not just that: they have been lovers for years, not that anybody knows about it – least of all Madeleine’s grown-up children. We had a chat with the movie’s director, Filippo Meneghetti, at Unifrance’s 22nd Rendez-vous with French Cinema.

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Cineuropa: So many people seem convinced that love is “for kids”, and once you reach a certain age, it shouldn’t be your concern any more. Is that one of the reasons you wanted to make this film?
Filippo Meneghetti:
I hope that once I am older, I will still be alive and kicking, able to enjoy life until the very end. But no, we don’t talk about it. Try to imagine your own mother having sex – it’s difficult, isn’t it? We live in a society that’s still obsessed with youth – it’s a fetish. It’s all about perfect bodies. I’m joking, but sometimes you are watching a film, and even a baker has a six-pack. It’s a political issue, and as a director, I have a responsibility to be honest, without pushing it too far and showing every single wrinkle.

Martine Chevallier plays two different people: a lover to another woman and a mother who keeps up the façade for her family. Many are used to pretending like that.
Both women and men! I grew up surrounded by women, and every day, I saw them play so many different roles. In Italy, mothers are considered sacred, but at the same time, you stay who you are, with all the weaknesses you might have. Of course, I am not talking about my own mother – she doesn’t have any weaknesses [laughs]. The thing is, we all lie: all the time and on so many levels. The gaze of other people influences the way we look at ourselves, but at least sometimes we can just shut the door. The problem is that you can’t escape from your own judgement. I think this film is about self-censorship. Madeleine lives a double life. In the first part, she is the impostor, and in the second, it’s the other way around. I wanted every character to feel very ambiguous or even become a villain, although I don’t really like that word.

Her daughter Anne, as well as her brother, seems relatively liberal. And yet they change completely when their own mother turns out to be in a lesbian relationship.
I saw my own friends react this way. It’s surprising, but it took us five years to write the script, and before we knew it, there were thousands of people on the street, protesting against same-sex marriage. They were taking the bus and coming to Paris on their free Sunday, just to do that. With Léa Drucker’s character, it doesn’t have to do with her being homophobic, but with jealousy and feeling betrayed. Even though we are talking about a mother and a daughter, it’s still a loving relationship, and love is based on trust. Discovering that someone so close to you never trusted you enough to reveal who she really is, that hurts. And when you are hurt, you want others to suffer.

It’s a reflex, I guess?
Yes, and you want to get rid of whatever is hurting you. In Italy, we say: “Lontano dagli occhi, lontano dal cuore” [in English: out of sight, out of mind]. She is protecting herself by “protecting” her mother. I hope the audience can understand her without having to agree with what she is doing. Luckily, Léa is great at eliciting empathy. You just like her.

Your film is a love story, but there are no grand gestures. You show their affection in a subtle way. Is that because they are used to hiding it?
With my co-writer, we always repeated this word: retenue, restraint. It could be a melodrama with a lot of pathos, but I don’t like those movies. We would say: “We need to do as much as we can with the least we can.” Life is like that sometimes – in the most tragic moment, you engage in small talk, asking someone to pass you the milk. Also, with my DoP, we talked about “being brave enough to be simple”. I prefer it when the audience has to search for emotion on their own.

For the most part, you decided to stay on this one floor. It makes you feel the claustrophobic aspect of this forbidden relationship.
A friend of mine told me a story about two neighbours who became widows at the same time. To keep each other company, they would leave the doors to their apartments, which were opposite each other, wide open. I am always hunting for simple, real-life metaphors, and that was it. These flats mirror their inner life. Madeleine’s is full of pictures and souvenirs, all the crap you buy when you go to the fair with your kids. But Nina’s is almost ghostly. There is no balance between them. Madeleine actually kind of likes being this respectable madame; she doesn’t want to give anything up. We are all struggling with the roles we were told to play. I know that burden, even though I am not a 70-year-old woman. We all want to be liked, and it’s a trap.

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