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France / Belgium

Stéphane Demoustier • Director of The Girl With A Bracelet

"Do we really know our children?"


- On the eve of its French release, Stéphane Demoustier talks to us about his second feature film, The Girl With A Bracelet, first discovered in Locarno

Stéphane Demoustier • Director of The Girl With A Bracelet
(© Sabine Cattaneo)

Having previously made a name for himself with 40-Love [+see also:
film profile
at Venice’s Critics’ Week 2004, Stéphane Demoustier is returning to the fold with his second feature, The Girl With A Bracelet [+see also:
film review
interview: Stéphane Demoustier
film profile
, a criminal family drama starring Roschdy Zem, Mélissa Guers, Anaïs Demoustier and Chiara Mastroianni. Unveiled on Locarno’s Piazza Grande, this Petit Film production will be distributed as of 12 February, courtesy of Le Pacte.

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Cineuropa: There’s a reference in the credits of The Girl With A Bracelet to the script of the Argentine film Acusada. Where exactly did this project come from?
Stéphane Demoustier: First of all, I was told about a true story that had taken place in Argentina, and this news item was also the inspiration behind Gonzalo Tobal's The Accused. When we learned that this film was being made, we approached the Argentine film team and my producer arranged for me to have access to the script so that I could be sure the angle I’d chosen was different from theirs - that’s why the script is mentioned in the credits: there’s no overlap of scenes between the two films. I was interested in telling this true story, so long as I could tell it from the point of view of those observing the young woman, starting with her parents, rather than from that of the woman herself. She is accused of a crime, as she was in real life. She was 16 years old at the time the events unfolded, and she’s the only suspect.

How do you approach the heavily coded genre that is the trial drama?
The great advantage is the very high level of suspense. Watching a trial in the criminal courts is fascinating: the whole time you’re waiting for the next testimony and hanging on the jury’s final verdict. So that gives the film a good structure. What I wanted was to reproduce the experience of a trial as I myself had experienced it during trips to the criminal court, when there’s no real, conclusive evidence, which is almost always the case. I didn’t want to have an omniscient understanding of the story or a head start on the viewers; just like them, I wanted to be able to scrutinise the character, to try to understand her inner workings, her mysteries… I don’t know whether she’s guilty or innocent: I told the actress to decide for herself but not to tell me, ever.

Just like your first film 40-Love, The Girl With A Bracelet is a story about a family.
Families are micro societies, societies within society, and they tell us something about the world in which we’re living. The protagonists are also young; they’re at an age where what they experience leaves an indelible mark; an age where they’re developing as people, and so the experiences they have come to inform who they are. And by talking about a family, we’re also asking: do the different generations understand one another? Do we really know our children? These are pretty universal, inexhaustible questions.

Is 17, the age of the main character, an age that you find fascinating to observe?
It’s an age of great fragility but also of incredible strength: you have strong ideals, you’re fiercely independent and you’re not yet too jaded by life or the world around you. You’re still vulnerable because you haven’t yet found yourself, but that’s what makes you mobile. It’s also a time of resistance, of rebellion, where we try to make ourselves inaccessible. As a result, it’s complex and fascinating, interesting to probe. And for parents, this mysteriousness reaches its peak in adolescence because this is the time when children willingly makes themselves inaccessible.

Indirectly, the film paints a portrait of the younger generation…
When I was prepping the film, I asked a few lawyers to read the script, but also a few youngsters who were the same age as the protagonists, just to make sure that what I was depicting wasn’t too wide of the mark. Next, I tried to work out just how commonplace sex tapes - such as the one which circulates in the film - truly are. Either way, it was extremely violent, and it was interesting to query all that, to bring it to light. What the film doesn’t look to do, however, is to weigh one generation against the other. It simply tries to show that different generations don’t always understand one another.

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(Translated from French)

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