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VENICE 2020 Competition

Nicole Garcia • Director of Lovers

“I have a sort of faith in the glittering darkness of love”

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- VENICE 2020: French director Nicole Garcia decrypts Lovers, a beautifully crafted film noir in competition for the Golden Lion

Nicole Garcia • Director of Lovers
(© La Biennale di Venezia / ASAC / Andrea Avezzù)

Revealed in competition at the 77th Venice Film Festival, Lovers [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nicole Garcia
film profile
]
is the 9th feature from Nicole Garcia, who has had three selections in competition in Cannes (in 2002, 2006 and 2016) and once before on the Lido in 1998. The director tells us about her masterful film noir interpreted by Stacy Martin, Pierre Niney and Benoît Magimel.

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Cineuropa: With Lovers, you directly confront the film noir genre, with a script begun by Jacques Fieschi. Why this impulse?
Nicole Garcia: This film allowed me, more than ever, to be at the heart of the risk, of the tension, of the danger in which I always like to observe characters. When we talk about life itself, even when the stakes are only emotional, danger is always lurking. A film noir gives free rein to this. Jacques Fieschi was telling me that this would be something far removed from me, that I hadn’t done before, but in the end I approached it a little like I did other of my films when it comes to characters, where they burn and where they move me the most: in their ambivalence, in their contradictions. Because Lisa is anything but a femme fatale; she’s caught in the nets, in the fiction that these two men project onto her. She is indeed capable of loving a man, of letting herself be adored by the other, of being taken both by them and by the grip of a social world she didn’t know. What we find a lot in this film and which is a little present in all my work is the rupture and the divide between two social worlds, which is the very origin of humiliation.

The question of the relationship to money is omnipresent, from Simon’s drug deals in Paris to the established fortunes of Geneva like Léo’s, via the luxury in Mauritius.
Geneva symbolises the cold presence of money around life, this inter-self of business people. At the beginning, with drugs, Simon tries to accumulate money, then when he finds Lisa again, he is at the bottom of the social ladder, working in this luxury hotel of which she is a wealthy client. This is where Pierre Niney takes the film into something tragic. Arriving in Geneva, he has become nothing, he drifts by, he’s lost: he goes more towards death than towards crime, placed out of sight by Lisa in a migrants hotel on the outskirts of the city, at once very close and very far from rich people. He measures this distancing every day and Lisa belongs to that other world.

You’ve always preferred romance to romanticism.
I have a sort of faith in the glittering darkness of love, something that isn’t at all on the side of the tender colours of romanticism, but something on which one can hurt oneself. In the film, Simon is at one point described as a dark knight.

An atmosphere of death hovering from the opening shot. Three acts. A scent of Greek tragedy?
A little. At first we don’t see the source of the tragedy, but it arrives at the end of the first act, like a separation, a rupture. And that incident, that overdose, has splashed all over Simon and Lisa: after all, they cleaned the place like a crime scene. This is why at the third act, Léo’s death seems impossible to them, because it is as though they had been pierced through by that first deadly salvo: a body laid out on the ground that they watched until dawn. In Geneva, something familiar seems to return and they have their backs to the wall: it can’t go on like this, because Simon is here, even if Lisa is trying to delay everything.

The film also explores one of your favourite topics: the quest for identity.
Fragile identities. Like this phrase by Pirandello: “Come tu mi vuoi (“I am what you want me to be”),” that’s what Lisa is for Simon, then she becomes that for Léo. Then there is what I wish for her: an emancipation, freeing herself from all this, from this fiction that men have projected onto her. There is a narcissism to Lisa because she is very beautiful, but it’s a fragile narcissism, like Simon’s, who is a little like Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim: he’s fleeing. From the moment he made this initial mistake: running away after an accident that he nevertheless provoked. And he will flee until the end. It’s moving because he stubbornly follows Lisa to Geneva, but it’s like a great fall. Nothing comes to free him. The three characters present an entire world, the harshness of our contemporary world in its social relations, this kind of gulf, the humiliation that resides in this disparity, even in the most intimate relationships which are often in the image of that world. They fail to carry a bridge above this pit, but they keep an impulse, a desire to love, to live.

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(Translated from French by Manuela Lazic)

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