Emmanuel Mouret • Director of Love Affairs(s)
"This film is an ode to our inconstancy"
- French filmmaker Emmanuel Mouret decodes Love Affairs(s) , a work awarded the Cannes 2020 Official Selection Label which is soon to hit French cinemas
The 10th feature film by Emmanuel Mouret, Love Affair(s) [+see also:
interview: Emmanuel Mouret
film profile] was awarded the 73rd Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection Label. Homing in on the complex nature of the love-based decisions we make, the film will be released in French cinemas by Pyramide on 16 September.
Cineuropa: Love and chance are the unifying themes in your films. Why does this subject appeal to you so much?
Emmanuel Mouret: Randomness is behind a great many situations, surprises, annoyances, cruelties, stories. Love is an equally exciting subject because it can seem like a game, but it’s first and foremost an adventure which is as exciting, fun and intense as it is cruel and dramatic. It continually calls our habits and our societies into question. Because love or romantic attraction doesn’t respect the common rules that men have set for themselves. As such, in order to live together, we have to respect a certain number of rules which love somehow drives us to break. The first and most fundamental rule is to have a certain regard for others, a sense of concern for the other which consists of not hurting someone. Because, from the moment that love exists and other people’s wellbeing is at stake, we always run the risk of causing hurt because the other is important.
The script weaves together lots of different stories. How did you go about developing it?
I enjoyed making a film that was very “narrative”, where lots of tales overlap. It has something of a funnel-shaped structure to it, where lots of stories slowly condense. I was interested in allowing these different tales to co-exist, but the first one I had in mind was quite simply the story of a person who is invited round to a couple’s house, in this particular case a cousin and his new girlfriend, except that the person doing the inviting has to go out and the guest finds himself alone with the former’s girlfriend. It’s also mostly a matter of personal taste: I really like parentheses within parentheses, stories within stories, stories layered on top of stories, stories which create other stories. I also wanted people to really get inside the complexity of each character, to be able to feel an attachment to them, to understand them, to know all the ins and outs so as to be able to empathise with each of them right up to the very end, and not have to take one side over another.
There’s an “intellectual” register to the film (people talk, dissect, discuss everything in great detail), but it could all be swept away in an instant. Does this type of contrast amuse you?
It’s amusing because I think we can all recognise ourselves in this, saying to ourselves I can do this, I can do that, and then boom. Sometimes we can be a bit pretentious when we’re making assertions, and it’s reassuring for viewers to see others tripping up in this respect. Then we straighten ourselves up and something else happens. In a way, it’s the same pleasure I felt while watching funny films as a youngster.
The film relies on a considerable amount of dialogue. Do you feel the film is unique in this sense?
There’s a lot of talking in comedies and in American series, in one-man-shows, stand-up routines… They do a lot of playing on words and this verbosity requires a certain amount of attention. I think that viewers are all the more stimulated by the fact that they’re invited to use their imagination while listening. Audiences like to make an effort. But in France we’re a bit nervous of letting words loose. There’s this idea, that I’ve already heard in film schools, that actors should speak as little as possible. Or rather give as much information as possible in as few words as possible. I believe that’s the worst approach to take towards dialogue because, on the contrary, the more a character says, the more complex she/he becomes. When I was a teenager, what I liked in Italian and American films were the voices. I found that, even if I couldn’t follow the dialogue, the voices were what gave the films their rhythm. And I prefer films with a lot of talking and where, at a given point, the talking stops, over and above films where there’s no talking and then they suddenly start talking. It’s a personal preference, even though I do also like film noir, westerns, etc. But my characters do have a habit of asking themselves questions, so it’s difficult to portray those characters if they’re not using words. And words are actions. A single word can uplift in the same way that it can annihilate. The things we say have a real impact.
(Translated from French)
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