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NAMUR 2020

Raphaël Balboni & Ann Sirot • Directors of Madly in Life

"To maintain a balance while treading a fine line"


- We met with Raphaël Balboni and Ann Sirot, who were presenting their debut feature film Madly in Life in the opening slot of the Namur International French-Language Film Festival

Raphaël Balboni & Ann Sirot  • Directors of Madly in Life
(© FIFF)

Cineuropa sat down with Raphaël Balboni and Ann Sirot, who have made a name for themselves in recent years thanks to their short films (Lucha libre, With Thelma) and who were presenting their debut feature film Madly in Life [+see also:
film review
interview: Raphaël Balboni & Ann Sirot
film profile
in a world premiere, opening the Namur International French-Language Film Festival.

Cineuropa: Could you sum up the film for us in a few words?
Ann Sirot:
Madly in Life addresses a situation that’s tragic, in principle: that of a couple who are in pain because their plans to start a family are hampered by the sudden illness of one of their parents. But we wanted to try to tread the line between the dramatic side of the situation, and the joy and light which also accompany this experience.

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Ultimately, it’s a real balancing act between laughter and emotion, it’s life affirming.
Raphaël Balboni:
We wanted to explore this situation by shifting things a little bit, introducing a playful, funny and sometimes ludicrous element.

AS: We had to constantly check the balance between the comedy we were looking to inject and the reality of the situation. All throughout the writing and editing process we moved from one side to the other.

RB: The test screenings proved crucial. We did 11 of them and it really helped us to adjust a few things with our editor Sophie Vercruysse, to understand how the scenes were received, what was happening in the viewers’ eyes.

Why the choice of jump-cut editing?
AS: It was an important decision because it determines how the film is cut. It frees us from the need for the shot/reverse shot technique, but it also allows us to manage the pace of the scene during the editing process, and it’s a really precious resource because it allows the actors/actresses great freedom. We don’t ask them for a perfect take, what we do ask is that they are 100% present, that they’re there for one another, that they draw on the reality of the situation, that they allow external elements to interfere in the process. That’s also why our dialogues aren’t fixed. Instead, the actors/actresses remember the numerous rehearsals and discussions we’ve had.

This freedom in acting performances also finds an echo in the film’s subject-matter: the illness is never side-stepped, but what we really get a strong feeling for is the sense of freedom that it brings.
AS: Yes, the film’s premise is that caring for others isn’t about sacrificing yourself! If we sacrifice our desires, our plans, our dreams, we’ll dry up and turn into quite a sad and bitter person, which won’t be helpful for yourself or the patient. Taking care of others requires the opposite of self-denial.

RB: It’s also about knowing how to re-invent yourself. How do we contend with the things that happen to us in our lives, which might crush us in the first instance? How do we find something positive in it all?

How did this project come about?
RB: One of our parents suffered from this illness, semantic dementia, and it became essential for us to talk about it. There was a call for projects requiring lightweight production at the time, and we immediately said to one another: let’s go for it. It was a set-up which allowed us to explore the subject while filming freely and speedily.

Could you talk us through your writing process, which is a rather unique one?
We start by writing a first draft which gives a general idea of the story. Then we write a second draft, leaving gaps. We don’t look for things to be put together perfectly, from A to Z. We leave spaces. We work on key scenes and we let the actors run with it. Next, we fill in the gaps, we construct, we deconstruct, we reconstruct, as if we were playing with building blocks. This continues into the shooting process, moreover; we allow accidents to happen and incorporate them into the story. We want to preserve this elasticity and mental energy.

RB: We try to stay very organic, very open, in order to capture what’s happening. Which isn’t always easy, especially during the shooting process!

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(Translated from French)

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