Vincent Maël Cardona • Director of Magnetic Beats
"What we learned was that something quite strange was going on"
- CANNES 2021: The French filmmaker explains the genesis of his first feature film, unveiled in the Directors’ Fortnight
The youthful passion of two united yet highly dissimilar brothers at the time of independent radio stations is at the heart of Vincent Maël Cardona’s first feature film Magnetic Beats [+see also:
interview: Vincent Maël Cardona
film profile], which was discovered in the 53rd Directors’ Fortnight within the 74th Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Magnetic Beats begins on 10 May 1981. Why did you choose to travel back to the beginning of the 1980s?
Vincent Maël Cardona: I was born pretty much at the time depicted in the film’s first scene, so it’s a film about the world which we were born into, characterised by a clear political shift which saw the left come to power. A change which was then followed by a huge about-turn two years later with the return of austerity. There are six screenwriters in our group, we were all born at the beginning of the 1980s and we were interested in this particular bend in the road. What we learned was that something quite strange was going on. Between the end of the ‘70s and the beginning of the ‘80s, on the artistic and cultural scene, there was an explosion in rock groups, projects and free radio stations, breaking with our big brothers of ’68 and the idea that you were going to change the world, which they’d tried and failed to do; instead, what mattered was the here and now. You picked up a guitar even if you didn’t know how to make music, you grabbed a mic and shouted into it, and you partied. We felt that this attitude, which some call No Future, was incredibly relevant today, that it was a kind of vanguard archived in sound, in recordings from the time, and which struck a real chord with the world today, where we see this No Future attitude rearing its head with regard to the ecological crisis, which is, in fact, an Anthropocene crisis, a crisis over our place in the world and our relationship with space and time.
How did you arrive at this story about two brothers?
We needed to bring these big ideas to life, so we anchored them within the context of a pretty ordinary story, set in a garage, in the provinces, with two brothers who live with their father, and looked at how an individual story, a break, a reversal of the world, a change in inner discipline, could evoke a bigger story; in other words, act as a metaphor to speak of the shift in the wider world. That was the crux of the film. And it works thanks to the poetic power cinema has to convey an exhilarating experience, emotionally intensifying a lived experience.
The film combines lots of different genres.
Working on contrasts interests me: finding the right balance within a disequilibrium, broaching serious situations with comedy, and lighter situations with a form of naturalism, blending laughter and tears, silence and moments of fury, noises and distinctive sounds, light and the darkest part of the night in the film. It was the same when it came to evoking the film’s era, because it’s a period piece through and through; we reconstructed it with the same focus of hitting the right note between the rural anchoring of the film’s décors, costumes and characters, and its dreamlike, timeless patina.
The anarchic freedom of radio and the military uniform, a small, provincial French town and a capital like Berlin, and then two very different brothers… The film is bursting with polarities.
There’s also, of course, the story of the Berlin Wall which portrays these two worlds belonging to the old world. But it’s mostly about our relationship with the analogue world, yesterday’s world, a lost world, a time of cassette tapes and telephone boxes, back when boys did military service. The film reflects such polarity because most of us come from the analogue world, but we can see that we’re now in an entirely different world which is digital, compressed, disconnected, and which presents us with a certain number of challenges and questions which we don’t even have the semblance of an answer to, and which have us trapped in this cloud of confusion. But it’s interesting to take note of this shift and to look at the attitude, energy and emotions of the latter generations of the analogue world, whom I call the “the magnetics”, to see what they can say about our current, modern world.
(Translated from French)
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