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CANNES 2021 Critics’ Week

Emmanuel Marre and Julie Lecoustre • Directors of Zero Fucks Given

"Our approach is artisanal, it’s an ongoing research process"


- CANNES 2021: The directors look back on the ultra-modern loneliness they explored in their first feature film while working in Paris and Brussels

Emmanuel Marre and Julie Lecoustre  • Directors of Zero Fucks Given
(© Aurore Engelen)

Cineuropa met with Emmanuel Marre and Julie Lecoustre who joined forces to deliver their first feature film Zero Fucks Given [+see also:
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, which was selected for Critics’ Week within the 74th Cannes Film Festival. The movie sees them continuing a directorial relationship which began with the medium-length film D’un château l’autre, staying true to a naturalistic form of cinema full of unexpected events and inscribed within a passionately artisanal ethic and aesthetic.

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Cineuropa: How and for how long have you worked together?
Emmanuel Marre:
We’ve been working together since D’un château l’autre. We start with the idea for a film, we write the script, we think about how we’re physically going to make the film together. But most of our work is taken up by lengthy discussions in the evenings. It’s like a long, uninterrupted conversation.

Julie Lecoustre: Emmanuel had already started Zero Fucks Given when we were making D’un château l’autre. I joined in with writing the script. It was always clear that it would only be used a guide, a partition that we’d put to one side while filming, making sure we always made room for the unexpected. It really is an artisanal work. If we pass by a backdrop that interests us, we stop. We think about what we’re going to shoot the next day, about what we want to try. It’s an ongoing research process. We shoot with a very small team and a very strong sense of camaraderie, and that’s really important to us.

What are the issues at the heart of Zero Fucks Given?
EM: I wanted to explore a very modern state of loneliness, the kind that comes from a world where we have so many choices… This vast number of options ends up severing ties between individuals; we become wrapped up in our own business, entrepreneurs of ourselves. At a certain point in time, all these ideas attach themselves to a very simple, concrete image and, for me, it was that of an air hostess who was working on a low-cost Brussels-Barcelona flight. She was seated for take-off and I could see on her face that she was going through something quite intense; she seemed lost and desperate. Thirty seconds later, she had to put her air hostess mask back on, smile and serve passengers. We wanted to make a film to tell our imagined version of that air hostess’s story.

JL: What we find moving is seeing how inner worlds plays out in public spaces, which can be conveyed brilliantly through the character of Cassandre.

It’s also a comedy about appearances; Cassandre wears her uniform as if it’s body armour.
Yes, she wears her uniform as if it were a suit of armour capable of shielding her emotions from the rest of the world. And it’s when it all falls apart and fragments that human beings create a distraction, just like Cassandre does. She faces up to the world again in the second part of the film. Adèle Exarchopoulos has a quality that might seem pretty basic, but which is actually amazing, in that she has an expert intuition for acting, to the point that she’s even created a new character, who we didn’t know before.

It’s also a film about grief…
Yes, about how we experience loss physically. We worked hard, not so much on the psychological aspects of grief but on all the places where this absence can be felt physically in day-to-day life.

Could you tell us about your shooting approach and how you worked on the film’s images, which differs between the story’s two parts?
EM: We worked on the backdrop with the idea that everything we filmed would be part of an axis, we wouldn’t home in on any action. We were limited by the cabin space in the aeroplane, our shots were closer, less open. For scenes outside of the plane, we tried to open ourselves up to the décor, the space, the possibility of getting things out in the open. In terms of the editing, we worked according to a principle which was quite risky, but which was important to us. In a traditional dramaturgy, the pace should quicken little by little. We did the opposite: the film slows down when she goes home. We also played with the light; we move from the excessive lighting used in the world of aviation and at the parties Cassandre attends, to a certain darkness, the return of night. There’s something relaxing about it. The way we see it, you get to the truth of a character not by shining a maximum of light on them but by accepting that you’ll only get to see flashes of them. Characters are never more themselves than when they’re in the dark.

JL: We go from an episodic and highly elliptical life, where you don’t know whether a day or a month has passed between scenes, to a place where you can get a sense of duration, of the days, the nights and the time going by.

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(Translated from French)

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