email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on LinkedIn share on reddit pin on Pinterest

BERLINALE 2022 Berlinale Special

Laurent Larivière • Director of About Joan

“It was also a way to directly achieve a certain intimacy and to commit to a pact of trust”


- BERLINALE 2022: Isabelle Huppert and Lars Eidinger star in this intriguing drama about loss and the power of love

Laurent Larivière  • Director of About Joan

French director Laurent Larivière presents his new feature About Joan [+see also:
film review
interview: Laurent Larivière
film profile
at this year's Berlinale in the Special Gala section. He created a melodrama that follows an original artistic form and celebrates cinema itself. We talked to the director about the concept of the film, his love for Japan and the acting duo Isabelle Huppert and Lars Eidinger

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: What was the starting point for the film?
Laurent Larivière: Sometimes a new film has a link to a previous one. My previous film was a social thriller, this time I wanted to do a romance. I wanted a film in which we would travel, with different countries and different historical ages. I was interested in a non-linear narrative, to use the dynamic of surprise. The film should lead from element to element. I wanted to create a contrast of narration and form, using several genres and types of cinema.   

How did you develop the story?
It was a long writing process. My previous film's topic was social stigma, this time I started by focusing on a character. It’s a character who re-experiences several eras of their life. I collected material for it, without wanting exactly to know what the story would lead to. The relationship between the mother and the son then suddenly appeared. It wasn't intentional at first. 

Why did you choose Ireland?
I wanted to include several countries and several languages. Besides French, we have English and German, as well as some Japanese. Once it was clear that the character would have been an au-pair in her youth, Ireland came to my mind. I had an idea of Dublin, without really knowing the city. I discovered it during the shoot and liked to adapt to the reality of it. 

How did Japan come into the story?
The film had to be very hybrid in narration and genre. Japan represents the most radical exoticism. It was intended to give to the character of Madeleine, the main character's mother, a particular radicalness. Besides that, I am impressed by Japanese cinema and very fond of Japanese culture as a whole, and I wanted to share that in the film. I wanted to pay homage to it. 

What did you want specifically to express with the erotic Hokusai painting?
I tried to avoid symbols. I used the painting and its enactment as a strong visual element, though. It was possible to express with just one scene the degree of pleasure that Madeleine was experiencing with her new Japanese lover. It also captured her madness and her desire. Since she is not the main protagonist, I wanted to condense everything about her.  

Was it clear from the beginning that Joan would be played by Isabelle Huppert?
I was thinking of her while writing the story, but didn't dare to believe in it. Then I showed her the script, we talked about it and it was pure delight when she accepted. She is an actress with a particular depth, one that represents the history of cinema, having played so many different roles. She was perfect for the part, because I wanted the film to be an homage to cinema itself and to fiction. Moreover, her acting skills are extraordinary, of course.

What about Lars Eidinger? What makes him perfect for the role?
Since the character of Tim is not very likeable in the beginning, I needed an extremely charismatic actor to play the role, which would show the humanity behind it. Lars also has an extraordinary depth in his acting, it is possible to project so many things on him. He can be very vulnerable and very powerful at the same time. He is very impressive. 

Why did you want Joan to speak to the audience?
This is a film about fiction. How fiction helps us lead our lives. I liked the idea that the character and the audience would have this connection. That they both would be conscious of the fiction. At the beginning, she speaks to the spectator, and after that she just needs to look in the camera, since the connection is already there. It was also a way to directly achieve a certain intimacy and to commit to a pact of trust.

You are telling a story about loss and love. Are these two things inevitably linked to each other?
It is a story of loss and abandonment, all the characters experience them at different stages. There are different ways to cope with it. Fiction is one of the means at our disposal to do so. Fiction is like a rampart, a protection. 

What was the most important aspect of the look of the film?
We wanted to distinguish the different eras, and chose specific colours for each of the five ages. For the 1960s, we used ochre or grey; for the time in Germany, facets of blue; and for the character's present we used brighter, warmer colours. For the 1960s, it was also important to make clear that it was a memory and not reality, so we created a more grainy image. Even though the story is a drama, the character had to be energetic and there had to be some humour. 

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.

See also

Privacy Policy