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CANNES 2022 Competition

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi • Director of Forever Young

"Even at the most tragic of times, we still manage to laugh"

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- CANNES 2022: The Italian-French filmmaker unveiled her mature work diving back into the universe of young student-actors at Patrice Chéreau’s Théâtre des Amandiers

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi • Director of Forever Young

The fifth feature film directed by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Forever Young [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
film profile
]
, is her second work to be selected in competition for the Cannes Film Festival.

Cineuropa: To what extent is the film autobiographical?
Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi:
Like with all my films, I start with real memories and turn them into fiction, but the emotions you see are autobiographical. During the writing phase, my memories joined with those of Noémie Lvovsky and Agnès de Sacy, as well as with those of the former Amandiers students I interviewed. All the film’s characters were written, and the actresses and actors I chose aren’t anything like their models; Sofiane Bennacer, for example, is pretty far removed from the character I wrote. Ultimately, I wanted the actors to run with the characters and take away the image and memory I had of them. There were also a few invented elements, such as the character of the young woman who failed the school’s entrance exam and who returns as a waitress in the cafeteria, because, rather late in the day, just before we started filming, I felt that we were missing a character representing those who lose out. Because you have to remember how big the school and theatre were perceived to be at the time: the Amandiers theatre was at the centre of the world and all the big artists, actors and playwrights went to work there. We students crossed paths with Piccoli, Koltès, Catherine Deneuve, Depardieu, Luc Bondy, etc. It was exhilarating.

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Your portrayal of Patrice Chéreau seems very true to life. How did you develop his character?
You’d have to ask Louis Garrel because I didn’t really direct him. When we wrote the character, we looked at interviews and relied on memories, but after that, Louis Garrel created his own Chéreau. I didn’t want to make a biopic, and even though the character is called Patrice Chéreau, he’s not Patrice Chéreau – he’s Louis Garrel’s personal vision of what Chéreau was like. We did have to convey Patrice’s energy, his intelligence and his love for actors, but anything beyond that stems from Louis’ secret recipe.

What about your film’s tone, where humour and tragedy continually co-exist?
That was really important to me, because even at the most tragic of times, we still manage to laugh. I often think of those three words sharing the same Latin root – humus - meaning soil: humility, humour and humanity.

How did you approach the film’s historical side, given that the story unfolds in the 80s?
I just tried to dig deep emotionally during the historical reconstruction process, i.e. finding things which stirred up emotions in me; music, for example. It was the same for the décor, because we didn’t try to reproduce the 80s perfectly, and there are even a few modern elements in the film. But there are decor features which immediately play on my emotions, like telephone booths for example, because you can’t have the same telephone conversation you’d have on a mobile in a phone booth.

Why did you choose to include Tchekhov’s play Platonov in the film?
Because we put on a performance of it at the Amandiers school and we also made a film entitled Hôtel de France, which is an adaptation of it. I did think about choosing something else at one point, but it would have caused a few extra issues because we already had the decor and mise en scène for Platonov, I had it mapped out in my mind.

How did you manage to find Nadia Tereszkiewicz, the film’s acting revelation?
I’d acted alongside her in Only the Animals [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dominik Moll
film profile
]
by Dominik Moll. When I was preparing my own film, I made her attend a huge number of auditions with other actresses, which can’t have been easy for her, but I needed to know whether she’d be ok with losing control. Stella’s character needed to show a huge desire for becoming an actress, a desiring and desirable body, and to have the ingeniousness of someone who hasn’t had much life experience, who doesn’t seem to have suffered much yet, and who might have a lot of money but is rather lonely in life.

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(Translated from French)

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