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CANNES 2023 Directors’ Fortnight

Pierre Creton • Director of A Prince

"Meetings are the film’s guiding thread"


- CANNES 2023: The French director explains his highly singular approach, encompassing fiction and real life and inspired by his experience as a gardener

Pierre Creton • Director of A Prince

A filmmaker for nearly 20 years whilst also working as a farm labourer and now a gardener, Pierre Creton has seen his 5th feature film A Prince [+see also:
film review
interview: Pierre Creton
film profile
unveiled in the 55th Directors’ Fortnight (unspooling within the 76th Cannes Film Festival).

Cineuropa: Where did you get the idea for the film and its main character, who’s beginning a horticulture apprenticeship?
Pierre Creton
: I started writing this story when lockdown hit, where me and my friend Vincent Barré and Mohamed Samoura - a man who lived with us for two years and who was an apprentice baker - found ourselves together, just the three of us. We followed his progress closely, and it took me back to my own apprenticeship and my own teenage memories.

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How did you develop the screenplay, which is both very direct and very literary?
It’s kind of the way I write. I never start writing in a purely script-based way, it’s always a little literary because it comes from a desire to write rather than to write for a film. I also called on my close friends, Mathilde Girard, Cyril Neyrat and Vincent Barré, who each took on the voice of a character. So the first draft consisted of three monologues by Pierre-Joseph, Françoise and Alberto. I devised the sequences based on those. Meetings are the guiding thread because they determine what someone becomes. They’re also the defining feature of my work, because my films are almost always born out of an encounter. I never really have a subject in mind, it’s the encounters themselves which give me the desire to film them and the effect they’ll have. I came back to initial meetings in A Prince, which almost always felt like adoptions, in a certain sense.

How do you manage to marry your style (patience, penetration by something invisible) with the very limited shoot time available to you (17 days in this case)?
I film in the area where I live, so all of the film’s decor had been at hand for some time. And this film in particular features the houses and gardens of the clients I work for as a gardener. This means I’m familiar with the lighting and I have enough time to assess things before turning up with the cameras.

This "direct observation of people and landscapes" which you lay claim to is close to yet far from the documentary form. Where does the boundary lie exactly?
It’s incredibly porous. I like to work on the threshold between fiction and documentary, like some kind of tightrope-walker. The two are very tightly entangled. Until now, I’ve focused more on romantic voices in real, almost documentary-like situations. But in A Prince, I tuned into a wholly fictional voice.

The film fleetingly mentions the writer Novalis who’s very much aligned with this interweaving of different writings, this fragmented form revolving around a single guiding thread.
I mention him as offering a possible reading of post-adolescence, and it’s true that this was important, both in terms of the film’s fragmentary form and the relationship depicted with nature. But if I had to settle on a particular writing style, I’d say I feel very close to The Impossible by Georges Bataille, which is a blend of a diary, a poem, an autobiography and a novel. The film follows those kinds of lines.

How do you view your singularity as a filmmaker?
I’ve been aware of it since I first started making movies, but it’s not manufactured. It’s a new experience for me each and every time, because it’s always linked to encounters: there’s always the other and others. The people I film, who become characters and who are often friends are also the ones I want to film: they don’t play totally invented characters, I also want them to be in the film as individual people.

Nature always plays an obviously central role in your work.
It’s something that’s quite difficult to process on a day-to-day level, because nature is being abused and when you live in the countryside, day in, day out, it’s quite upsetting because it’s a distressing thing to see when you love it, even though it’s not really the main subject in the film. But, that said, we always feel wonder again when we see the first primrose or the first orchid. It’s a kind of joy which comes back to us, and which stops us from sinking into despair.

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(Translated from French)

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