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CANNES 2023 Critics’ Week

Ann Sirot & Raphael Balboni • Directors of The (Ex)perience of Love

"If we were told that we’d have zero constraints for our next film... We'd go for it!"


- CANNES 2023: With this new film, the whimsical Brussels filmmaking duo confirms the hopes placed in their first feature, Madly in Life

Ann Sirot & Raphael Balboni  • Directors of The (Ex)perience of Love
(© Maël G. Lagadec)

After the success of Madly in Life [+see also:
film review
interview: Raphaël Balboni & Ann Sirot
film profile
, in which they laid the foundations of their cinema, Ann Sirot and Raphaël Balboni return with The (Ex)perience of Love [+see also:
film review
interview: Ann Sirot & Raphael Balboni
film profile
, a romantic comedy that questions our relationship with the couple and heteronormativity. The film is presented in a special screening at the 62nd Critics' Week of the Cannes Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: What were the origins of this project?

Ann Sirot: We wanted to put our characters in a situation that would force them to question the foundations of the heterosexual couple. We imagined this starting point: if they wanted to reproduce biologically, they would have to plan various sexual adventures with people from their past. This allowed us to question jealousy, desire and the feeling of not having lived life to the full.

Raphaël Balboni: We liked the Fantasy Comedy aspect, having an absurd premise, and being able to play with this premise to put our characters in improbable situations, while at the same time asking lots of questions, and delving into places that we are curious about.

It is in the constraints that they will find their freedom, and you too, in the end. Is this rather strict basic premise conducive to play and creativity?

RB: We had already built our previous films with strong constraints: a certain number of characters and sets. Here, we had a little more leeway, but we like to find our creativity within a well-defined framework. For this film, we wanted to shoot everything in Anderlecht, a town in Brussels. It was neither an obligation nor a narrative necessity, but it seemed logical. And stimulating.

AS: In a simplifying logic, also ecological. We didn't want to spend more time moving between sets than being on the sets. The idea was also that the budget should be in the image, not in the movements.

RB: In fact, if we were told today that we’d have zero constraints for our next film, I'm not sure we would feel comfortable.

AS: We'd go for it! We'd say, "Let's make a film where everything is red!”

How did you play with the codes of the romantic comedy, especially in the scene where they run towards each other, for example?

AS: Here, we are even in a sub-genre of romantic comedy, that of the comedy of remarriage. A couple in crisis who find each other. It's a romantic comedy, but we put our lovers in situations that aren't very romantic, a priori, all these programmed and consenting infidelities. But that is also part of the adventure of love! This transgression amused us.

RB: We wanted to do this race from the start. It's the height of the romantic comedy code, they run towards each other, they're going to kiss, inevitably. So we wanted that kiss to be something we couldn't wait for. As we were shooting, as we were editing, we were saying to ourselves that we might have gone for it a bit too strongly, but in reality, we all want to see this kiss.

The romantic comedy finds its characterisation in the film in the sex scenes, which are funny and poetic. Was there a desire to shift these scenes from the beginning?

RB: We had a lot of fun imagining these moments. We rehearsed for almost two years. We tested with the choreographer, the actors, sometimes with dancers who helped us define things beforehand.

AS: We absolutely didn't want graphic sex scenes. We doubted that they could be funny, and in the end, it's very difficult to represent in cinema. This difficulty probably lies in the fact that when you're having sex, you don't see it, you're in the pure experience, not in the observation of the experience. Ideally, sex is about sensations and forgetting oneself, not about watching oneself. So we wanted to respond to what had just happened in the scene to imagine a picture. To go and find the voluptuousness of the moment.

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(Translated from French)

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