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NAMUR 2023

Thomas Bidegain • Director of Suddenly

“Today, as if by chance, we’re realising that men have been ‘a little bit’ incompetent and that the contribution of women is helpful”

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- The French screenwriter and director discusses his second feature film as a director, a visceral combination of survival film and love story

Thomas Bidegain  • Director of Suddenly

We met up with French screenwriter and director Thomas Bidegain, who presented at the Namur International French-Language Film Festival his second feature film as a director, Suddenly [+see also:
film review
interview: Thomas Bidegain
film profile
]
,  a visceral combination of survival film and love story.

Cineuropa: What was the spark that gave birth to this story?
Thomas Bidegain: It was the desire to make a film with two actors, the idea of exploring intimacy. There are not many films with so few actors. I wanted a film that would be simultaneously very intimate and very wide. 

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Instead of being in a country house during lockdown, for example, your characters are facing the most extreme adversity.
Exactly. What makes the story strong is that the stakes are life, death, and love. As if we had stripped the story of everything that makes up society. The idea was to peel the characters like onions, and to arrive at their centre, in the most believable way possible. In parallel is the question of their survival, but also of the relationship’s survival. While I was writing, I didn’t know what turn their life would take, it only became evident at the end! 

The plot alternates between moments where they are alone together, and others where they are together but alone.
This was a very important part of the mise en scène. At what points should they be together in the frame, when are we opposing them in shot / reverse shot, at what moments do we isolate them? It illustrates the evolution of their relationship. And this is a couple that is living in doubt. Is it still love, has it simply become a habit, can they really be said to be “together”? Does this situation, where they find themselves forced to be together, reflect a conscious choice, or a default selection? When we remove the everyday, what remains of the couple? There’s a real feeling of solitude, and it reveals the power dynamic in the relationship. The film is also about that, how to overcome this power dynamic and find a relation of equality.

How did you come up with the characters, and the gender swap in particular?
It’s in a way about the world we live in now. Today, we’re living in an extreme situation, and as if by chance, we are realising that men have been "a little bit" incompetent, and that the contribution of women is helpful. It’s as simple as that. I wanted him to be very involved, to be taking charge, to feel obligated to find solutions and have answers to give. The role typically assigned to men. Perhaps she doesn’t have much faith in herself, and she needs to let herself be carried away, at least at first. Maybe she doesn’t know that she is stronger than she imagines. But when they are both faced with nature, the strongest isn’t necessarily who we thought it would be..

How did you combine the movements of the survival film and of the love story ?
At the writing stage, we had to make sure that the audience would worry about the couple, the relationship. Where is it heading? Does it still have meaning? Ben asks the question: what’s the point of surviving all alone? It brings together something universal and timeless, the love story, and the more current moment, that of survival. Genre also serves that purpose, to talk about our world but obliquely, by playing with sensations and feelings. What interested me a lot was that the couple should exist before the story begins, that the couple should have a past. There are many films where couples meet, are thrown into an adventure, and kiss at the end of the second act. The big question when in a couple, is how do we start again, how do we desire each other again. Questions that could be asked in a rather banal way in daily life. Here, this is almost a film about remarriage.  

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(Translated from French)

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