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CANNES 2024 Competition

Agathe Riedinger • Director of Wild Diamond

"My character is consumed by her dream and her conviction that she is better than what life has to offer"


- CANNES 2024: The French filmmaker talks about her debut feature, which paints a vivid picture of a young woman sucked into the mythology of appearance and money via reality TV

Agathe Riedinger • Director of Wild Diamond

Wild Diamond [+see also:
film review
interview: Agathe Riedinger
film profile
, Agathe Riedinger’s first energetic feature, was directly thrown into the competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival.

Cineuropa : Where did the desire to tackle the subject of attraction to Reality TV come from?
Agathe Riedinger
: I've been watching reality TV for a very long time. I even made a short film on the subject. I felt the need to question the entertainment that it is supposed to be, but which in fact has nothing light about it, because it is entertainment manufactured with a lot of class contempt, which conveys reactionary values such as the hypersexualisation of women to create entertainment, which feeds rape culture and consumerism, and in which you can see almost 100% impunity for sexual harassment or assault. It's a mirror of a society that promotes increasingly extreme values. We had to talk about this extreme violence. But when I thought about the candidates' motivations, I realised that for them, most of whom come from working-class backgrounds, it is paradoxically also an alternative to unemployment and a means of gaining access to social status, of ticking the boxes that capitalist society orders us to be in through the values manufactured by money. This ambivalence was very interesting.

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I'm also fascinated by this representation of femininity, which is very singular, which exudes a great deal of power and which made me wonder about beauty. Are these women the fruit of patriarchal injunctions as old as the hills, which assume that a woman is only really a woman if she is desirable? Or, on the contrary, like millions of women before them, are they not defending a form of feminism by having overturned these injunctions and using beauty as a weapon to assert themselves, to emancipate themselves?

How did you come up with the character of Liane?
I got the idea for the character and the story from a documentary about the great courtesans of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the “cocottes”, which showed all the phenomena they created in society, and I found a perfect copy of today's reality TV. They were also women from very modest backgrounds who used their beauty to break free from their own environment and make their mark on society. Their rise to fame and their relationship with clothes, body and hygiene were completely identical, a century apart! To create the character of Liane, I drew inspiration from a number of reality TV contestants, as well as from the lives of the courtesans Liane de Pougy, La Belle Otero and Païva.

My heroine is determined, rebellious, idealistic, aware of suffering a certain class contempt and also aware that her beauty is a way of having power over others. Above all, she is focused on her goal, obsessed, and as with all obsessions, she is consumed by her dream and her conviction that she is better than what life has to offer. But she's also completely disconnected from her emotions, locked behind the image she wanted to create. She is also a character of our time, under pressure from the tyranny of image and beauty, the will to always be better than others, better than oneself yesterday. And what is beauty? Being authentic? Being natural? Being manufactured and resorting to cosmetic medicine? There isn't just one kind of beauty, and I don't think there's anything more authentic than artifice, because it's proof of great vulnerability: we decorate ourselves in order to appear more beautiful, but if we do that, it means we think we're less beautiful, that we're fragile.

You make intense, full-screen use of comments on social networks.
Liane builds herself through the eyes of others and through the reaction she provokes in others. So these comments on social networks, with their dichotomy of excessive hate and love, prove to her that she's worthwhile and help her feel strong, even if they're hateful. So, graphically, I wanted to represent these comments as letter seals.

What about the 4:3 format and the choice of very strong colours?
It's a very interesting format from a pictorial point of view because it creates a very iconic image that also allows you to work a lot with sound and off-screen effects. For Wild Diamond, it also allowed us to show Liane's sense of confinement. As for the flamboyance, the incandescence of the character, I wanted to bring it out through colour: Liane wants to be seen. It had to be colourful, busy and dense.

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(Translated from French by Margaux Comte)

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