Cédric Anger • Director
"A false genre film"
by Fabien Lemercier
Born in 1975 and formerly a journalist for the Cahiers du Cinéma, Cédric Anger then branched out into screenwriting, penning screenplays for Xavier Beauvois in particular (To Mathieu and The Little Lieutenant [+see also:
film profile]), before directing his debut feature, The Killer [+see also:
film profile]. Starring Grégoire Colin and Gilbert Melki, the film was released domestically by UGC in early 2008 and screened at the latest Rotterdam Film Festival in the Sturm und Drang section.
Cineuropa: Why did you choose a genre film for your debut feature?
Cédric Anger: I try to put myself in the place of the viewer and make films that I’d like to see. And whereas some directors feel the need to exorcise something and tell a personal story in their debut film, I’ve never had the desire to make an autobiographical movie. And it’s through genre films that I learned to love cinema, thanks to the New Wave films, but especially the US films of the 1970s.
What were your main motivations in making The Killer?
It’s a false genre film because, beyond the plot, I wanted to impose a personal style and rhythm, indeed a slow pace with slippages. I wanted to swiftly free myself from concerns about effectiveness. The characters are rather one-dimensional figures: we know nothing about their past, present or future, they have no psychological depth. This isn’t a realistic film, but a sort of dream-like meditation on these figures in this neighbourhood in eastern Paris.
The idea of a killer drained of life by his victim – is this the film’s main theme?
There are two main ideas. Firstly, the killer and his target only exist in relation to one another. They thus do the same thing at different moments, in the bath scenes and in the other’s car. It’s also due to this desire to create parallels that there are a number of dissolves: it’s a way of linking them, of showing there is a secret connection between them.
Then I had to see at what point one of the characters entered into the movements of the other: this is the killer’s mistake, as he has to understand this movement in order to rediscover his own actions and primary mission. I didn’t want to explore the psychology for I preferred to show the characters’ behaviour. Moreover, when it came to the international version, we noticed that there was two-third’s less dialogue than in an average French film. This decision to incorporate silence was there from the writing stage. The idea was to make a rather dry film whose success hinged on the direction.
The film is reminiscent of Apocalypse Now and the work of Preminger and Melville. What were your main cinematic references?
This is only my first attempt at making a film and I have a long way to go before I reach their level. It’s not a matter of imitating a particular director or making films for the quintessential film enthusiast, but of using a common cinematic culture to make oneself better understood.
The most conscious references were Cold Sweat and Vertigo for the stalking scenes: filming a character who is gradually consumed by the person he is following, by showing this stalking almost in terms of an amorous relation. I was also inspired by Taxi Driver for the images of the city at night and the loneliness.
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