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LOCARNO 2023 Piazza Grande

Victoria Musiedlak • Regista di Première affaire

"Mi interessa come una professione possa cambiare una persona, e come una persona debba cambiare per affrontare l'ambiente che la circonda"


- Il primo lungometraggio della regista francese vede protagonista Noée Abita nei panni di una giovane avvocata della difesa all'inizio della sua carriera

Victoria Musiedlak  • Regista di Première affaire
(© Olivier Marty)

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First Case [+leggi anche:
intervista: Victoria Musiedlak
scheda film
, the debut feature by French director Victoria Musiedlak, sees Noée Abita breathe life into the role of Nora, a young defence lawyer at the very beginning of her career. Hailing from a financial law background, she’s entrusted with a case of suspect kidnapping that soon spirals out of control: a 19-year-old man is accused of beating a young woman to death. To mark the film’s premiere in Locarno’s Piazza Grande, Cineuropa spoke to the filmmaker about her debut, the casting process, and the relationship between justice and desire.

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Cineuropa: Nora is a 26-year-old woman who lives with her parents and is a lawyer. How did this character come to you?
Victoria Musiedlak:
As a matter of fact, there is a real-life inspiration: a young woman I know who worked in a lawyer's office. All of a sudden, she had to deal with a harsh case for the first time, and I became interested in seeing how she would change because of this assignment. And so the whole thing made me consider how a profession can change a person, and how the person herself will have to change to deal with her surroundings and the profession.

I guess this is how we are forced to grow up in this world, through harsh circumstances such as these.
Yes, but then you have to really get away from your family if you want to grow up and find your place in society. There is this famous phrase by Winston Churchill, who said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

Failure can mean different things in different settings. Why was it important for you to present both Nora and Servan as outsiders, but in different ways?
It was very important to see Nora finding herself in a totally unknown universe. The film is set in Northern France, in a real police station and in a real jail. And she has to venture out of her comfort zone; she has no references there. She is a virgin, so to speak.

That was my other question. Why was it crucial that she would also be a virgin when it comes to sex?
I really wanted to show her as a child, and I think this part of her character also showcases the relationship that Nora has with her mum. She's still kind of stifled by her mother's personality. And she is really not a woman yet, because there's still this very strong bond with her mother, almost as if they were merging together.

What’s the relationship between desire, justice and truth? They’re very much intertwined in your film.
I think it's her sudden relationship with death and violence that causes her desire to resurface, as it has been contained and retained for such a long time. It's kind of uncontrolled because it's been kept inside for too long. In addition, there’s the adrenaline that rushes through in a situation like this, the drive that pushes us to do things that may seem extreme. The same thing happens with politicians pushed by the power they wield.

You have a fantastic lead duo; how did you work with the actors to channel their chemistry?
For the role of Servan, I knew I wanted it to be very ambiguous, and Anders Danielsen Lie can be very sexy, but also cheerful and joyful. I’ve been following the work of both him and Noée Abita, and all of the films they’ve made thus far. As for Anders in particular, I remember the film he played in called The Night Eats the World [+leggi anche:
scheda film
, where he exhibited a kind of military aspect in his personality; he had very short hair, and it also showed on his face somehow, this sternness. Then I thought he could play in a very subtle way, which was the kind of performance that could make the character of Servan very seedy.

Idealism is somehow always related to being young. But is this a story of a loss of idealism?
Well, actually, the film shows that idealism is something you may lose, especially when you really hit a wall. The harshness of society, the violence… At least this is what happens to Nora – that’s what she’s confronted with. She has her ideals, but she is confronted with a tough world, especially in her profession as a lawyer. If the whole film had been about a teacher, it would have been very different.

What about optimism?
Actually, I must say I’m a very optimistic person – sometimes almost carelessly so – but my vision of society is not simple at all. I'm aware of the harshness of the world around me, but I’m trying to retain my optimism.

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