Breakfast with L’âge tendre
Your film is about a young girl’s effort to break free of the exclusive bond she has with her mother. What made you want to film such a story?
Diane’s character is the product of a memorable encounter. It was this encounter, more than her story, that spurred me to make a film about a young girl who’s lost her bearings. I made up a lot things from the lack of time I had to deal with her. Once the character began to emerge, I tried to push it to extremes, and the story completely took over the topic. Then I also wanted to film women. Up to now, I’ve always wanted to film female characters and talk about the family. My earlier film, Villeperdue [Losttown], was about the life of a mother with her two adult children. There were already very strong bonds there. Mothers are often very central to the things I write. In L’âge tendre, I shifted my attention to the behavior of a young girl in a single-parent household who has no limits on how she can behave with her mother. The basic topic is adolescence, and I approached it like a laboratory. I wanted to create a character on the edge in order to make the most of filming her as she falls between her need to break free and her desire for men, which she doesn’t realize.
How did you approach working with Noée Abita, who gives a very accurate portrayal of the character Diane?
Very simply. I chose Noée straight off without having to see her audition. To begin with, I wanted that element of risk for myself. I wanted to try something with her without knowing her very well. I’d seen her act a bit and she seemed to be the opposite of Diane. That paradox is what really appealed to me. I really enjoy directing actors, I like seeing things turn out differently from the script. So my connection to Noée was really built on the set, and we began work with the crudest scenes in the film. We jumped right into the thick of things and of the character. I wanted an environment that shifts around her, like a whirlwind. What interested me most about the character were her moments of silence. Noée melded with the image with the intensity I’d felt when I met her. She had my utmost confidence. We laughed a lot, because I like working in a light atmosphere, making things as relaxed as possible for everyone.
You’ve also worked in the theater as a director. Do you think that experience changed how you work in film? The way you directed the actors, or how you wrote?
The two worlds are extremely complementary. My experience in theater obviously guides my approach on the set, but the reverse is true too. For me, they’re two different ways of engaging with things, but they’re absolutely not opposed to each other. For example, the theater doubtless gave me my taste for sequence-shots and close-ups in cinema. There are things that you can’t see very well without a lens, and moreover, you rarely see people that close up without knowing them privately. I wanted to work in film to go further with the actors. That was my biggest motivation from the writing stage on. A person who steps onto the stage arrives with an internal landscape; the cinema allows you to film in detail. That’s where I like observing an actor’s work and imagination.
What works do you particularly admire?
I like the way the Dardenne brothers take things head on in Rosetta. Or the sublime delicateness of Nanni Moretti’s The Son’s Room. And Lars Von Trier and Kubrick for the freedom they take from one film to the next, and their creativity. Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen for its characters and his tenderness towards them.
Have you discovered any advantages that the short film form offers?
Making a film is still a pretty weird experience, whatever the result. In my case, I find my own freedom in a sense of urgency. Freedom comes from the set. You can make more attempts with a short film, but you always have to make sure you keep your goal in mind, whatever format you’re working in. If you don’t follow through, then only the idea is visible. You follow a slightly classical structural plan when you write a film, and what matters to me is letting accidents occur all around.