Dinner with Moi votre ami [What, I, Your Friend?]
How did you come up with the idea of this middle-aged man wanting to become an actor?
Above all, it’s because that middle-aged man is my father! And what I was interested in filming was a real event that had already happened, to rewrite it and to stage it as a fictional film. He doesn’t want to become an actor, he is an actor, but it is unemployment and the difficulty of having no real social status when you are at an age like his. It is this social and personal precarity that I found touching in this story. Having the feeling of being a social nobody, or feeling that you have gotten nowhere in life according to the norms of success.
Can you tell us a bit more about your actors?
My father, Philippe Polet, was at the TNS (National Theater of Strasbourg). A theater actor, he worked a lot, and like in the film, he also went through meager times. Magne Havard Brekke is an actor that I met on a shoot while I was working as an actress, and meeting him made me like him even more. This encounter sparked the writing of the film. In fact, all the roles were written for the actors, I didn’t have any casting sessions or tryouts, I already knew who my actors were and I never questioned that. In the same vein, I wanted my brother, Félix, who is not an actor, to play his son. That family reunion seemed unimaginable in any other way and it was a very intense moment to see my father and my brother acting together.
How interested are you in the theme of the family unit and do you foresee making other films on that subject?
I don’t really foresee making other films on that subject, at least not for the moment. But I am very interested in the theme of the group (my first film was called Gang), or of the family in a larger sense than a real family. More what it is to stand up together and face the world, facing the reality and hardship of the world! It is that theme, the theme of the group, whether it be family, friends, political… or all three at the same time!
How did you work with the half-light effects?
We shot with a DV camera, which gave us a beautiful grainy effect and that of course was not very sensitive to low light conditions. The idea was to work with the shadows, like a painting of the north. I wanted to pull off that winter feeling where the night falls quickly outside and the interior lights are lit and warm. But above all, that 5 P.M. light where it is already night, but a greyish night.
Why did you want to explore the feelings of regret and melancholy?
First of all, regret and melancholy are for me two very different feelings. Melancholy is a view fixed on the world, a view that is a bit distant, that is not dramatized, but that has a rather sad distance to it, as it focuses on the past or the future, or the implications of the present in that past or that future. This view, I have a hard time letting it go, I imagine that my eyes are a bit conditioned to focus on this. And the grammar of melancholy interests me. I want to find forms for it, by continuing to dig this groove. A groove that is dry and without effusion, but that carries a weight to it. Like an old photograph on a northern beach in the winter, or a slightly-torn note – that is to say emotions that have surfaced from a familiar place with both a softness and a violence. The relationship to regret is for me rather related to the story and the fact that the character I was filming was confronted by these affects.
Are there any particular freedoms that the short film format allows you?
The short format allows you to take time outside of the story and of the narration. The short format allows you to tell the story of a gesture or a variation in mood and to entirely drain a story in order to break it up due to the need for pure efficiency. I like these drained stories, minimal and with moments that recreate a feeling without necessarily advancing the story. The short format allows this.