Lunch with Massacre
Interview with Maïté Sonnet, director of Massacre
Tell us a little about how Massacre came about.
I wanted tell the story of a reversal, a passage: from powerlessness to power. I was able to quickly imagine the two characters in the film: two little girls who initially seem innocent gradually become threatening. This pair of girl-witches, like a two-headed monster, was my starting point. I wanted to write a story for them that they could fight against and free themselves from. Then the tourist island slowly took shape around them, like their battlefield.
The film accurately portrays the end of childhood, the birth of desire and of anger. How did you fashion the script to achieve that result?
The questions of desire and anger are very connected in the film: the two girls have a troubled relationship with the tourists who come to “their” island. They hate them as much as they love them. They want to be like them and be liked by them, to sit at their tables, but their feelings of love are imbued with just as much violence. The script is built around the ambivalence, the ambiguity in the characters’ feelings, which eventually become unbearable for them. Initially, the script was very short, then I reworked it with the producers at Quartett so that the “dull rumbling”, the characters’ anger, would have the time to unfold, to grow and stretch.
The film begins with quite tender images of the two preadolescent sisters and then – no spoilers – takes a pretty unexpected turn. Was it your intention to surprise, perhaps even disturb, the viewer?
It is definitely the case that I wanted to film a disturbed, uncomfortable world, suffused with a latent strangeness. I envisioned the film as a “jolly nightmare”, frightening but also tender, where the characters are both friends and predators. The film’s editor, Marylou Vergez, and I let the characters’ scene exits drag on, when we could, so that they were constantly escaping us. It was certainly at that point, in the viewer’s unsettled relationship with the characters, where there’s something uncomfortable, even “disturbing”.
Which films did you draw from?
I think initially there was Jean Genet’s play The Maids. That has a pair of evil sisters who delight in staging the murder of their mistress the moment she has her back turned. It’s an incredible text. I read it in high school and it’s stayed with me, like Claude Chabrol’s La Cérémonie, which I discovered around the same time. I think the characters in Massacre are descendents of those two works. For the island and its atmosphere, I was thinking a lot about certain films by Bergman where insularity contributes to the characters’ madness and anguish (for example Hour of the Wolf).
Have you discovered any advantages that the short film form offers?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, I don’t think the film could have come about in any other format. I felt very free throughout the process, as if the short form authorized us to engage in “experimental” narration. For example, in the film there are several main characters, and a peculiar mix of genres… It’s quite enjoyable to be able to try these things out, to be able to experiment.