Night cap with D’un château l’autre [Castle to Castle]
How did you meet Pierre and Francine?
Pierre Nisse is an actor, but he is above all a friend. Francine Atoch… she’s my mother. How did they end up in the film? A few days before the first round of the election, I felt that something was going on, there was something in the air that I couldn’t quite grasp, something that made me anxious and sad. I told myself that I had to make a film to try to understand it or at least record a trace of it. So, I called Pierre and I asked him right away if he was free to play the role of a political science student who would be tempted to vote for the Front National. Seeing that the last rallies of the first round were being held the next day, we first shot the Macron and Le Pen rally scenes. We had to invent what ensued. So, we started filming things at the political science building, with students we ran into on the job. But something wasn’t working. Julie Lecoustre, who helped write the film (if we can speak of writing, when everything was improvised), asked me one evening, “In fact, where does this student live?” I responded intuitively, we could say that he lived with Francine, at my mother’s house. In the past, she had rented out a room to students, so it was plausible enough. We went straight to her house (she rarely answers the telephone) and right away, we shot an improvised scene. Something magical and mysterious was immediately born. We can find this scene at the beginning of the film when Francine talks about robotisation.
How interested were you in Pierre’s political questioning and his indecision in choosing who to vote for?When we got there, Pierre felt unwell during Macron’s meeting. He felt attacked by his speech. He often insisted that he came from a working class background and that he felt looked down upon and ignored by Macron’s discourse. The “positive attitude” and the euphoric electro music, it felt like an attack. On the screen, it really jumped out at you. Instead of building a character, we decided that this would be the base of the film, this feeling. When we went to see Le Pen a few hours later, there was a particular moment in her speech that marked me. She spoke of the slavery of the working class promised to a low cost world. A discourse that I would have expected from a rally of the far left. The heart of the film became his path faced with these confused emotions.
How did you film some of the more sensitive scenes like the late rent scene?
The film is fictional, so that scene was simply improvised. That said, my mother has money problems as does Pierre, so that touched something personal in them.
What interested you in connecting Pierre’s difficult daily life to Céline’s in his book D’un château l’autre?To be honest, I think this is a magnificent title. It gives rise to many things when we say it. After that, the title speaks of what is happening in Pierre’s mind. In the book, Céline reaches an extreme point of vociferation and resentment as does Pierre, but he keeps it all inside without being able to let it out and express it. After that, during editing, we sought inspiration from Céline’s style with hybrid turns of phrases that don’t conform to literary norms. The famous three little points. We tried modestly to reproduce that in the way we cut into the material.
How did you work on the image? What interested you in giving it a blurry, granular effect in certain moments?
For the shooting, we filmed with my iPhone and with a Super 8 camera. The grain that we see in the image comes from the film. At the moment of shooting, I didn’t really know why I couldn’t choose between the two ways of filming. Now, I think that it is because the two temporalities overlapped: the shiny, direct image of the iPhone translates to the immediacy of the moment that we experience live. The Super 8 gives the film the aspect of something that we already have in our memory.
Are there any particular freedoms that the short film format allows you?
Having never made a feature-length film, I can’t compare them. The short film also has its constraints. In the classic short film, there is also a formatting of the duration or sometimes a tendency to adopt an overly narrative language. The true freedom came from the fact that my producers and my mini-team (there were only two of us to handle the technical side, me and Julie) let me shoot the film without knowing where I was going and what I was going to produce.