Night cap with Harmonie [Harmony]
What interests you about space exploration? Why did you want to open your film with the desire to explore an unknown planet?
All of the my projects have an element of science fiction. That element is probably more evident in this film since it has a direct link to space, but for me, science fiction is essentially a way of observing the world and society. (In that respect, Ursula K. Le Guin’s books have been a big influence on me.) For instance, in 2010 I made Zaldiaren Orena [The Time of the Horse], a film about a robot visiting the Basque Country. Picasso Land on the other hand is about a planet whose inhabitants were invented by Picasso. L’Histoire de France en 3D [A 3D History of France] depicts an exoplanet where the only continent above water is France. Lastly, En attendant Mars [Waiting for Mars] retells a real scientific experiment, a simulated voyage to Mars. Initially, my desire to invent an unknown planet came from reading the comic book saga The Worlds of Aldebaran by Léo (Luiz Eduardo de Oliveira) which follows the first human colonizers of the planet Aldebaran and their adventures with mysterious phenomena. The geography, flora and fauna there are very specific and rich, which really helps to draw the reader in. Subsequently, I wanted to tell my version of the first human colony on a new planet named Harmonie.
Why did you want to have responses sung out?
I wanted to do a bit of a musical, but also to embody the idea of harmony through the characters, who have melodious voices but monstrous bodies. I liked the contrast because it made the protagonists difficult to characterize. Should you let yourself be carried away by their bewitching voices or be concerned by their repulsive appearance?
Does the pleasure in strangeness in the film have a point? To what extent does the issue of misunderstanding among individuals interest you?
Strangeness, or the foreign, is a recurring theme in science fiction (Alien,Solaris, District 9, for example). It’s an interesting starting point. How do you react to something you know nothing about, something that doesn’t fit into our categories of thought or perception? What is foreign reveals what we are, so what interests me is more what that tells us about humans than strangeness for its own sake. With regard to communication, I give a nod to Denis Villeneuve’s film Arrival, which is about the attempt to communicate with these squid things coming from the cosmos. The difference is that in Harmonie, the aliens understand French, which is handy!
Did your really plan a sequel to Harmonie? When is that planned for?
I have a few ideas for a sequel. But the questions at the end of the first episode of Harmonie are meant to be more of a joke than an actual plan. They’re meant to stimulate the viewer’s imagination, promising answers to riddles that are quite difficult to solve: Why do the inhabitants of Harmonie understand French? I have no idea. Serials are a game whose aim is to pose a question and then defer the answer. The series Lost is based on that principle. For the moment, there is no fixed number of episodes, and there are several paths that the script and formal presentation could take toward a possible second installment. After that, everything depends on the opportunities and means of production I would have at my disposal to make a sequel.
Have you discovered any advantages that the short film form provides?
Short films allow you to experiment, which is essential for me, it’s non-negotiable. They don’t force you to use conventional narrative mechanisms, or adopt a form of realism that is omnipresent nowadays. I hope my film is difficult to classify, but still enjoyable and surprising. Short films offer that freedom of creation.