“Nothing will ever be the same again”
by Fabien Lemercier
07/04/2011 - Cineuropa: What triggered you to embark on Tomboy [trailer, film focus]?
Céline Sciamma: I’d had this story in mind, or the starting situation in any case, for two or three years, but I didn’t think it would be my second film. The trigger was the desire to make a film very quickly, to shoot it immediately. This story seemed ideal when it came to being in this state of energy for the production side and making a light film. And I wanted to explore childhood, to make a sunny and dynamic film, with different directorial challenges. Logic pushed me towards a weightier film, four years after a debut feature that had enjoyed enough success to make me feel entitled to have another go. But I wanted to respond to this pressure in an offbeat way, get back to work with a sense of urgency, live the utopian dream that you can make films when you want to and, at the same time, have a story that ties in with my interest in issues of identity and gender.
Why does the issue of identity fascinate you?
It’s a really exciting opportunity for fiction. It creates stories and drama centred around lies, double games, double lives, otherness and the other in oneself: all very strong catalysts for fiction. But when I say identity, this could also be James Cameron’s Avatar. Straightaway, this creates distance with regard to my definite personal interest and I can project myself into the story and characters.
After the first stirrings of adolescence in Water Lilies [trailer] , you explore another transitional age, between childhood and adolescence.
There’s a tipping point and nothing will ever be the same again: that’s the level of action that appeals to me. That’s the way I like to get into stories both as a viewer and as a filmmaker. This enables you to work on identification and empathy. And I always try to think in terms of action, even if I’m dealing with intimate subjects.
How much did you want your film to be a portrait of childhood?
I wanted to situate the main character in her relationships, but I didn’t want it to be a chronicle of childhood. The project had three strands: the portrait of childhood that is spiced up by a real story and the convergence of the two which was a challenge from a directorial point of view. I made sure I always steered clear of the social drama aspect because I wanted to incorporate smiles and laughter, and work on the contrasts. Childhood makes that possible.
How much is unconscious in the main character’s double life?
A misunderstanding enables her to seize the opportunity, even if this lie and false identity are not her main objectives. But there are also things that touch on underlying desires. I made sure the film was very open on this question. Some may think that opportunity makes the thief and it’s only a game, while others may think that this identity issue will pursue her later in life. To tell the truth, the film doesn’t give any answers.
The forest is a space of freedom where Laure’s lie flourishes in contrast with family life in the apartment.
Outside, there is this fictional space where we do what we want. I wanted the natural surroundings to be welcoming and blooming. Outside, she can breathe. Inside, it’s more confined, but I didn’t want to create too much of a binary opposition and, at the same time, there is pleasure in being with her little sister and moments of tenderness with her father. It’s a double life and she likes these two lives, one of which is a space where she invents herself.