"A quest for transparency"
by Fabien Lemercier
24/06/2011 - Cineuropa: How did you come up with the idea for Goodbye First Love [trailer, film focus]?
Mia Hansen-Love: Before I wrote it, I thought up the story of a girl who could never get over her first love. We could imagine the film is about "turning the page", but there is also a fierce resistance to the idea of putting our feelings into perspective. Teenagers are infuriated when adults tell them that a passionate love will fade. There’s a sort of stubbornness, energy and rage.
How did you deal with the story’s nine-year timeline?
I trust viewers to make the connection between the different bits and fill in the gaps. Compared to my previous films, more things are depicted in relation to the passage of time because I wanted to film Camille in her solitude, which is an essential dimension of her character. She is someone who is shaping her own identity, between the ages of 16 and 22, at an age when we change a great deal and which determines the rest of our life.
You touch on a host of underlying themes.
The story is very structured, but I’m never guided by any intention to convey messages or ideas. Everything is intuitive and sensory: the desire to film a certain setting, shoot in summertime, see the characters do this or say that... I’ve always believed that scenes are filled when we want to film something and that, deep down, it doesn’t really matter why.
Once again, your film’s cast is very European and includes France’s Lola Créton, Germany’s Sebastian Urzendowky and Norway’s Magne Havard Brekke.
It’s not deliberate. Moreover, the character of Sullivan wasn’t foreign in the script. I love Magne’s charisma; he also appeared in a scene in The Father of My Children [trailer, film focus]. For the difficult role of Sullivan, an unusual and rather elusive character, I spent months looking for an actor in France. I was about to give up on the film when someone showed me a photo of Sebastian whom I hadn’t seen in Pingpong. I was immediately struck by the depth of his expression. But the fact that he’s German was more of a problem. Then I told myself that he was playing a character who has difficulty putting down roots, who was pretty much running away, and so this wasn’t a contradiction. As for Lola, I discovered her in Blue Beard which I saw on television. Right from the opening shot, I was struck by her intense gaze and strong presence.
Why didn’t you age Camille and Sullivan on screen?
It’s an intentional choice. I don’t think films can show the ageing process in a truly authentic way because it’s something that only time can produce. Make-up and the actors’ performance never get close to the truth. I preferred to have protagonists of the age they were at the start of the film with the freshness and innocence of adolescence.
Why did you choose the world of architecture as a backdrop?
Architecture deals with similar issues to cinema: space, light, the relationship with time, the fact of being both an art and a very practical discipline, the mixture of large scale and small details, the highly technical aspect, etc. What’s great about cinema is that it’s also a tool for exploring the world. I’ve tried to ensure that each of my films doesn’t just bring me back to myself, to what I’m familiar with, but also pushes me towards the unfamiliar.
What were you aiming for in terms of visual style?
A quest for transparency and lack of effects: we use lighting as little as possible, which doesn’t mean we don’t use lighting at all, because it’s often quite sophisticated for interiors. What touches me in films is when I can feel the natural light. In terms of the shooting script, there’s no set formula with scenes using sequence shots, some using a shoulder-held camera, others on a tripod, some tightly edited scenes, others less so. But this corresponds to the logic of the scenes, rhythm and musicality.