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Alice Winocour • Director

"That feeling that the world is caving in"


- We met with highly promising French filmmaker Alice Winocour in Paris to talk to her about her second feature film, the bold and powerful Disorder

Alice Winocour  • Director

Starring Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts and German actress Diane Kruger, Disorder [+see also:
film review
interview: Alice Winocour
film profile
was premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of this year’s 68th Cannes Film Festival, where the director, Alice Winocour, presented her debut feature film, Augustine [+see also:
film review
film profile
(in Critics’ Week 2012). She’s one to watch, and we caught up with her in Paris.

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Cineuropa: Why did you choose a soldier as the main character for Disorder?
Alice Winocour: First of all, because our soldiers have come back from Afghanistan, and the war veteran figure that is used a lot in American film hasn’t really been used much at all in France. I met with a lot of soldiers and they told me about their difficulty in returning to the ‘real’ normal world away from war zones, their difficult relationship with reality. That’s how Vincent was born, the hero of the film. I imagined this character who’s completely out of sync with reality, who has projected himself into a world of arms dealing, shady politicians, this hazy environment in which it’s hard to see what’s going on, where there’s a threat around every corner.

Skewed perceptions aren’t easy to film. How did you decide to go about portraying these?
As soon as I started writing the screenplay, I knew that the film had to be very sensory and get under the skin of the character so that viewers would feel the same dizziness he feels when faced with reality: only see what he sees, only grasp what he grasps, only feel what he feels and only hear what he hears. We worked hard on the sound and the soundtrack of the film to alter the viewer’s perception of sound by distorting reality. I wanted to put the audience in the shoes of the character, to make them feel constantly unsure of whether there is a threat or not, of whether they’re experiencing fantasy or reality. This also seemed like a highly current issue – look at the heightened vigilance of the entire world when it comes to attacks, an attitude that seems a bit over the top in the real world but is necessary when you’re a soldier trying to survive in a war zone.

Vincent’s hypersensitivity verges on a 6th sense.
I incorporated my childhood fears of thunderstorms and the dark into the film, as well as more modern-day fears with all the information we’re bombarded with at all hours of the day and the highly violent images, that feeling that you’re seeing everything without having any kind of grip on reality, the feeling of complete helplessness. That’s what I was trying to get into this character, who sees and hears everything but only picks up on snippets, with everything being very foggy to him. The film starts off a bit like a documentary, following the work of the security team in this big villa, before gradually turning into what is practically Vincent’s nightmare, as if his paranoid nightmare were becoming a reality. Then the film moves almost into the realms of fantasy. I wanted the viewer to literally feel the fear that for me is something we’re all faced with in this day and age: that feeling that the world is caving in. I also tried to portray it with climactic elements. It is this chaos that I wanted to capture, telling a love story on the side between two characters from opposing worlds: that of soldiers coming back from war and that of Jessie, who’s a sort of trophy wife trapped in a gilded cage. Theirs are two types of loneliness that meet when danger threatens all around, bringing them closer together. But I didn’t want to overlook the fear in their relationship and the violence of their encounter, as Jessie is always afraid of Vincent who is, all in all, quite frightening.

Why did you decide to make a genre film?
I liked the idea of making an action film, a genre usually reserved for men. I also wanted to show that there’s no genre that is off limits, that women aren’t bound to making intimate films but can make all kinds of films. Then, drawing on my love of film, my enjoyment as a viewer, I was hugely influenced by films like Take Shelter and History of Violence. I thought it would be interesting to direct a hero, to talk about this deterioration of society, about corrupt politicians. Obviously the political element of the story takes place off screen, we are only fed fragments, partly because we’re seeing things from Vincent’s point of view but above all because I feel like in this day and age, even if we read everything we can about all these political affairs, we only get a part of the story: proceedings go on for years and we are kept completely in the dark. I also thought about the film The Conversation and films by Antonioni such as The Night and Blow-Up in which very sensory characters wander around their worlds like bystanders.

Have you already thought up your next film?
I’ve already started working on a new project, another rather odd love story, for which I aim to get the audience even more emotionally involved.

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(Translated from French)

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