Marine Francen • Director
"I wanted us to feel everything that these women experience through their bodies"
- Marine Francen talks about her debut feature, The Sower, winner at San Sebastian and released in French cinemas by ARP Sélection
The debut feature film, The Sower [+see also:
interview: Marine Francen
film profile], by Marine Francen won the New Directors award in September at San Sebastian and also recently won awards at both Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Tübingen/Stuttgart festival. Produced by Sylvie Pialat and Benoît Quainon for Les Films du Worso, the film is due to be released in French cinemas today by ARP Sélection, and is being sold internationally by Celluloid Dreams.
Cineuropa: What was it about the short story The Seed Giver by Violette Aihaud (written in 1919) that inspired you to make The Sower?
Marine Francen: Her themes, both her approach to feminine desire and how she talks about political resistance, but also her clear writing style which has a phenomenal poetic intensity to it. I also liked the fact that it wasn't a large book which needed to be cut down so only the essential aspects remained. On the contrary, there was only a narrative basis, which wasn't enough to adapt into a screenplay. So I began with some thorough research in order to understand the historical context, the resistance at the time of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'état in December 1851. There were small pockets of resistance everywhere in France, the spontaneous impulse of people who wanted to defend the Republic, putting their own lives at risk with assassinations, indiscriminate shooting into the crowds in the streets, arrests and deportations. The resistance that the women in the film engage with, wanting to remain free in the village, and not to suffer the oppression of the power in place, nor the male oppression that could have occurred, the solidarity they build between them, the idea of reinventing life's systems: it's simple political commitment, of the people who live their lives and come together to find solutions. It's a very political film, even if it's not necessarily presented that way explicitly. While conducting my research, I also wanted to understand how people lived at the time so that I could reconstruct the atmosphere, without allowing the film to fall too much into the category of total realism. I thought that the poetic power of the text was beautiful, as well as what it said about feminine desire, the mythological aspect of this kind of apocalypse and the rebirth that is described in the text.
A village deprived of men, it’s a way of life that involves hard work.
The women find themselves doing the men's work, on top of what they were doing alongside them before. The film tells the story of the initial stage before the arrival of the man: how to survive alone, with a completely self-sufficient lifestyle, but with the fragilities that brings with it, especially when working in the fields to ensure the village has enough to eat. And beyond that, there’s also the psychological survival, which becomes more and more difficult: how they cope with being cut off from the world and in particular, not knowing what has happened to the men and if they may return one day. Instead of being indiscreet and telling the story of the rising anguish within them as the months go by, I thought it would be more interesting to show how anxiety is reflected in these women’s’ bodies.
What were your intentions when shooting the film?
One of the pitfalls was the peasant chronicle, make a pretty film with pretty girls and beautiful landscapes that becomes a little flat. I felt that it was necessary to shatter the somewhat academic side that the film could potentially end up with, by using very cutting methodology. With my chief cameraman, Alain Duplantier, I decided, in order to be stay close to the body and with a lack of a steadicam for budgetary reasons, to shoot the film over-the-shoulder. But I did not want it to jiggle about in all directions, so we came to the conclusion that a square 4:3 format would allow us to shoot over-the-shoulder with less shaking than a wider format, while still allowing us to remain very close to the women and their bodies. It was therefore necessary to consider a non-standard decoupage, which drove us to be inventive. Because I wanted us to feel everything that these women experience through their bodies: it is a film with little dialogue, we are with them in different atmospheres and situations. It resulted in a visual identity that adds strength to the film and the bodily presence of its women.
(Translated from French)
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