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BERLINALE 2020 Generation

Anna Falguères and John Shank • Directors of Pompei

"We wanted to free ourselves from a modern-day form of realism so as to broaden the film’s scope"

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- BERLINALE 2020: We met with Anna Falguères and John Shank whose first feature film Pompéi is screening within the Generation 14plus line-up

Anna Falguères and John Shank • Directors of Pompei

We sat down with Anna Falguères and John Shank who, following their time in the Toronto Film Festival, are now presenting their first feature film directed as a duo within the Berlinale’s Generation 14plus section. Pompei [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anna Falguères and John Shank
film profile
]
is an intense and heady love story which sits outside of space and time, a twilight tale illuminated by the crazed love which overcomes two lost children from a civilisation in ruins.

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Cineuropa: How did the project come about?
John Shank:
We wanted to work, write and create something together. We started with the feelings we had in terms of life in general, the world today, and issues relating to intimacy, love, or the absence of love. What we actually wanted to write was a love story.

Anna Falguères: I needed to understand why some people don’t allow themselves to experience feelings. I wanted to examine the more striking memories of my sentimental education and remind myself of the images which really left a mark on me as a child. Could that help to answer the question: why do some people refuse themselves the freedom to love?

In the film, masculinity is greatly exaggerated by young boys who seem to be putting on a performance of their gender.
AF:
Yes; it is, of course, a very gendered matter. As a child, I was unhappy as soon as I realised that I had to choose between being a boy or a girl. We play with stereotypes in the film, and with the gendered representation we’re supposed to deliver on a daily basis, even though things are starting to change a little bit. Why boys don’t allow themselves to experience certain feelings and how this girl, whom we saw as androgynous, can accept her desires in a free and almost non-gendered way.

JS: We wanted to question these representations; invalidate them, even. Here, we have a group, led by boys, which has long-standing rituals, and which is unable to see the world in any other way. When a character like Billie comes along, with all her freedom, what does that call up in them? A release of emotions? Perhaps, but it’s difficult to face up to this if you’re not used to it.

The story unfolds in a time vacuum, with no temporal or spatial markers…
AF: We wanted to strip back the story; to move away from realism. Even if we do have a political view of these youngsters, we wanted to free ourselves from a modern-day form of realism so as to widen the film’s scope, so that it might ring true for childhood and for adulthood, and not suffer the restrictions of being set in the present day. To be set in a time where there’s no telephone; to erase this immediacy and go back to a time where we had to wait, a time that’s synonymous with hope as well as frustration.

JS: With the stream of images assailing me, there are a great many things which don’t allow me to take a step back. There’s a build-up of things that are all too familiar. We could also have made a film about high school kids in order to talk about this lack of feelings, but we wanted to put the viewer at a slight distance; to create a distance from the modern-day situation via film, so that we might better discuss it.

There’s an end of the world feeling to the film, the idea of a twilight world where the sun goes down more often than it rises…
AF:
Yes, it’s one of the ideas which came to us. There was also the question of transfer, which is implicit in the film; acknowledging the past existence of what has gone before - notably conveyed through the omnipresence of nature - and of what remains. Are we worthy of the past, and what are we leaving for tomorrow’s world?

JS: That twilight feeling is linked to the idea that in order for there to be rebirth, there also has to be death. The trajectory of the film’s characters speaks of this too. Finiteness is something that’s very difficult for human beings to accept and understand. But in order to recreate, it’s essential. We’re living in a time, at a speed, in a flux where it’s very difficult to accept that things can come to an end. We wanted the film to represent a moment of change; we didn’t want to end the film in utter darkness; we wanted to show a world that’s changing.

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(Translated from French)

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