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BIFFF 2021

Mathieu Turi • Director of Meander

“There is this animal instinct that kicks in, and you don't even know why”

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- Claustrophobics beware, as the French director invites you on a journey into a tight, enclosed space

Mathieu Turi • Director of Meander

In Meander [+see also:
film review
interview: Mathieu Turi
film profile
]
, Lisa (Gaia Weiss) wakes up to find herself imprisoned in a metal labyrinth full of traps, with a countdown bracelet on her wrist urging her to hurry. But as she starts making her way through the deadly attractions, there is one thing she cannot avoid – memories of her dead daughter. We spoke to director Mathieu Turi about his film, which is screening at this year’s Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: It's always so uncomfortable watching these claustrophobic situations. It's the kind of fear that's just universal.
Mathieu Turi:
I am not claustrophobic at all, but even I would be frightened watching this kind of movie. It's in all of us; we are afraid of being stuck like that. But it works very well in cinema, in movies like Buried [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rodrigo Cortés
film profile
]
or Cube. I really wanted to use that feeling to tell a story.

Apart from all these traps, I thought it would be interesting to focus on what's inside Lisa. She is a mother, or rather she was one, and now she has to deal with the death of a child. I didn't want to be a voyeur, and we talked about it with Gaia, even when discussing her costume. “This is not a movie where we look at your body; it's about going through that experience with you.” At the beginning, Lisa is a woman who doesn't want to live any more – then she fights for her life. It's almost illogical, but there is this animal instinct that kicks in, and you don't even know why.

It's true – she becomes a fighter almost in spite of herself. You don't explain that much in the film though, in terms of why she wakes up in that place and who the hell has braided her hair. Is that something you enjoy?
I made a pact with myself to have some mystery. But I did write down all the explanations, what it all means and why she is like this. There are clues in the movie, some of them so well hidden that I think no one will ever find them. This is something I just like to do, having these Easter eggs that people can later dissect online. I did so in my previous film, too, Hostile [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, where I didn't explain the apocalypse. Viewers watch so many movies these days, and they are used to not having all the answers. They like it.

In sci-fi, one of the clichés is to have many LED lights. We didn't want this kind of imagery. So we used this strange metal that we needed to create for the film, and then we focused on the light on her bracelet. It's our unique source of light! I love Arrival, and the inside of that ship could be made of metal or stone; it's futuristic, but it could have been made by the cavemen as well. Then, I just wanted to play with the elements – water, fire – and to have all this happen for real. We had real fire in the scene, but it was our last day [laughs].

You mentioned being interested in her being a mother and that experience taking over everything else. It's tricky, however, because whenever kids are mentioned, things can get sentimental.
When people come to see a film about traps and claustrophobic situations, you have to commit to that – at least at the beginning. Then we change a bit; there are some emotions. I knew I could do it because I did it in Hostile, which was half-love story, half-post-apocalyptic movie. It was very divisive: people either loved it or hated it, but now, once you see the fighter that she is, hopefully you are eager to know more.

[Finnish actor] Peter Franzén's American accent is so good. Why did you decide to have him in the film as this additional threat?
I wanted to lead the audience in the wrong direction. When he shows up at the beginning, they go: “Ok, here comes another movie about a girl meeting a boy, and a boy going nuts and trying to do crazy shit in a car.” But then it becomes something else. It's a symbol of the loss she experienced, a loss she has to run from – or so she thinks. She has to face it physically but also mentally, and it's just always there. The more you run from it, the worse it gets.

I love how you decided to literally follow the light of her bracelet. It's scary, having something like that attached to you, but it also helps her move forward.
We talked about it changing colour, which you can notice in the film, and while it's a physical burden and a clear death threat, it also holds some answers and things she can use. Maybe what holds you down can also be your weapon? And maybe you can use your handcuffs to actually free yourself?

So often, our mind can be our prison. Now, with the pandemic, you listen to all of these media reports, and you start to believe it's the end of the world. But sometimes, you can just say: “I can choose to have a good day.” That's something I love about life in general.

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