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France

Ludovic Bergery • Director of Margaux Hartmann

"It’s a way of stepping back into life: reconnecting with the world"

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- The filmmaker discusses his debut feature which sees Emmanuelle Béart playing the wonderful part of a woman who is looking to start over, resonating with French cinemas as they await their reopening

Ludovic Bergery • Director of Margaux Hartmann
(© Celine Nieszawer)

Margaux Hartmann [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ludovic Bergery
film profile
]
is the first feature film put forth by Ludovic Bergery. Carried by Emmanuelle Béart who plays the lead character, the film will be released by Pyramide on 19 May as French cinemas reopen after 200 consecutive days of closure.

Cineuropa: A young woman in her fifties who’s trying to escape loneliness is a rather unusual character for a first feature film. Where did the desire to tackle such a subject come from?
Ludovic Bergery: I wanted to explore loneliness, the quest for desire, the search for oneself, for others, for love, and I found that a female character made for a better story. It came in part from my childhood because I lost my father very early on and my mother raised me on her own: I had to make my way alone in a world which wasn’t always easy to understand, and there’s a certain type of female sensitivity to love that I’m now familiar with. There’s also an almost heroic side to the relationship which this woman, who doesn’t have children, has with tenderness and desire: the social pressure is greater than it is for men, who we’d simply describe as confirmed bachelors, while people ask more questions when it comes to women, and sometimes unfairly. But I didn’t want a storyline that felt too forced; I wanted to work on feelings, to paint a portrait using tiny, subtle brushstrokes to allow the character to come together over time.

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Why did you immerse this character into the student world?
I wanted her to experience or re-experience several stages of her life, including her relationship with youth. We learn that she has lost her husband, that she met him very young and that she no doubt missed out on a whole raft of experiences. The student world is a time in our lives when we’re not all that aware of how old we are and the fact that we don’t have children means we have a slightly different concept of time. There’s the idea of reconnecting with one’s youth, but obviously the door closes at a certain point, because there’s something cruel about the passing of time.

And the contrast between intellect, in the form of the German literature course, and reconnecting with one’s body?
German literature is all about “sehnsucht”: melancholy, the past, ambiguity, the emergence of desire and a certain manner of tackling the latter which is unique but also very direct (in terms of relationships towards bodies, in particular). Overall, I wanted to create lots of oppositions: emptiness and fullness, the concrete and the abstract. When you’ve been lonely for a while, you’re lost in an imaginary world, in projections, which aren’t necessarily aligned with reality. The act of seeking out pleasure, of comparing your body with someone else’s, sets a certain limit: suddenly, things are tangible. It’s a way of stepping back into life, after bereavement, absence and emptiness which all fall in the domain of the abstract. Margaux needs to reconnect with the world, and with life, because she’s floating in an in-between world. She’s a Sleeping Beauty, of sorts: she wakes up and she has to live, make the most of what she has, do something with the freedom that has been granted to her, and therefore work out its limits. It involves a level of clumsiness that’s almost childlike, a naivety, in the best sense of the word.

The film boasts some pretty impressive visual biases.
I wanted to shoot on film stock - 16mm reels - to make it grainy. There are a lot of night-time scenes in the film, so shooting on film was quite risky because we didn’t have much time. I wanted a certain patina, a chiaroscuro effect, and to get back to the atmospheres of films which painted brilliant portraits of women in the 1980s, such as Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Looking for Mr. Goodbar and, obviously, Opening Night.

Was funding the film a complicated process?
It’s a first film so it was a fight. But as soon as we’d secured an advance on receipts from the CNC, everything moved quickly. For films like this one, which are novel-like and quite subtle, it’s probably a bit harder, but either way, I’ve rarely heard of a first film being made in the blink of an eye. Now I’m preparing to throw myself back into the ring for my second film.

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(Translated from French)

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