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CANNES 2022 Cannes Première

Emmanuel Mouret • Director of Diary of a Fleeting Affair

"What interested me most was making this little affair look like a big affair"

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- CANNES 2022: The French filmmaker discussed love, affairs, desire and emotions, as well as the question of gender, while explaining his latest movie

Emmanuel Mouret • Director of Diary of a Fleeting Affair
(© Xavier Lambours)

Emmanuel Mouret applies his smiley, charming, affectionate and analytical style to an affair of masked feelings in Diary of a Fleeting Affair [+see also:
film review
interview: Emmanuel Mouret
film profile
]
, which was unveiled in the 75th Cannes Film Festival’s Cannes Première section.

Cineuropa: Love is central to your films. Why the angle of an affair this time round?
Emmanuel Mouret: Rather than love, it’s more stories about thwarted desire and suspense that I explore. In this instance, I adapted a draft screenplay written by Pierre Giraud whose writing I’d supervised a bit. What I was most interested in was the idea of a story about two lovers based entirely around their meetups, creating suspense around these meetups and making this little affair look like a big affair. Because there’s a divide today - although I imagine it’s true of all time-periods - between two connected but often somewhat opposing dimensions: pleasure, because they’re two characters who only see each other for pleasure, and a more spiritual, sacred or mystical dimension of love, and how the two intermingle.

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How did you decide upon the number of meetups - twenty or so - which punctuate the film?
It was a question of dramaturgical intuition and progression. What I was interested in was these two lovers’ wish to only see each other for pleasure and to not expect anything in return; in other words, a wish which works in some respects, but on which viewers are two steps ahead of them, knowing that if they take so much pleasure in each other’s company, whether they’re chatting or making love, then feelings are going to develop. Viewers know that feelings are going to blossom within this great freedom the two characters allow themselves, but they don’t allow themselves to voice it. How are they going to cope with these developing feelings and how will they negotiate them? Because when we develop feelings, we project. It’s this conflict between two freedoms that I wanted to bring into play.

Is the film’s borderline comedic tone largely down to your two actors, Vincent Macaigne and Sandrine Kiberlain, or was it always your intention to play with this border?
I wanted it to be a light yet serious film. What I liked about the Sandrine Kiberlain – Vincent Macaigne pairing was that both of them are brilliant at conveying a real fantasy. From the very first readings, they worked really well as a couple, not least on account of their contrasting energy. It’s really difficult to cast films when there are only two main characters and I’m pleased that I was able to bring them together because they convey sincerity and sensitivity, as well as humour.

You also touch upon the question of gender.
I wanted to retain this element from Pierre Giraud’s initial script. In my mind, the question of desire comes before gender. In films, I can identify as a man or a woman, as a homosexual, a transexual or a heterosexual, but I think we identify with desire rather than gender.

What were your main aims for the film’s mise en scène?
I was looking for breadth in this intimist story, to make sure this little, intimate, hidden affair wasn’t all beds and sheets. That’s why the lovers meet up in lots of different places and we hardly ever see them sat down, except for once or twice, maybe. They’re always moving, roaming around, walking, travelling, and their thoughts, words, feelings and questions are constantly circulating too. I also wanted them to move quite quickly and for there to be lots of dialogue, lots of words, to ensure viewers are glued to the screen.

The film posters for Under Capricorn and Les Dames du bois de Boulogne, and an extract from Scenes From a Marriage make a fleeting appearance in the movie. I  imagine this isn’t by chance?
Clearly, they’re three films which are similar to mine. Under Capricorn is a rather wonderful film featuring the great new trend of the time of only using sequence shots. I myself adapted Les Dames du bois de Boulogne by way of Mademoiselle de Joncquières [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Emmanuel Mouret
film profile
]
. As for Scenes From a Marriage, it has a strong connection with Diary of a Fleeting Affair which might have been called Scenes From Extra-Marital Life because this is also a film composed solely of scenes featuring two characters.

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(Translated from French)

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