Rebecca Zlotowski • Director of Other People’s Children
“I felt that Rachel was the person I needed to be at a certain point and could not be”
- VENICE 2022: We chatted with the French director, who has crafted her new feature as a cinematic confrontation with female infertility
When Rachel (Virginie Efira) meets Ali (Roschdy Zem), he brings along a child from a prior relationship, leading the woman to a crossroads. At 40, does she still want a child? And what if it is too late? Other People’s Children [+see also:
interview: Rebecca Zlotowski
film profile], which has premiered in competition at the 79th Venice International Film Festival, is Rebecca Zlotowski’s search for answers, as she told us in our conversation.
Cineuropa: Your female protagonist is 40, and is devoted to her career and her hobbies. Now she's having second thoughts about children, which is the scenario thrown at women when they try to make a decision about their reproductive rights.
Rebecca Zlotowski: I don't think that the character drifts in that direction. She is fulfilled in her life, and when she meets a new partner, who has a child, she experiences new desires. When you reach the end of your fertility, when choice becomes an impossibility, it creates new desires. It's not about someone who changes her mind. She's someone who's never asked the question, because she felt that she had her whole life in front of her. But life tells her that she doesn't.
You based the story on the book Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid by Romain Gary, where a man is struggling with impotence.
I was trying to adapt the novel for Roschdy Zem. The title resonated with me because I was experiencing the end of my own fertility. I was turning 40, had no children and wanted one. I looked around me to see if there was a film addressing this subject, and I could not find one. So I decided to make that movie.
There is this frustration that, as a female, you have this ticking, doomsday clock hanging over you.
Which is unfair. With male impotence, you wouldn’t be able to make this film any more, because there is Viagra. The problem has been fixed. You can get hard even when you’re 70. But it’s still an issue if you want to have children after 40.
One of the conflicts in the film is about Roschdy Zem’s character still orbiting his ex for the sake of the child.
Yeah, that is disappointing, but it's also understandable. The question throughout the film is: “What do you have to bury in order to progress?” My heroine doesn't fix her orphan issue, and that's why she cannot be a mother. But she's a teacher, and in the end, she chooses transitional children – her pupils.
There’s another theme in this patchwork family: the question of how much she is allowed to feel for this kid that isn’t hers.
She tries to be very moral and full of dignity. She addresses the fact, direct to the kid, that they won't be seeing each other any more. I felt that she was the person I needed to be at a certain point and could not be. With this film, I wanted to shake hands with people that had maybe experienced the same thing.
You frame your movie with a feminine gaze, in which the woman gets to take in the male body, like when she watches him take a shower.
I just felt that this was something I'd never seen. It has always been guys looking at the girl the day after. I felt that Virginie has this way of glancing at men. And I wanted to film Roschdy’s body. His body had never been filmed, so I asked him to be naked. He was very shy, but then understood exactly what I wanted. I would not brag about it and say that this is a revolution in the female gaze; it's just my gaze.
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