Cdric Klapisch: I have loved dancing for a very long time, not by practicing, but by watching. When I was a teenager, I visited Merce Cunningham, Carolyn Carlson, Pina Bausch. I knew the development of modern dance until today, the Belgian school and the Israeli school with Hofesh Shechter, who is in the film; people like Ohad Naharin, Sharon Eyal. One thing leads to another, I had a kind of modern dance culture. And then I have always had dancer friends, and quite early on I filmed dance in the Paris Opera, which we do not know is 50% classical and 50% contemporary. In fact, there have been a whole host of things that I would like to talk about and it should be shown.
In addition to dance, the writing of the body in motion has interested you since your inception, but you had always handled it by the documentary with the short film What touches me (1989) or the documentary by signing the portraits of Aurlie Dupont or Renaud Lavillenie. Did you have to work on acquiring documentary images before moving on to fiction?
You are absolutely right: it took me a while to find the solution. We discussed it a lot with Santiago Amigorena, my co-screenwriter. The idea when you do fiction is to find the story you are telling. When I took the portrait of Aurlie Dupont, I followed her, I filmed the programs and her life, no need to tell a story with one: it’s just beautiful to look at. Here one had to tell a story, and for 15 years I had been looking for what story I could tell. And that is right What touches me, which is now the name of my production company, apart from a short film I made about tienne-Jules Marey, a physiologist who invented the cinema because he was looking for a medical tool to study the horse’s movements in humans. It so happens that the Lumire Brothers then used this camera to make films, but the camera that Etienne-Jules Marey invented was good for studying motion. And cinematography, to write the movement.
Everything interested me in the cinema report showing the movement, hence the credits showing the body in slow motion, almost in photography. And the difficulty was being able to create fiction. It took me a while, but I have the impression that I have managed to invent an interior story in this film. Many things were solved when I said to myself that it was necessary to take as a starting point the accident, and then unfold, by inventing the character of kinematics, the period when she was told that she could not dance again Many dancers told me to tell this story i.a. a friend of Marion Barbeau; Aurlie Dupont, who was told she would never be able to dance again, and saw Pina Bausch, who convinced her she could again. Everything was nurtured by real stories.
The beginning of the film, up to Élise’s accident, is not discussed until a quarter of an hour. What writing and staging problems does this cause?
This whole beginning actually records the codes of dumb cinema: her boyfriend comes to kiss her on the mouth so we understand she has a boyfriend. Then he walks away. Then she gets ready for the show. We see the start of the show, behind the scenes, and her boyfriend again, but with a different girl. Suddenly his reaction to deception, we understand it visually. And there’s a kind of excitement because she’s going on stage, to dance, because she’s the main character. We use an almost Hitchcockian suspense: We are both there to watch the dance, and a story takes place behind the dance. When I found this idea to begin with, I was happy because it was the key to mixing dance and history.
Afterwards the writing, it was totally abstract because we wrote a series of actions with Santiago. I almost wanted to do a pre-edit, because actually I was really hooked on the music: there was a passage from Bayadre which I really liked, which lasted 1’52 ”, the sequence should last 1’52 ”. So it was super complicated and it was until the end of the edit because we did not know if this introduction should last 3, 5, 7 or 15 minutes. In my opinion, we could have endured even longer, but the complicated thing is the shock we create for the spectator when we start talking afterwards: the more we delay it, the stranger it is. Because it feels like stepping into another movie.
You are used to sharing writing with Santiago Amigorena; here you have also integrated another “writer” into the presence of the choreographer Hofesh Shechter. How did you conduct this dialogue three?
For the writing, we did not work with Hofesh, I showed his Santiago videos. Where Hofesh participated was for rehearsals for shows in Brittany. He had given me all the videos of his shows, I had both the choreographies and the music as he composes his own. And I had chosen two shows for what they said at the level of gestures. Especially a part of Grand Final the duo of death, where men try to revive their dead wives by getting them to dance. This idea, I found it so beautiful, so related to what we said. It was very important that she started dancing again with it. So I told Hofesh we were going to work on it, and told him so. But these are things that are almost documentary in the film: I use a work session where he transmits this choreography to Marion Barbeau, and where the troupe working on something else does not know this ballet either. So I film his class, these work sessions, it’s pure documentary.
Actually, In the body is a bit strange because it responds to three logics: moments of fiction written and spoken, moments of capture where I film Bayadre Where Political mother the end of the film; and then documentary moments. These are three quite different languages, and the film is the mixture of these three ways of filming. What was already in What binds us, o there was almost a week of documentaries of the harvest; I had inserted scenes with Pio Marma, Ana Girardot and Franois Civil, who advise grape pickers. Same i My piece of cake, with a scene in the middle of the traders where my characters are actually doing trading transactions. I like to play with the limits of documentary and fiction; created a suspense, a reality. And there, within the framework of the dance, it was obvious that it was necessary to film in documentaries.
You celebrate grace through dance or music; happiness through gastronomic pleasures or contemplation of a sunset. Was there the desire to show the importance of culture and beauty in life, after the period we have been through?
That’s not how I thought of it, but yes. We had been so deprived of leaving our home and from a spectacle that a sunset became a spectacle. But when I filmed people watching the sunset and the couple kissing, I thought it was a cliché. And actually, I left it in the movie because it did well, what! (laughs) That’s really the simplicity we tried to have in writing. The story should be simple. And finally, audacity was to accept very simple things.