Gueule d’ange (Angel Face), as seen by Vanessa Filho

Film still of Gueule d'ange (Angel Face) © RR

In Gueule d’ange (Angel Face), the first film by the French filmmaker Vanessa Filho, Marion Cotillard plays a single mother who leaves her eight-year-old daughter behind after an encounter in a night club.

Where did you get the idea for this film?

This film was born out of a visceral need to express the want of love, feelings of insecurity and emotional dependence. I wanted to show female characters in all their complexity: their strengths and their cracks, their resilience, the times when they fall, that burning moment before they act and during the act itself. Using the unique relationship which unites this child and her mother, I wanted to express the feelings which unite and separate the two main characters: their unease; their way of being in the world, without points of reference, without anything to hang on to; the weapons they don't have, that they invent for themselves, clumsily, which lead to dependence and addiction. In one sense, Gueule d'Ange is a film about learning and about rebirth.

Tell us about your actors.

Right from my very first conversation with Marion, I could feel the motivation for the emotions that she could give Marlène, in the way she spoke of her with such love and empathy. She shaped the character, delicately, by gradually charting Marlène's feelings, her experience of abandonment, her unease, on her body. When Ayline Aksoy-Etaix appeared at the casting, I felt as though I recognised Elli. She has left a totally unique stamp on the character, which was over and above what I asked of her: a strength, an independence, a freedom which came from Ayline herself. She inhabited the role with a remarkably mature sensitivity and intelligence. Alban Lenoir perfectly embodied the character of Julio: silent, solitary, enigmatic in his way and at the same time with a palpable sensitivity mixed with a childlike quality. Alban can express that toughness thanks to his physicality, while still keeping something of the child in his gaze.

What did you learn during the making of this film?

I actually experienced and lived a paradox: the combination of the obsession with detail, with all the details, I needed during the creation of this film, with the continual pleasure of being surprised, of living in the moment of creation of emotional "accidents". I also learned at first hand the capacity for resilience needed to fight the battle to direct your first film. Finally on a more personal note, the film was cathartic for me, because it freed some irrational feelings and fears.

What are your influences?

My influences cross over all the arts; they are powerful artists and works which shaped and inspired my passion for cinema. The first film that had a real impact on me was Bleu by Kieslowski, which I discovered when I was 13. I was moved and affected by the female lead character and by Zbigniew Preisner's music. It was at that moment that I decided that I would write and that I would become a film director.

Could you tell us about your next project?

I have actually got two screenplays in development: Le Verbe aimer (The Verb to Love) and Le Chant de la terre (The Song of the Earth), as well as a stage play, La Constance des sentiments (The Constancy of Feelings). At the same time, photography has a central place in my life. I have been developing Résistances, an experimental project which brings together photography, filmed images and stage performances, for several years.