More Than Ever (Plus Que Jamais): through Emily Atef’s eyes

Picture of the film MORE THAN EVER (PLUS QUE JAMAIS) by Emily ATEF © DR

In feature film More Than Ever (Plus Que Jamais), Gaspard Ulliel's last performance before his tragic death, Emily Atef draws on the talents of Vicky Krieps to recount the story of thirty-three-year-old Hélène from Bordeaux, whose life is turned upside-down when she is diagnosed with a rare lung disease. The filmmaker captures her protagonist's inner and outer worlds as the young woman fights to find her own way forward.

How was the idea for your film born?

Right from my very first film, I've always been interested in women plunged into existential crisis, battling others and themselves before coming up against an unexpected event that marks the start of the path they must take to (re)find their own voice. This is what happens to my protagonist Hélène. Despite the pressure on her, she breaks free to find a space where she can finally breathe.


An on-set anecdote you can share with us?

Because of the pandemic, we all found ourselves in quarantine in Norway, in this absolutely breath-taking location. We became a family. For her role, Vicky would immerse herself in the icy water to get used to the cold. We discussed this with Gaspard, who really felt the cold, but nevertheless decided to give it a go. The shivers and chattering teeth you see in the water scenes are actually real!


Anything you'd like to share regarding your actors?

I've known Vicky for many years now, and our close bond allowed us to dive deep in getting to the bottom of her character's existential quest. Hélène had to be played by a young woman with a timeless look about her: a mysterious, ethereal woman with an air of fragility, but one who could give off a certain strength and sense of resolve, too. Gaspard immediately look his role very seriously. He was such a hard worker. He had this ability to delve into emotion, and wasn't afraid to overwhelm or shock. His silences were as eloquent as his words: that's how transparent his face and body were. Bjørn arrived without any preparation and threw himself heart and soul into it, without a backward glance. His minimalism and allure absolutely embody the sense of mystery I had in mind for Mister.


What did shooting this film teach you?

It gave me a completely different perspective on the people I know dealing with illness, and it inspired me to take a different approach to them. My mother was ill while I was writing the film, and she passed away in 2015. Throughout her illness, working on the screenplay helped me take the right attitude. I found the strength to tell her that she could do what she wanted, although it was hard for me to say.


What made you want to become a director?

As a little girl, I used to write stories. They emerged very clearly in my head. I'm someone who's curious, and the stories people tell genuinely interest and nourish me. That inspires me and makes me want to translate them onto the screen.


What's up next for you?

My next film is a book-to-screen adaptation of Someday We'll Tell Each Other Everything by Daniela Krien, a passionate romance between an eighteen-year-old woman and a forty-year-old man in the first summer following the fall of the Berlin Wall, deep in the East German countryside.