Simple comme Sylvain (The Nature of Love), an irresistible sentimental comedy by Monia Chokri
Already known as an actress, Monia Chokri has imposed her directing touch in the space of three films. The meticulousness of his staging and his sense of dialogue had earned her the “Coup de cœur Prize” from the Un Certain Regard Jury in 2019, for A Brother’s Love. Today, Simple comme Sylvain (The Nature of Love) is in theatres after being warmly welcomed by Cannes festival-goers last May. The Quebec filmmaker shares some thoughts about this irresistible sentimental comedy in which she explores the possibilities of love between two beings that everything opposes.
Can you tell us how your film came about?
I wanted to film a love story. There is an obsessive theme in all of my work to date: the impossibility, the thwarting of love. La Femme de mon frère (A Brother’s Love), was about a brother-sister relationship. I wanted to continue researching this topic because it is infinite. But I was also interested in making a film about two worlds meeting. What happens if two people who could potentially really love each other come from completely different backgrounds?
What was the atmosphere like on the shoot? Have you got any stories from the set?
One night, we were filming in an isolated cabin with very limited Internet. The special effects technician needed to run some tubes across the ground to create smoke. A drunk neighbour threatened him with an axe! We were warned by the production team who asked us to shut ourselves in the cabin, which, by the way, had no bolt on the door. We stayed in there, terrified, for more than an hour, thinking there was a maniac on the loose. The police got there in the end, but it was frightening.
What can you tell us about your actors?
I was lucky enough to work with one of Quebec’s greatest actresses in the leading role, who also happens to be my best friend. We had such a strong connection that I didn’t have to direct her, precisely because we have exactly the same thoughts at the same time. Magalie Lépine-Blondeau is a powerful, sensual, intelligent and deep actress. Pierre-Yves Cardinal is an actor who is suffused with a great tenderness. It was important to me to find a man to play the role of Sylvain who had a great sensitivity and attentiveness. Working with the two of them was an experience full of joy and tenderness.
What did directing this film teach you?
I changed director of photography, which took me out of my comfort zone. I was
used to working with a director of photography who was very much around in the run up to the shoot. André Turpin, on the other hand, was not available much during that period and I had to trust myself, my direction ideas and my cutting decisions. But during the shoot, André was very present and reassuring. So I learned to trust myself.
What would you like people to take away from your film?
I made this project with gentleness and kindness. I wanted to suffuse this love story with that.
“I would like people to come away with the same feeling of tenderness that my team and I felt.”