The difficulty soldiers have readjusting to normal life while dealing with the trauma inflicted by war is the subject of Maryland, the second feature film by director Alice Winocour, who was selected to compete for the Short Film Palme d'Or in 2005 with Kitchen.
Film still © RR
Tell us how your film came about.
I became interested in war photographers who spoke about the difficulty of returning to civilian life, having experienced death and the horrors of the battlefield at close quarters. I met soldiers who'd come back from Afghanistan and who talked to me about their fears, their sudden bouts of violence - all those sources of pain and distress that we group under the term "post-traumatic stress disorder" and put soldiers out of action. The character of Vincent evolved from these encounters. I envisioned a role based on a soldier who'd been told he can't go back on operation, like a worker worn-out and thrown on the scrapheap.
I also wanted to approach an area that's generally the preserve of men: genre film. My choice was certainly influenced by the idea of reasserting that, for female directors today, the sky's the limit.
What was the atmosphere like on set?
We filmed for two months within the close confines of the location, a huge, decadently luxurious house in Antibes. There were storms and strong winds all the time, which made it feel like the end of the world. On the set, the atmosphere was electric. But even during the moments of violence, there was always a sense of collective and contagious excitement.
Can tell us a little bit about your actors?
I wrote the film for Matthias Schoenaerts. There is an animality about him that suits the character, but as well as having the physical condition of an elite soldier, he is made to act the part of someone on the edge. Matthias was completely committed: during filming, he didn't sleep and was in a genuinely bad way. He got very close to his own demons. For the character of Jessie, I wanted to give a touching portrayal of the neglected "trophy wife", who has lost herself in a superficial existence. Diane Kruger brought a lot of authenticity to the character. I've always been fascinated by her Hitchcockian side.
What's your view of French cinema?
I identify with the shared energy of a new generation of film-makers. Beyond each person's unique world, I like the solidarity between us. We have a duty, today, to defend the fragile values we all regard as fundamental, those embracing the freedom in film-making that allows us to explore many different avenues.
What are your sources of artistic inspiration?
Photographers. For Augustine, my first film, it was the work of Francesca Woodman, and for Maryland, the images of Gregory Crewdson and Philipp Garcia di Lorca. Each, in their own way, create a fusion between horror film and documentary tradition.
The film that featured throughout my childhood was Psycho, which I must have seen a hundred times. But there was also Zabriskie Point, Five Easy Pieces, Stranger than Paradise. At the moment, it's Cameron's Abyss - I'm fascinated by the power of the love story. For Maryland, I saw a lot of action films, but was also inspired by horror films, especially "Home Invasion Movie".
Saturday 16 May / Debussy Theatre / 2 pm - 9.30 pm
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