One of our favorite pictures of the 2010 festival season was Abbas Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy,” a rich and deeply layered film that wasn’t only unlike anything the filmmaker had done before, but a completely unique experience that explored the various facets and stages of a romantic relationship in both a welcoming and experimental way. The film follows a couple through the Tuscan countryside as they discuss love, life and art amidst a relationship that has/is crumbling, while the exact nature of their relationship is playfully never quite clear. We recently spoke with lead actress, legendary French actress Juliette Binoche about her work on the film and navigating the enigmatic tone of the movie.
Binoche, who admirably goes out of her way to work with the best living auteurs, became involved in the project due to her close friendship with the director. She immediately took to the story, but found herself a bit stressed when she finally received her sides. “Script-time I was wondering, how will I play this? This chick is insane! I asked him if she had a neurosis of some sort, but he said ‘There’s none, just play you.’ But Abbas doesn’t try to find logic, he’s drawn by things, and after awhile he’ll be able to make an analysis of it. Being so much into the moment really made the difference for my performance.”
There certainly is an emotional impulsiveness to her character, a woman very much driven by her varying desires and mental states. “She’s just really in tune with what’s happening, and she’s trying to get an answer from him. The emotion is passing, they’re not facts, so it can be true in one way or true in another way. He’s not playing that game and that’s what brings it out,” the thespian revealed. “She was the pushing one in the film, so I took this intensity in me as a fault, not a quality,” which explains much of her distinct choices throughout the movie.
Those familiar with Kiarostami’s work may be a bit surprised with the casting of Binoche, as he’s usually one that goes the extra mile to use non-actors, with a claim that an actor’s work doesn’t feel real. Now unless you’re Gerard Depardieu, you won’t complain on her inclusion based on that principal, but interestingly enough, the Iranian filmmaker was actually tricked by her performances in some instances.
“There were times when he had to ask his assistant if I was actually doing all of my lines because it felt so real. Which is funny, because he told me that the emotions that actors go through in films is not real, like you’re not in pain when you cry in films. But it’s not just a technical tool, you’ve got to put your heart, your imagination, your memories into it. I think, scientifically, the body doesn’t recognize that it’s acting or not acting. It’s all real. The heart takes it as a reality when you act, and I think it all makes acting very refined,” Binoche said. Has his opinion on actor’s changed? We’ll have to wait and see, but he was so impressed with the actress’s work that he cast her in a forthcoming endeavor.
However, Kiaorstami stuck to his familiar ways with the male lead in the film played by first-time actor William Shimell. A famous baritone opera singer, Abbas recruited him to be the male half of the relationship even though he had little-to-no experience in front of the camera. Binoche described the experience jokingly. “It was a lot of singing in the morning, and in the evening as well,” she said with a playful smile. “Really, though, I had to take care of him as a lamb, especially in the beginning. I was frightened for him, only because there was so much to deal with. The tension was clear in him, having to remember everything such as lines, movement, direction… and I needed a strong partner with me or else there was no film. So it was difficult.” Thankfully the challenge only strengthened their chemistry, and together they portrayed a couple at their most likable and most ugly, and moreover, easily carried the film which has them both on screen for nearly every second of the running time.
“Certified Copy” opens March 11th through IFC Films. We loved it and couldn’t recommend it enough.