I met Anne last spring in Cologne, Germany at the International Women’s Film Festival where her film played. We were able to reconnect when she came to town to promote her provocative film, Nuit #1.
Women and Hollywood: Talk a bit about how you came up with the story.
Anne Emond: I started to write the movie when I was 27 years old. At the beginning I didn’t know it would be a film. It was a diary. I started it because my friends and I who were between 25 and 35 were still acting like children and I was wondering why. I remember the first idea was 8 am and the sun was rising and we were leaving a party and I was asking why. I saw my friend walking drunk and stoned and I was like wow we are almost 30 hers old, why are we doing this all night? Why don’t we have jobs and babies and doing important things in life. So I wanted to write a movie about that.
WaH: The film is about a man and a woman but I was wondering if you thought the film was more from the female perspective?
Catherine de Lean: I do think it is more from the female perspective. The female character is more central and more developed and the sex scene is not from a male perspective. Male sex would be more of a fantasy and this is more naturalistic so it feels like a feminine point of view.
AE- It’s interesting because a lot of people ask me how I could write the male character. The male character is really inspired by two or three friends who can recognize themselves. It is really funny because some people say that my male character doesn’t always act like a man. Like when he wants her to have an orgasm or when he decides to follow her when she leaves in the middle of the night. People say men don’t act like that. I say I am the screenwriter and I can make the characters do what I want as an artist. I just think about Fellini or Cassavettes who wrote parts for women that are incredible and not how women act in life would never be asked this kind of questio. It’s a movie, and it’s a woman writing a movie.
WaH: Talk about how you shot the film
AE: We shot in 20 nights. It’s a lot for this kind of simple movie with 2 actors in one place. We had time. It was so hard for the actors. They couldn’t play for 12 hours this kind of role. After 5 hours you feel like sleeping or crying. They were really tired.
CDL: It was like groundhog day but groundhog night. Every night it was like taking the elevator down to this place especially because I am so different from my character. Generally speaking we shot in order so it was like we were going back to that night to that moment and we were continuing where we left off. It was a nice experience. I liked it and I appreciate that there was a lot of space for the actors. We had a lot of space for acting and breathing. The scenes are almost like a play, so for the actors it was a really pleasant experience having the space. You are part of the editing because you put the rhythm in the scene with your acting.
WaH: What made you decide to become a director?
AE: I grew up in a really small town and when I was 15 years old I saw Trainspotting and since that moment I wanted to make films. I always wrote a lot. I also wanted to leave home and you couldn’t study film in my town.
WaH: We met at a women’s film festival and your film has played in all kinds of festivals. Has there been differing receptions to the film?
AE: Not really. For me it is interesting because it is a film about a man and a woman and it is not for either gender. Some women have hated it so it depends on the person. The same thing regarding age. At first, I was sure it was for 28 years olds, but now, not at all. Everybody can understand it. We were in Pusan, Taiwan and even though there were cultural differences they understood the loneliness and the despair and the looking for more in life.
WaH: You said that some people really hate your movie. Why do you think that?
AE: I knew it since the beginning when I was writing the script. I said to my producer some people are not going to be able to stand this.
WaH: Because of the sex?
AE: Some people are shocked by the sex and don’t understand why it is there. For me it is so natural. If you want to be shocked go on the internet and see the porn on there. I know it’s a weird movie in a way — two people talking and talking about life and death. They are not philosophers but they are trying to talk about important matters and some people can’t stand it. If you never ask yourself those kinds of questions like why are we living maybe you cannot stand it. This morning in an interview someone said that if some people hate it may be because they recognize themselves too much. It’s dark. If you don’t want to face these dark feelings, it’s probably not for you.
WaH: Did you have a hard the playing the intensity of the sex scenes?
CDL: The first scene was the hardest because even though we were not making love for real we had to break some intimacy boundaries. And you are naked in front of everyone. I did not like it. I understood why I had to do it and I was really focusing on that. If you start thinking about my neighbor watching this or what my mother is going to say then you cannot do it. So I just had to focus. For the rest I was really well prepared, I had learned all the text ahead of time so when we arrived I was ready and I just had to follow Anne’s direction which was great because she really knows what she wants.
I wanted to say something about the part about some people hating the film. I think the form is really radical. Anne made radical and aesthetic choices and she does it on purpose. Some people will like that and others won’t. There is so much talking and the way we talk is really literal in monologues. You never see monologues in the cinema and for me it is really radical. When we fight outside it is like a modern ballet and that was an aesthetic choice and some people might not like it. I like it that she said this is what I want and there is no accident in the movie and everything is on purpose.
WaH: Talk about what you think this movie is about.
AE: It is about young people looking for more than what life seems to offer them. It’s about people really worried about the world they are living in about the future, and it’s about how powerless we can feel now. My generation is right to be scared about the future.
CDL: For me it was more about one night. How we have big expectations about sexual relationships and about the difference between what we expect from sex and what it really is and what it really could be. The difference between those two things.
WaH: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
AE- Writing it. It was hard to go so deep. After that it was the casting. After I found Catherine and Dimitri (Storoge) and after I found them I felt my job was almost done. When I said action on the set is was each time for almost 10 minutes. We were running out the film every time. The pressure was on them. I put the camera but it was all on them.
WaH: Do you have advice for other female filmmakers?
AE: For me I think a lot about being a female in this world and maybe I’m wrong and maybe life will prove me different but for now I say be a woman when you write but don’t feel it when you fight to make your film. It’s no different. It’s competitive and hard for everyone.
The film now playing in NYC.