French director talks about her latest film, which premiered at the UniFrance Rendez-vous
Anne Villaceque’s third feature film “Week-ends,” which premiered at the UniFrance Rendez-vous on Jan. 10, is a study in minimalism. The film follows two couples and friends of 30 years who spend their weekends in neighboring country houses in Normandy. When one of the relationships crumbles, the other couple starts questioning their own lives. Each person’s role in the foursome is redefined. Villaceque focuses less on romantic drama and more on the “almost nothings” and trivialities of everyday life. The writer-director faced harsh weather conditions during shooting, but ultimately overcame the elements to create a gentle film about the two constants in life: love and fear.
What was it like to reunite with your TV movie “E-Love” writing partner Sophie Fillieres and longtime producer Nicolas Blanc?
Meeting Sophie Fillieres on “E-Love” was an important turn in my work. We really complement each other in our writing. She brings me both some kind of gentleness and a point of view over the world that never fails to surprise me. In the same way, I’m pleased to continue my journey with Nicolas Blanc, my producer who’s been working with me for eight years now. Fidelity is a precious thing in this line of work, where everything appears to be so fragile and where it is so difficult to pursue your own path over time.
As both writer and director on set, did you have to do any script rewrites during production?
At first, my scenarios are always very closely written and precise. Afterwards, of course, I sometimes rewrite dialogues based on the personality of an actor or I change a scene when I first see the location. During the shooting of this movie, we had a lot of issues with the weather. It was incredibly cold even though we were shooting in spring, and I very often had to change the contents of scenes on set, on the very day of shooting. We constantly gambled with the weather, but in the end I think we won. We managed to recreate all four seasons in 30 days of shooting.
Female directors are a distinct minority in Hollywood. Do you find that to still be the case in France as well, despite the recent spike in numbers?
You cannot say that there are few female directors in France. The problem isn’t the number or the quality of projects made by women, the problem is that female directors rarely manage to get an important budget for their movies. Here, it is very difficult for a woman to have an ambitious movie project such as an epic or political movie that could be shown in the great international festivals. Maybe women are naturally modest. But I also believe that the system is pushing us to keep to “intimate” movies, simply because those are cheaper. We’re still waiting for our own Kathryn Bigelow.
Like your previous work, this film dissects the romantic lives of middle-aged men and women, which is a theme that filmmakers are often more hesitant to address than young love. Why was it important to focus on this type of relationship?
I think that middle age is a very emotional and very complicated time. It is a time in life when everything can change dramatically and everything is possible. Before that, for a long time you feel like you are in the process of creating your professional and your sentimental life. And suddenly you realize that this slow and patient construction could crumble at any time. I wanted to display this moment of fragility, with its ruptures, its pains and its surprises.
What would you like your legacy to be in the French film world?
I have a great ambition: I want to somehow change the way people look at the world around them, even if it’s a very tiny world with limited problems. That would already be something. In “Week-ends,” I tell a pretty classic story, but I tell it using small, trite things — little nothings that are usually seen as insignificant in this type of story. Actually, for me, this is a way to go straight to the core, to the truth within feelings and beings.
How has the film market evolved there over the five last years?
There’s simply more and more pressure on both the financing and box office profits. There’s always the temptation to make a “hit” at the cost of a longer and more sinuous directing career. At the same time, it’s a job that you learn over time, even if your first movies are often stronger because they can be more radical or more free. But with time, you also gain confidence and a sharper look over the world. You need to build connections based on trust, it’s the only way to create your own path in the movie industry.