Baden Baden
Courtesy of Jour2fête

Young French helmer surprised with graduation short at Locarno

Strasbourg-born Rachel Lang’s graduation short “Pour toi je ferai bataille” (“For You I Will Fight”) conquered a Silver Leopard at Locarno in 2011. Now, her feature debut is ready for delivery. Produced by France’s ChevalDeuxTrois and Belgium’s Tarantula, the dramedic coming-of-ager “Baden Baden” follows 26-year-old Ana who, after finishing a job as a runner on a Belgium shoot, take a sudden decision: To travel to look after her grandmother, who has just broken the hip. As she cares for her, an old love re-blossoms. “Baden” is supported by the CNC French film board and Cine Plus, the movie bouquet of Gallic pay-TV giant Canal Plus.

Taking in “I Will Fight For You,” medium-feature “White Turnips Make It Hard to Sleep,” “Baden,” bowing in France this March, concludes a trilogy. Etienne Ollagnier and Sarah Chazelle’s Jour2Fête handles international sales.

“Baden Baden” is your first feature and also the end of a trilogy comprising two previous shorter movies. Is “Baden Baden” a conclusion, or just a continuation…?

Yes, Baden Baden is the end of a cycle. I think I’m done with the character of Ana. The three movies deal with the passage into the adulthood, and I believe that my first feature opens enough perspectives for muy character to take flight. High time for Ana to pass into adulthood.

You have worked with the same actress (Salomé Richard) since 2010 (“For You…”). Could you sum up this journey, Ana’s story?

In “Fight,” Ana had chosen to become a docile body, a soldier among others, joining the army so as to not think any more and forget herself. She found in discipline and in the group a crutch for existence. In “Turnips,” she had found an excuse for her insomnia: Turnips’ Vitamin C. Ana was in search of rational explanations for her existential confusion. In “Baden Baden,” Ana is not either in the flight, or in the search of miracle solutions to her troubles. She tries to build concretely and with others. Via the plumbing and the stone floor, she tries to embody, to find a structure for her shambolic life.

Have you experienced a similar journey?

Of course, every movie is an immense adventure of initiation, every experience of writing, of shooting and editing is a prototype. But you have to launch out into the unknown, to always be researching, experimenting. That is beautiful.

How have you changed as a storyteller since your first steps?

Every movie is always partially an answer to the former one. “Fight” was a tougher subject and a rather serious tone. I broke with that in “Turnips.” With “Baden Baden,” the tone evolved towards the comedy. This change of register corresponds as well to the distance I established little by little with my heroine.

Did you get this trilogy idea at the beginning or it was something that grew with the project? It also echoes somewhat Jean.-Pierre Leaud’s cooperation with Francois Truffaut …..

I sketched out the guidelines of the three movies six years ago, before having written or done any of them. They were born at the same time, then developed in different timelines.  With hindsight, I can see certain links with Truffaut’s films, but for me the six years taken for the production of the three movies has had to do more with the phases of cinema: Writing, financing, shooting, post-production.

Do you have a new project? What’s the kind of cinema you’re interested in?

Besides being a filmmaker, I’m an officer in the French army. My next project will deal with one of its elite corps – the Foreign Legion– and will turn on this notion of commitment, rootlessness and insularity, in a couple and in the family. It will doubtless be more an action movie than a comedy! Today, the cinema I am interested on takes multiple forms. I admire so many film directors and TV series writers: David Fincher for “House of Cards” or David Simon for “Generation Kill”. Of course I was inspired by  European art-house cinema and personalities such as Maurice Pialat, Ingmar Bergman, Arnaud Desplechin and  Claire Denis. I also feel close links with directors of my generation like Celine Sciamma, Justine Triet, Thomas Cailley and Clément Cogitore.

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