Audrey Tautou received worldwide acclaim for her performance in “Amelie.” But working with the same director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, on “A Very Long Engagement” didn’t necessarily mean the World War I romantic drama would promise a smoother ride.
“It’s not easier for me to find the character working with Jean-Pierre again simply because each time you work on a movie, it’s as if it’s the first time,” she says. “I don’t want any patterns in my work. It took me some time to find the life of this character, in my life and vision.
“Jean-Pierre does give me a lot of freedom. I feel responsible in how I’m going to deal with that character. In a way, it’s exciting. In another way, a bit scary.”
Tautou plays Mathilde, a young woman whose lover goes off to war. When she hears that he probably was killed, she refuses to believe it. Her determination is what drives the story.
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“It’s a love story in a war context,” she explains. “I completely understand her. Even if her intuition and faith seem to be indestructible, for me she has some doubts. That’s what makes her human. I don’t think she’s psychic. I thought she was very determined, but inside she’s a very suffering person because her love is the reason for her life.
“If she lost this reason for life, she has two options: She will find it again, or else she won’t live anymore. She keeps this secret very deeply.”
“Amelie” was enormously popular. Even though that plucky heroine made her a movie star in remote corners of the globe, she says she chooses roles that appeal to her as an artist and not as a box-office attraction.
“I’m never thinking about the popularity of the movie I’m doing,” says Tautou, who also received kudos after “Amelie” in Stephen Frears’ crime thriller “Dirty Pretty Things.”
“I’m more concerned about artistically what’s it going to be like. I like movies that are different than the ones I’ve done before.”
There are some common threads in her work that she acknowledges. Tautou plays characters who are strong, optimistic and undeterred, and who call upon an innate survival mechanism in extraordinary circumstances.
“I believe in intuition,” Tautou says. “For Mathilde, it’s that thread of intuition she hopes will bring her back to her love.”