In “Cache,” Juliette Binoche played a middle-class French woman terrified by irrational fears of what an immigrant could do to her family. Now, in “Breaking and Entering,” she explores the other side, playing a ferociously protective Bosnian immigrant mother in London who will do anything to shield her teenage son from the inequity she’s experienced.
Where the first pic examined xenophobia, the latter champions acceptance, but the message is the same in both.
“We all come from immigration. You know, I come from Brazilian and Moroccan and Polish (roots),” Binoche explains. “I feel like I’m made up of so many different layers of cultures and music and colors and space, and so to reduce a human being to his nationality is just disrespectful.”
The challenge of becoming Amira, a woman with a rich and troubled past in “Breaking and Entering,” was to “fight the explanation” and suggest the character’s emotional scars without boring the audience with backstory, Binoche says. After reading the script, her first reaction was to go to Sarajevo and meet with women who had been through the war.
“I asked them about their personal experiences,” she says, “and they would go back to that kind of resistance or habits in order not to feel because it was too painful.”
Binoche also drew from memories of her grandmother, who escaped Poland during World War II and found work as a seamstress in France.
“People tend to forget that immigrants are coming from their own strengths and lives before. We don’t imagine that, and we can’t judge,” says Binoche, who developed the character’s accent to reflect traces of Amira’s past.
“To make the character real, I wanted to show that she was not speaking perfect English, that she was making mistakes — small ones because Anthony (Minghella) didn’t want her to feel like she was uneducated,” she adds. The actress also worked to integrate sounds and words from Bosnia into her speech, a feat all the more impressive considering that her native language is French.
But Binoche trusts Minghella immensely and was glad to collaborate with him again.
“On ‘The English Patient,’ there was almost a kind of telepathy of thinking the same thing together,” Binoche says of the role that won her an Academy Award a decade earlier. “He allows me to be the artist I can be.”
Favorite film of the past five years: “I thought ‘History of Violence’ was so intelligent and meaningful.”
Actor who impressed you greatly after working together: “It’s not about acting, it’s about connecting. With Jude (Law), I felt that we had that connection.”
Next project: Wrapped “The Red Balloon” with Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien in September.