Critically acclaimed and nominated for five Lumiere awards (France’s equivalent to the Golden Globes), Emmanuel Mouret’s “Love Affair(s)” gives heartache the Scheherazade treatment, tackling a network of love triangles and affairs with a genteel touch and an understanding that every standalone story plants the seeds for several more. Variety spoke with the director.
The ensemble film uses the framework of a young-mother-to-be (Camelia Jordana) and a frustrated wannabe novelist (Niels Schneider) swapping heartaches and battle scars as they spend a few days alone in the south of France. Like a Russian nesting doll, each story opens to reveal new characters, romantic entanglements and narrative threads within – though for all its many threads, the film remains a warm and soft-spoken art-house confection.
The Cannes-selected title is screening at UniFrance’s Rendez-vous with French Cinema, which is operating as a hybrid event this year. Paris based outfit Elle Driver is handling international sales.
Why give this film a Russian doll-like structure, nesting the various stories?
I wanted to create a kind of emotional tapestry where lighter and more difficult stories could sit alongside one another. A large cast of characters in a diverse set of situations allowed for games of comparison, echoes and juxtapositions. Such diversity allowed for complexity, and in my mind, cinema exists to celebrate complexity.
I like stories within stories, parentheses within parentheses. I also liked the idea that two characters could create a new relationship with one another by sharing stories of their pasts. I wanted a funnel-like structure, where all of a sudden the different tales converge into one.
The film also plays with perspective, framing and then reframing certain events with different contexts.
To fall in love – or to simply feel attracted to someone – is to see in that other person the perspective of a new and different life, a life flavored by this person who has charmed you. The passage of time proliferates such perspectives and possibilities, whether they have been acted on or not. It is also interesting to track the ways that memories shift over time, creating variations between what we believe and what really happened, what we said and what we did.
Why was it important to impart a non-judgmental, summery tone?
I wanted this film to be an ode to our inconstancy. At a moment when we’re incessantly, relentlessly asked to be coherent, to justify everything we say and do, I side with tenderness and indulgence rather than accusation. That’s not an ideological position – it is simply my temperament, and I must admit that I contradict myself often enough that I won’t reproach anyone else for doing so as well.
I could not improve on these words of Montaigne: “We do not steer, we are pulled. We drift among differing desires; willing nothing freely, nothing absolutely, nothing constantly.”