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Alain Resnais - Director
"Cinema never goes back"
With Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places), presented in competition at the Venice Film Festival, the master French filmmaker adds to his endless filmography yet another comedy on the eternal search for happiness with delicately ironic tones. Cineuropa met with him on the Lido after a highly applauded screening.
Cineuropa: The film was initially presented with the same title as the Alan Ayckbourn play on which it's based, Private Fears in Public Places. Then it was changed to, simply, Coeurs (lit. "Hearts").
Alain Resnais: One characteristic of many of Ayckbourn's plays (I've seen 24 in the theatre and have read 22) is that the titles are impossible to translate into French. We didn't like Private Fears and I thought of giving it a title on the day I saw the final cut. I suggested 104 different titles to my friend [and the film's producer] Bruno Pésery. One of these was Coeurs. The heart is in continuous movement, it never stops, it was appropriate for the film. I chose the plural, "hearts", and think everyone, the cast and crew, backed me on this.
After Mélo and Smoking/No Smoking, another theatrical work brought to film, what do you think of theatre on film?
I've never felt a very big difference between film and theatre. We usually say "I'm going to the theatre", because it's the opposite of cinema, because theatre is fixed, it's in the past. Actually, it's like the various languages of the world, which are all different, yet linguists say they're all similar, that the differences are not that great. Adapting a play does not scare me, because these two kinds of entertainment have one thing in common: you can never go back, you can't tell the projection to show them the same scene again, you can't act an actor to repeat a scene. I feel comfortable transposing a play into a film, and I am faithful to it.
A film about loneliness, sadness, with snow that falls on closed spaces through which characters pass and seem immersed in an aquarium.
Of course, an aquarium. There is a gloomy and noisy aspect to this text, which we tried to create on the screen. During production, we tried to a framework of contradictions, to create that mix of fluctuating instincts that move within in us and that I imagine I share with a good number of the spectators. I wanted to bring out through images and acting characters that could potentially express something better, but can't or don't want to, to give an idea of a nostalgia to do better that leads them not to do better or to attempt hopeless cures, as Charlotte's character does. Our destinies, our lives, are always guided, our destiny can depend on a person we've never met.
The female characters are decidedly more full of life than the male characters
This makes me happy, it proves that the film was shot in 2006, because there's a historical phenomenon for which women's roles have changed very much in recent years. From winning the vote to cinema: today there are many female directors, editors. Alan Ayckbourn wanted to emphasise this in order to reinstate a kind of balance.
In 1961, you won at Venice with Last Year at Marienbad. How does it feel to be back 45 years later with this film?
During the first 45 minutes of Last Year at Marienbad, the audience reacted very violently, responding to the dialogue in the film with deafening laughter. I turned to the organisers: let's stop the film, this is painful! Then, after a series of images, most of the audience members began applauding, a respectful silence grew and, ultimately, the Golden Lion. My directing career could have ended definitively that night because I would never have been able to come back to Venice with another film.