Named one of the finest actresses of her generation, France’s Isabelle Huppert receives Locarno’s Excellence Award
”Cinema is not all about nice people who say nice things and behave nicely”
”I have this desire to work – to me it is a need, like eating”
A director (Claire Denis) said that you need not be told the secrets of your characters, you’ll find out anyway. Is this a special technique?
No, at least not from drama school, it is mostly intuition. A film script never tells the full story, there are always elements that have to be invented. Instead of playing ’a character’ I prefer ’states of minds’. I am always interested in being myself – I want life, a real person. So I try to create a fusion of myself and the character.
You have played in 106 films. You cannot have liked all the women you impersonated?
Now, cinema is not all about nice people who say nice things and behave nicely. I have had many roles of women with social or psychological problems, women in desperate situations fighting to survive by all means, and that is not always beautiful to look at. I don’t try to sympathise with them, I try to empathise with them, to understand them. So in a way I show them as normal women, not idealised or sympathetic, just the way they are.
Also according to Denis all directors love you, because you make them feel you think exactly as they do?
A great film is always the result of the direction, and for me there are no difficult roles with a great director. A director making a film is like an artist making a painting – the artist is trying to find the right colors to achieve exactly what is on his mind, and in the same way the director is looking for the performance which completes his or her vision of what the film should be like. I try to understand their needs, and then deliver.
Your dance card seems constantly full. You never get tired?
My latest film out in France was French director Eva Ioneco’s first feature, My Little Princess, already finished are Phillippine director Filipino Mendoza’s Captured and French director Anne Fontaine’s My Worst Nightmare, and most recently I have worked on a film with Korean dirctor Hong Sang-soo. I love making films, and I have this desire to work – to me it is a need, like eating.
How does the Locarno award, although from Moet & Chandon, distinguish itself from the other national and international prizes on your mantelpiece?
It means a lot to me because it is a prize from the Festival del Film Locarno. It is a wonderful festival, a great celebration of films and filmmakers, and of the cinema as art.
Jørn Rosssing Jensen