Press Conference: La Prunelle de mes yeux
La Prunelle de mes yeux (The Apple of My Eye) is Axelle Ropert’s third film feature after The Wolberg Family (2009) and Miss And The Doctors (2013). The director, editor François Quiqueré, producer David Thion, and two main actress Mélanie Bernier and Chloé Astor were present during the press conference to answer a few questions.
The real life scene that inspired the film:
Axelle Ropert: It all started with a repeated scene that happened in real life: a blind woman would take her three-year-old daughter to school. She was at once troublesome and touching. Troublesome because she’d arrive with her cane, push and hit people while giving off a certain fragility. It is that mix of comical and emotional that gave me the desire to make her the main character of a film.
Filming blindness: what are the limits between laughter and mockery? Have you thought about political correctness?
Axelle Ropert: I don’t think about that at all. We must trust the capacity of art to make things beautiful. From that perspective, everything can be filmed, there are no limits.
How did you “become” blind for the role?
Mélanie Bernier: We had a lot of discussions with Axelle, because there isn’t one way to be blind. There are people who were born blind, some who become blind progressively, there are people who don’t anything at all while others that can see a little bit. So we had to defined that together. Through meetings, while working a lot with L’Institut des Jeunes Aveugles everything came together. But we were also talking about a romantic comedy character, a love story, so we had to have things that happens with the eyes. So we decided that she would be born blind. Because in fact blind people have very damaged eyes, whether they are born that way or they become blind later, the eyes are either white or they are cross-eyed etc. And we decided to not show that to tell a story that was more romanesque, maybe.
On the duo with the actor Bastien Bouillon:
Mélanie Bernier: It worked like in the film, we were intimate but also always keeping a distance between us. There was a complicity that is visible on-screen.
Axelle Ropert: The film couple is the classic cat and dog relationship. It’s the antagonism on which we constructed the film and the shooting.
American cinema and the dignity of the characters:
Axelle Ropert: My main influence when it comes to cinema is American classical films. Lubitsch, McCarey etc. What I love very much about American classical cinema is this mix of great audacity and great elegance. So the challenge was to put my characters in extreme situations — tragic and comic situations — while maintaining a certain elegance and modesty formally. It’s my personality and how the films I love are, so it was easy for me to do that.
On the kindness and the affection for the character which is related to Ropert’s love for actors:
Axelle Ropert: What is paramount to me when I conceive a film is the cast, it’s the actors that I choose. I have a great, great passion for actors and actresses ever since I was a little girl really. I love filming them, I love looking at them and I love giving them interesting things to do. And so forcibly I’ll give them degrading things to do or things that make them look ridiculous or ugly. This also comes from American classical films: giving grandeur to the actor. It’s something I care about.
About the Greek setting:
Axelle Ropert: The Greek aspect of the film is very interesting. When I started writing the film, we were talking lot about Greece in France because it was the explosion of the debt, the crisis, the austerity of the IMF and it was really chaotic in Greece. And I was really affected by that because I was under the impression that a country was being destroyed, a great country and a great youth. And I really wanted in this film that there was something on today’s youth. On the difficulty to be young in 2016, in having a job and hope.
On the presence of music in her film:
Axelle Ropert: I listen to a lot of music and when I listen to music I always feel like – and maybe you also have this feeling – that music knows more about ourselves that we can imagine. That music has a knowledge about the people that listen to it. Music always reveals us something about ourselves.
About the writing process:
Axelle Ropert: I’m a bit sick and tired of this current tendency of taciturn films, there are too many of them, especially in my cinematic world. And I have always loved films with a lot of dialogues because I think it’s marvelous for the ear, and marvelous to see actors talking. I love actors that talk and take possession of a text. The point is to make it look natural while maintaining a certain style, that it is not shapeless.
François Quiquere (editor): We continue to write the film during the editing process. When I think back about the editing of the film, I realized that we followed the actors a lot, the moods of Mélanie and Bastien specifically. The film was built on that. There are things that have been cut from the film and in my memory it was those moments when the characters were thinking about/on themselves but there was the idea that the movie had to move on without anyone thinking about the story that was happening. For the comedy to keep its rhythm we needed to cut the scenes where the characters were thinking about what was happening to them.
On the collaboration between Axelle Ropert and Les Films Pelléas, the producers:
David Thion (producer): It’s a very nice collaboration, it is the fourth film that we do together, I also produced her first medium short Étoile Violette, then The Wolberg Family, Miss And The Doctors and La Prunelle de mes yeux. They were all different films and at the same time loyal to who Axelle is, her cinematic tastes, her cinephilia. For those who have seen them we can see that there was something melancholic in The Wolberg Family, Miss and the Doctors was very sentimental and now we are between melancholia and a taste for slapstick and burlesque. It is interesting to work with an auteur who has a particular universe but who also tries with each film to renew herself, to take risks and go in new directions. It’s very stimulating.