News  ·  11 | 08 | 2019

Valérie Donzelli: "Paris. my childhood dream"

Piazza Grande - Notre Dame

What role did the city of Paris play in the construction of your film?

Paris is my adopted city. I grew up on the outskirts, then in another region. Paris was my childhood dream, I even chose my studies because I could only do them in Paris, and there was no architecture school in Lille. Paris was, to me, a magical city, a beautiful one, where everything was possible. These past few years, I found that Paris had changed a lot, I think it’s more violent than before, I don’t know if it’s because I’ve aged, but that’s my feeling. I wanted to show this aspect of the city, people on the edge. The gratuitous slap is a metaphor for the hardships we suddenly go through. I did get slapped for real, but that was a different story, in a different context.

Any anecdotes from the shoot you can share?

When Maud mails the letter to Bacchus, she runs into a blind dandy, with a white cane and a stroller. I had witnessed this myself, in Paris, on the rue de Vaugirard in the sixth arrondissement. It’s a striking image. I couldn’t find an actor to play the part, so I asked my friend to do it, and he accepted out of devotion (he’s not an actor at all). Eventually, the day before we started shooting, he ran into a blind dandy with a stroller and a white cane by Les Halles. He asked him for advice to be believable, and ended up asking him to play the role in the film. I then found out it was the very same man I met on the rue de Vaugirard.

The dialogues are very finely tuned and calibrated. Do you write alone or with partners?

The writing happened in two stages. I wrote an early draft called Taille de guêpe, but it lacked structure and distance. I then worked with Benjamin Charbit who became my writing partner, and together we wrote what eventually became Notre dame.

The first ten minutes are filled with gags, introducing the characters and the stakes, with very fast editing. Then you alternate with a different register. What can you tell us about this choice?

The film was conceived as a storm, a twister that drags the elements with it as it passes through. The pacing of a film is built with fillings and voids. Some scenes are very fast-paced, like the slaps, and others take their time, like when she rebuilds the model.

«Reconciling the republic, religion and architecture». Is it a joke or a pipe dream?

A joke.