Mia Hansen-Løve is a regular at the Cannes Film Festival. She notably presented her first feature film, all is forgivenat the Directors’ Fortnight in 2007. Last year, she tasted the official competition with Bergman Island. For her eighth film, she is back in the parallel section which gives pride of place to daring directors.
Once again, Mia Hansen-Løve wrote and directed a film with autobiographical accents, centered on the degenerative disease which saw his father gradually disappear. She chose Léa Seydoux to interpret the double of herself: Sandra, a helpless woman in the face of the progressive but irreversible deterioration in the state of health of Georg (Pascal Greggory), formerly a philosophy professor. In this shared suffering, Sandra is helped by Françoise (Nicole Garcia), her mother, and by Clément (Melvil Poupaud), a married man with whom she will fall in love.
This double intrigue mixing the drama of the end of life and the passion of a forbidden affair constitutes for the director of 41 years “a way of showing that life can at certain times confront us with situations very opposite”. After the first broadcast at the Théâtre Croisette, Mia Hansen-Løve spoke with the public, moved by this powerful and sincere film, before answering our questions.
franceinfo: “Un beau matin” addresses the pangs and sadness of illness while staging the rebirth and happiness of love. Why did you choose this double reading?
Mia Hansen-Love: I could never make a film that only went to the dark side of life. This film tries to account with lucidity and transparency what is tragic and irremediable in the disease, and the suffering which results from it. But its realization only became possible when another idea came to meet this one. This comes from the observation of life, which only ever tilts to one side. Life can sometimes seem entirely dark or cruel, but there is always something that surprises us. That’s what interested me and inspired me. Some filmmakers like to drive viewers into misfortune, sometimes with very strong results. But me, it will never be my cinema project.
You frequently tell stages of your own story through your films. How did the need to stage your father’s degenerative disease come about?
I had to come to terms with the idea that I couldn’t move forward without taking up this subject. It’s like something got in my way. When I projected myself into the future, about what I wanted to write, there was something that imposed itself, which came back, which haunted me. I couldn’t cut it. There are films that I decided to make, that I wanted, like Norman Island Where Edenand then there are films that have imposed themselves on me, like this one.
“There is an emotion in Léa Seydoux that is never artificial. Few actresses of her generation are capable of it”Mia Hansen-Love
Did you find yourself through the interpretation of Léa Seydoux?
There is a great strength in Léa. She embodies both an eminently feminine presence and at the same time, there is something almost masculine about her, a power, a very strong magnetism. I don’t feel like I look like Léa at all, and when I offer her the role, it’s because I know she has the talent to make the path to this character. But it is also for me the desire to free myself from what I am and to go towards her and what she embodies. There is an emotion about her that is never fabricated or contrived. I know few actresses of her generation in France who are capable of it. It’s as if she had a sadness in her that comes naturally and gives so much truth and simplicity to her acting. She already has a great filmography, she has worked with a lot of directors, has a lot of experience. .. but she kept an innocence that overwhelms me. And it’s priceless.
Pascal Greggory very accurately plays the role of a man who gradually loses his sight, his memory and his mind. Were you touched by his performance?
I found Pascal staggering with his self-sacrifice. It has literally been erased to make room for the character. In the film, we forget about Pascal. We owe it to his humility, his ability to listen, his attention to the staging and the trust he placed in me and which allowed us to work in perfect harmony. He was touched by this character, he saw beyond the disease all that this Georg could have been, this man who was an intellectual, delicate, modest and melancholy, and he transmitted all this in a very subtle way.
Do you, yourself, have this fear of aging?
More than growing old, I fear illness. Having been very close to my father’s disease – and I know that many other degenerative diseases resemble it -, yes, I find it terrifying. And making this film is also a way for me to tame fear. I’m less scared now that I’ve made this film, I’m less scared after having experienced, so closely, so many ordeals related to this illness. But film and cinema in general allow me to tame life and its fears, and therefore the fear of illness.
One Beautiful Morning by Mia Hansen-Løve. With Léa Seydoux, Melvil Poupaud, Pascal Greggory, Nicole Garcia. Presented at the Directors’ Fortnight.
Duration: 1h52. Cinema release date: soon.