Starring Bérénice Bejo and Cédric Kahn, After Love (2016) exposes a couple dealing with a divorce, whilst living under the same roof with their two children. While Marie (Bejo) bought the apartment, Boris (Kahn) renovated it, and so the two must remain living together until they can decide who has ownership and sell it. This year, After Love has made its rounds on the festival circuit appearing at Munich Film Festival, Cannes, Toronto Film Festival, and most recently BFI’s London Film Festival, where I had the chance to sit down with Director Joachim Lafosse.
After Love focuses on drama within the family unit, which is something you’ve looked at with Our Children as well. What intrigues you most about this particular topic?
I believe that fiction cinema has the possibility of showing the intimate. As far as I’m concerned the documentary cannot film and show family with truth. In order to tell the truth…regarding the family, you need fiction, because it’s really too intimate, too personal, and you cannot bring a camera into the intimacy of a family. Also, because I believe family is the place where you learn potentially, the start of democracy or dictatorship.
You’ve used the same cinematographer, Jean-Francois Hensgens, for a lot of your films. Could you tell me about your collaboration with him?
So the last three [films] are with him. My collaboration with Jean-Francois, took me out of the dogma. Before, I would say I want to make a film in 80 shots, for example, and it was a way of reassuring myself and being dogmatic. With Jean-Francois I discovered that I can let myself go, and let myself be carried by the story and by the characters, and that by letting myself be carried, form happens. And it’s a very important, emotional coming together… with him. The first film we did together, we found ourselves for ten days filming nursery children in a nursery, and I sensed that we were moved by the same things.
For your new film After Love, you had a lot of collaborators on the screenplay. How and why did that come about?
It wasn’t something that was premeditated, thought through, decided, it just sort of happened, but it is true there are two women and two men that co-wrote. And I think it’s very interesting because it was a way of trying to make the characters exist with real truthfulness, be it the male or female characters… For this film in particular it was interesting.
As a writer, a couple of your films are inspired by true events and true people – the most recent and most known. Could you talk me through the process from the inception of the idea to the final screenplay?
Well there are actually thousands of news items every day, obviously. So twice I chose, and the reason I chose two specific news items [was] because they told a story that was so much more than a small trivial news item…they had an importance, and that was my story. Having said that, it is my story but it’s not truth. So, when I decide to go ahead and use a news item I refuse to see the protagonists involved, I stop watching the news or reading, and I choose to then invent. So with regards to Our Children for example, I never went into the sitting room of those people, or to watch how they eat, I never got involved in their lives…In fact it can be really risky, because spectators are going to come see a film of which they think they’ve heard the story, so your gaze, your outlook on this story has to be your own gaze.
Your own film viewing habits – do you make films you want to watch? Dramas?
Yes. I think I always try to make a film I would like to watch as a spectator, because, all said and done, being a filmmaker, you are the first audience member of a film. So, with time going by I’ve got the feeling that as a spectator I like being surprised, and I notice I am surprised by what has come out of my films. For example, for a casting, if you write imagining who can play the part, generally speaking it’s always going to be disappointing. It’s the same in love, if you have this dream of your ideal man or woman, and you dream of when you meet him or her, you’re automatically going to be disappointed, so you have to let yourself be surprised. And then once you’re on set to be in the state of, as a documentary filmmaker, discovering life on set. So rather than telling people what to do on set, my work is more about stimulating them, inspiring them, so that they bring life to the [script]. So just like working with children, you don’t have to tell them who they are, you just have to nurture them and allow them to blossom into who they are.
As a writer, because you are so close to the material, do you think it makes it harder for the film to match up to the vision you had?
No, when I’m writing I don’t have an image. For me scriptwriting isn’t the images, or how to make the images, and it’s during rehearsals on set that I’m deciding that aspect. I really refuse to have a set image before, because it means that it could stop me from seeing what it is. You have to be kind of weary of ideas.
Now, are you just focusing on distributing and exhibiting After Love or are you already thinking about the next project?
I’ve finished the next project (script) already. I like this job, I like to write, and…the part where you have to wait for the money…that’s a good time to begin the next.
Translator: Juliet Dante
After Love will be on general release in the UK 28th October 2016.