Focus on The Souvenir I & 2, a melancholic diptych on a love story, coupled with a magnificent mise en abyme of the filmmaker’s profession. We met its director and main actress Honor Swinton Byrne. In theaters this Wednesday.
Discovered in Cannes last July, The Souvenir I & II, a British film directed by Joanna Hogg, unfolds in two parts, like a long sentimental fresco, from which emerges an infinite softness and modesty.
We follow the love story of Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) and Anthony (Tom Burke), with the common thread of the artistic life of her heroine, an aspiring director. As she feels her artistic ambition blossom, Julie lets herself be drawn into a trying relationship, the intensity of which engulfs her to the point of threatening her own dreams.
The Souvenir is a magnificent portrait of a young woman caught up in a first love during her years of apprenticeship, and whose form – whose surprise we will preserve as much as possible – is enormously seductive and counts a lot in the success of this film.
In an interview at Cannes, filmmaker Joann Hogg told us more about her approach to storytelling. “This state of mind of not knowing where we are going with the film is the state of mind in which we made the film.”
“As a director, I don’t always know where I’m going to go next in the story. There is no specific plan at the beginning. Of course, there is a lot of work. The most exciting part for me is really not knowing where you’re going, and having the ability to adapt as you go along, because we filmed in order. It’s given us incredible freedom to change things, to watch Honor do certain things and angle on that, and there’s nothing stopping us from doing that.”
The Souvenir is therefore a diptych, two parts really thought of as such, as the filmmaker told us, confiding to us that the project was never thought of as a series that could have other episodes. “It was really one story and two movies. To be accomplished, one could not go beyond two parts. Because the film is really an experience, and the reaction to an experience. The structure was really simple“.
The young actress Honor Swinton Byrne impresses, particularly in the way her character evolves through time and the trials of life.
“It’s as if there were stages in the pain: denial, anger, acceptance… But I didn’t question myself so much while we were filming. We didn’t talk that mucha, Joanna and me”, she confided to us during our meeting in Cannes alongside the director.
To put oneself in these states, I would like to be able to say that there was a process, a method. But honestly, no!
“It was like non-verbal communication, said the filmmaker. Honor was in a situation and it was by living these situations that she played them. I don’t necessarily believe in talking a lot about the “backstory” (the story that precedes the action, editor’s note.). We really took it step by step.”she continues.
“To put oneself in these states, I would like to be able to say that there was a process, a method. But truth be told, no. It was just being with Joanna, with the team, being in those costumes. It was like slipping into a certain psychological suit. It was very spontaneous“, says Honor Swinton Byrne.
I wanted Honor to be very instinctive
“I didn’t want Honor to get ahead of things too much, to have too many preconceived ideas. I wanted her to be very instinctive in the moment. I also cast you for that, because you’re not an over-trained actress.
And when I have more established actors, I try to unteach them certain things. My way of working can be intimidating for an experienced actor because I go against their acting instincts. But what was great about Honor was that she had both the necessary instincts, a great actress, but without having the “dogmaof an actress.”
The Souvenir part I is to discover in theaters this Wednesday, February 2, 2022, as well as its second part.