Claire Simon reunites Swann Arlaud and Emmanuelle Devos for You only want me, her new feature film in theaters this Wednesday. The film tells the story of the passion between Marguerite Duras and Yann Andréa. The filmmaker confides in this shoot.
The synopsis of You only want me: Companion of Marguerite Duras for two years, Yann Andréa feels the need to speak: his passionate relationship with the writer no longer leaves him any freedom, he must put into words what enchants him and torture him. He asks a journalist friend to interview him to see more clearly. He will describe, with lucidity and sincerity, the complexity of his story, their love and the injunctions to which he is subject, those that women have endured for millennia…
AlloCiné: How did you come up with the idea of bringing this story to the screen? Is it that You only want me is a project you’ve been thinking about for a long time?
Claire Simon, screenwriter and director: I read the text of this interview when it was released in 2016 and I found it fascinating. Then during a discussion with a theater director friend who worked on Duras, I reread it twice and the idea of making a film of it came to me slowly.
What particularly touches you in this text?
Intelligence and sincerity in this story of a great love story. The male-female inversion is fascinating, for a man to speak when he feels in a situation of weakness, I find that very rare and thanks to the lucidity of Yann Andréa we find words, situations that everyone has gone through, or can cross. I recognized myself in the balance of power that love often implies.
Intelligence and sincerity in this story of a great love story.
On paper, we can say, at first glance, that this dialogue will not be easy to become cinematographic. How did you proceed to make it a work of cinema and avoid making it a simple filmed camera?
I wanted to show what happens in a conversation, at least for me. If I listen to someone, I often see what he or she is telling me… I make a film for myself, as they say, and here this film is the character of Michèle Manceaux (Emmanuelle Devos) who creates it: she sees this that Yann (Swann Arlaud) tells her, like me, she needs things to be embodied, visible in order to understand them and measure their strength. And then it’s very important that a dialogue be a scene in its own right, it’s a moment when the present can always turn everything upside down.
You only want me includes stock footage, as well as drawings. Can you talk about the choice of these archives, and these drawings. Who is the author and how did you come up with the idea of this choice of representation?
We understand in the interview that Duras is there very close on the ground floor. It manifests itself in the interview by telephone. I chose that Duras is the only real, documentary person in the film (like Lady Di in the Queen) and suddenly she appears in archives, film extracts… And then I also put extracts from her films: India Song and Agatha.
I also staged what Yann tells us as if Michèle Manceaux saw while listening to him. And then I wanted to insist on the sexual aspect of Yann’s story. He describes a carnal passion with Marguerite Duras. So I asked Judith Fraggi to make these drawings of sexual embraces which, unlike porn images, show the amorous momentum of bodies and faces. It seemed very important to me to give reality through the drawings that Michelle Manceaux imagines to the carnal dimension of this passion.
I wanted this dialogue to be a moment in the present.
The way the film was made is quite particular. Can you tell us about the device?
I wanted this dialogue to be a moment in the present and to do this we finally slipped towards 35 / 40 minute shots where the actors could be completely free and I too in the frame. It is this freedom of the sequence shot, the one who speaks, the one who listens, which is the present of this dialogue, of this moment. A story is told in this form and which opens onto memories from the archives of daydreams from film clips…
Can you tell us a few words about your next project, Le corps des femmes?
I filmed in the hospital the stages on the path of women’s lives from youth to the end of life, all those moments when our body in its gynecological way submits us and carries us away.