she will is the first feature film by the visual artist Charlotte Colbert. She chooses the terrain of psychological horror to stage themes that run through her work, such as the traumatic experience and its consequences.
This is your first feature film, what memories do you have of this experience?
I think the first feature is always epic. It’s a bit of a crazy effort. The shooting itself is an adventure of mud, of love, of blood. It’s a bit like being pulled behind a truck with your face on the ground and dancing on the stars at the same time. It’s a roller coaster.
she will is characterized as a genre, fantasy and horror film. And at the same time, I feel like I’ve never seen a film deal so realistically with the issues that revolve around traumatic memory.
For me, that’s really it: the genre film is the most honest way to deal with the experience of trauma. Because the trauma is difficult to apprehend. It’s also horrifying.
It is the almost continuous re-experience of past experience. Something that always happens in the present. It’s not like our head or our body can tell “there is no need to be afraid”. It is a real healing process. So the break in chronological time linked to the genre film seems very appropriate to me.
So you have found in cinema a suitable medium for dealing with these questions?
What I find so magical in cinema is its relationship with the unconscious. We see a film, and we exist. Especially when we see it in a movie theater, because we are in a closed, dark space, where we dream together. In addition, I believe that the duration of 90 minutes corresponds to a sleep phase. So there is something very beautiful. And the film remains in the spectator, in his unconscious: it’s a very interesting thing in this case.
Through the work of sound, emotions slide, travel, and this in an almost unconscious way. It’s like sharing a dream with someone. Sometimes I watch a movie and images will come back to me in a dream, mixed with others. It is an instinctive and almost unconscious way of communicating.
Precisely, how did you work on the sound of she will ? I have the impression that there is a circulation between the sound and the magnificent landscapes that you film, which are themselves charged with a very strong story.
From the script, the plot was set in Scotland. The filming therefore took place there, next to Aviemore. This is the place where the last woman was burned for witchcraft. It is also the place of the greatest massacre of wizards and witches. The landscape therefore carries this story within itself. In the film we take up this idea that these people who have been forgotten, reduced to ashes, are in fact still there, in the deep earth of this place. So I think the landscape itself, this setting, carries this story. She exists in the film that way.
So we then actually thought about the work of sound and music in relation to that, in order to give a voice to these landscapes. We recorded whispers, bodily sounds, to give a physical dimension to the land and to women before.
With Clint Mansell, the composer, we worked with the voices. We had the idea of creating a real choir that gives the voices of women from the past. And in echo, the voice of the young girl who communicates with the whole. The moment of the recording was very beautiful because we saw this voice alone gaining confidence as it performed.
It came to structure the film, then?
Completely. Even in the performance we wanted the solitary voice to be very vulnerable at first, to end up much stronger. It was interesting to watch Clint work with musicians the same way I worked with actors.
The body has a very important place in this film, especially with the mastectomy that Veronica (Alice Krige) undergoes. She must learn to deal with the scars left by the operation.
It was very important for Alice Krige, and for me too, to manifest the desire to reclaim a scar to make it her strength. It is this operation that pushes his original questioning about his past. And it is this questioning that becomes his strength. She becomes an Amazon, a super heroine.
Is it a question of not forgetting but of reorganizing this experience?
Yes exactly. In terms of character development, there is a very important moment for Alice Krige. The one where Veronica looks in the mirror with this new scarred body. It is a key moment of change and reinterpretation.
How was this relationship built between the character of Desi (Kota Eberhardt) and that of Veronica?
We were very lucky during the filming. We didn’t have a lot of time but most of the interior scenes between the two women were planned at the end. So the two actresses were able to develop their relationship.
We also benefited from the fact that Kota is a great admirer of Alice’s work. There was a distance between them, like a form of reverence, which I could play on at first. And then afterwards, of course, a great friendship and tenderness developed between them.
The scenes that stood out to me the most were those involving the accused director (Malcolm McDowell) of harassment and assault by and on Veronica. They take place in a large hotel that seems excessively large. How did you create this decor?
From the start, it was very important to me that the sets that would be associated with this director be very urban and geometric. Pretty strong lines in this space.
We had to shoot everything in Scotland and without a lot of budget. I saw all the possible places that exist in Scotland! The space at the end is a hotel that allowed us to turn, but without closing! So that gave rise to some very funny situations. For example, when Malcolm McDowell asks “Is anybody here? » and the receptionist answers “yes! do you need anything? »
To come back to aesthetics, I am very obsessive. The paintings in the film have been reproduced… and the hotel has kept them! All the work on the sets was very important to me. Like on the train at the start of the film.
I wanted to find a particular aesthetic so that the film could exist in an almost separate temporality. Like a fairy tale.
she will is a film that approaches very contemporary subjects through the prism of a strong aesthetic bias. It is also a British-American co-production. Do you think it could have been produced in France?
Honestly, I don’t know the French production context well enough to know if that would have been a problem. But production has also been a problem in Britain.
In fact, I am very interested in fairy tales. There’s a storyteller, Marina Warner, which analyzes them as coded messages between women. For example, she explains the story of Rapunzel as a fable about abortion. It’s something very interesting this way of being able to address issues that are close to my heart but in a roundabout way. By using the genre film as a little Trojan horse! To be able to slip small messages.
Many films in the history of cinema have depicted sexual violence. But most often in a very realistic way, and sticking to this act as an event, without taking charge of the aftermath of the violence. Did this lack of representation inspire you to do she will ?
There’s always something that shocks me, it’s when people say: “If it happened 30 years ago, why is she talking now? ». But it takes a lifetime to be able to address something that is extremely hard! It is never acquired. It’s hard to tell this story. It’s all an immense process of repair.
So yes, it’s something that pushed me to direct this story. Veronica is an elderly woman who, after being eaten up by something all her life, finally gets to claim it. Almost when it’s too late.
There’s almost a rape scene in she will but you stop just short of it. It is a question that arose of knowing how far to go?
In the world of film, where these past forces are so strong, I don’t think that could have happened. Because nature takes almost too many sides. But it is a somewhat utopian world.
There is an anonymous quote that marked the team a lot, and that says this “Why are we taught to be afraid of witches and not of those who burned them alive? » I find that institutionally, and socially, it’s so true. The victims are the people we fear. And who are ashamed.
So I wanted to be able to come back to those images in the film. Let us realize that the body is elsewhere. This is also what I started as a spectator.
Do you have any theoretical or formal influences that feed your work?
I love Nicolas Roeg, especially don’t look now (1973). He is amazing in terms of invention and forms. Besides, the technician who helped us to do all the special effects for the film was the one who did the visual effects for Nicolas Roeg.
Like that, I also think of Under The Shadow (Babak Anvari, 2016) which is a super interesting Iranian horror movie about war. Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977), of course!
Anger is an important driver of action in she will. We feel that there is this anger in your two characters, Veronica and Desi.
It’s really Alice Krige, who is incredible, who brought that more, I think. She took all the themes of the film to heart. She has a relationship to nature and her past that are very similar to what she explores in the film. It’s really the relationship to pain and to her body that drives her action. She manages to give them that thickness. I never tire of looking at his face!
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Interview with Charlotte Colbert: “For me, genre film is the most honest way to deal with the experience of trauma” – Maze.fr
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