Interview – À vendredi, Robinson

Interview with Mitra Farahani

You state in the opening that the inspiration for this film came from a scheduled meeting that never took place between Jean-Luc Godard and Ebrahim Golestan, a writer who was a filmmaker for a time from the 1960s to the 1970s, until his political exile in England in 1975. Why this attempt to meet in 2014?

To create a genuine archive from an imaginary archive. Two parallels that could overlap and meet. Ebrahim Golestan runs parallel to Jean-Luc Godard, and his own work is in the continuity of Saadi, Hafez but also the Renaissance.

From one home to another, between Rolle where you are not staying, and the Golestan’s sumptuous residence in Sussex, See you Friday, Robinson structure is based on video letters. How were the two parts devised?

The film was written at Golestan’s house. It is centred on the castle site and its expressive potential. Godard appears in a staged scene. There is a mise en scène within the mise en scène. At times far from modern means of communication, like a character located elsewhere but whose presence has a material justification, at other times in a more enigmatic fashion, when his voice and his body make almost ghost-like appearances.

Moreover, you insist on the different quality of the two spaces. Why is that?

They are two schools of thought: the thinking body lives in these spaces. They are corridors in which we think, at a basin, we think both horizontally and vertically… They are spaces where thought floats!

In this story of encounters, you are not afraid to toy with failures and misunderstandings. “Why not?” asks Godard, who adds, not without a touch of mischief: “Maybe it won’t work out”. Why were you interested in this angle?

Because all work, painting, film, music, theatre, etc., is a confrontation with the impossible. Everything impossible can be made possible. Failure is ever present. So, either it’s a failed story, or the film fails the story… But it’s also common for the spectator or the reader to fail the film and the story!

You intervene in the voice-over or off-screen during exchanges with Golestan, playing with language, switching from English to French or even Farsi. Why this presence and this language game?

One of the first rules set for the film was to break the boundaries of common languages. Think of Godard’s second letter where he assembles the curves of the letters and inserts a collage by Matisse. It’s all about forgetting these boundaries, so your feelings are very faithful and natural with respect to the language of the film. A kind of abandonment of language. You seem to match that!

From Goya to Piero della Francesca and of course Beethoven who sets the rhythm of the film, several of these characters are familiar to Godard. How did that come about ?

In reality, these are familiar images of Golestan in the film. The painting by Piero della Francesca is a New Year’s present Golestan sent with his beautiful text on the picture. He describes Goya’s Tres de Mayo and this forms the main thrust of his letter. As for Beethoven, he took his place in the film all by himself, because Golestan listens to him constantly. His music is the sound that is directly recorded in the film. So even their familiarity is somehow in parallel.

Could you tell us about your editing work and the rich and complex sound material in À Vendredi, Robinson?

It’s a long reverse shot. The whole film is constructed around exchanges that are just chopped up fragments and interrupted discussions. I tried to keep this fragmented format in the sound as well as the image, but it was important to maintain a chronology of time based on the conversations -a sort of literary exchange that becomes filmic. The film leafs through these pages and the viewer is always put in the position of a witness to these fragments of correspondence and it is always clear that these snippets were put together. The connections and oppositions are made in the mind, and everyone is free to create their own while watching the film.

This “meeting” will only take place through overlapping screens. Was this a prerequisite for the project?

I quickly realised that the film was not going to be an observation of a meeting that would happen before my eyes, and I had to affect the transmutation of a filmed archive into cinema. The film is very clear on the failure of the two characters to find a common language, but I had to find a way for Golestan and Godard to meet in the intimacy of the images, the intimacy of their closeness and the intimacy of each other’s solitude, side by side, through the signs of affection they express for each other as well. By bringing one image and another closer together in the film, and not only through the editing.

Interview by Olivier Pierre