Interview – X14
Interview with Delphine Kreuter
Your third feature film, after 57 000km between us (2007) and Dubaï Flamingo (2011), portrays the daily life of a young woman and her robot, X14. How did you develop this idea, which seems so natural from the outset?
I had the idea of a woman and a robot in 2008. I was interested in virtual relationships, in modernity that belies loneliness and fills a void in the same way that religion can. I have always photographed dolls, and at the beginning there was a desire for an image. To make a non-human character exist, without it being science fiction, without heavy artificial explanations, without modifying the context of the here and now and no special effects! What a gamble! But we were like kids, even on set we believed in it, he was really there!
How did you imagine X14, who is moving and funny in his dealings with the world?
He’s a real character. With Camille Fontaine, who helped me with the writing, we already wanted to meet him more and more, he became increasingly endearing, cute, awkward and unsettling. I always imagined him with a Mohican. When we found the real fur with Fabrice Lorrain, it was an obvious choice. Mohicans are a symbol of freedom, counter-culture and the animalistic. As if the machine could have an utterly wild side embedded in it, which could be brought to life and activated. This is not a love story between a girl and a robot, but rather a chronicle of the liberation of girl and machine.
There are only a few special effects – the point of view of X14 is enough to give a strange and poetic vision of reality. How did you come up with this fantasy dimension to the image?
I immediately came up with the idea of inventing X14’s subjective viewpoint in order to bring him to life. We interpret what he sees as if seeing were living and feeling. We had to put ourselves in his place to grasp his confusion and grant him that confusion. This also involves us in this prying glimpse into the girl’s intimacy. Paradoxically, it is an image-truth a priori, the cold recording of a robotic camera.
Liz, with her artificial heart, her looks and her fighting spirit, is more like a “Replicant” from Blade Runner. How would you sum her up?
She is playing with life and doesn’t care about winning the game. She provokes it, invites it. She wants to die, but it’s the mad desire to live that drives her. Life has crushed her with pain, she’s lost her love, love itself, so she fights on. She’s a bit of a warrior, with her hunter’s make-up! She’s a hybrid, she looks like X14, a machine, they can relate to each other through that. I like the idea that what was science fiction is no longer science fiction with trans-humanism. Liz is also like a fairy tale princess who doesn’t have a heart anymore.
The actor, Lucie Cure, is an opera singer. How did you approach the casting, aside from actors who often appear in your films like Denis Lavant and Florence Thomassin?
When I met Lucie Cure, we really hit it off. François Ardouvin isn’t an actor but for me, he just was Harvey. Daniel Horn breathed life into the robot. Then there’s Florence Thomassin and Stéphanie Michelini who played a father who becomes a woman in my first feature. Actors and friends. Ready for anything! Denis Lavant, Emmanuel Salinger, Jeanne Balibar, I was a big fan before I met them all, it’s fantastic they all agreed to join me on the journey of X14.
X14 deals with controlled solitude. How did you tackle this theme?
I wanted the girl to really have no-one left so that the presence of X14, the role of an “other”, whether illusory or not human, would be powerful. X14 can be seen as a poetic personification of death, which accompanies Liz, whom she cannot leave. Death is invasive. In Liz’s world, we no longer know what’s alive or dead, what really exists or imitates life. Nor what counts, what you believe, or even truth. Just like in the movies! I have included these non-organic characters in the story that all have relationships. The hoover has a role as a little companion and at the same time the mother, who is present throughout the film, is not physically present. Our cars speak to us. In any case, in 2022 everything has become alive, or half alive.
How did you go about the editing with François Gédigier?
I did the editing on my first feature film. He saw it and redid the editing! He always surprises me, he works magic. Working with François is perfect.
How did the futuristic sound world come about?
X14 needed a sound identity, like people need to breathe, etc. Nicolas Jorio turned his movements into sound, we added beeps to match his reactions. We worked with electric frequencies. In front of the synths, Nicolas played his guitar, frequencies, more riffs, more beeps: it turned into music. Electronic-electric. And the Supersonic’s bassist Frederick Gallay lent us one of his tunes.
When you were making the film, you applied the punk credo – « Do It Yourself ». Was working on a shoestring a necessity?
Making the film was a necessity! I like the freedom of the image in wild films, the aesthetic too. It’s a whole way of making a film – you have to maintain the lightness of filmmaking, but make some heavy savings!
Interview by Olivier Pierre