Interview with Alain Mazars

With Des enfants et des ruines, you return to a more experimental vein of your work. What was the project with this film ?
I wonder about the relationship between imagination and rationality. The enigma constituted by the dream life has brought me to consider that reality hides behind multiple realities. There is an apparent world, visible to all, and other possible worlds, suggested to us by our subconscious. I seek to give rise to a state of particular receptiveness in the viewer watching the film.

The narration is told by a little girl’s voice. What is her status?
Where does our desire for narration come when we watch a film ? For me, this desire for a narrative has to do with the primitive attraction small children have for fairy tales. Through the little girl’s voice, I try to find traces of this way of looking at the world that was mine when I was a small five-year old boy.

Where did the shoot take place and why did you choose those ruins ?
There are three spots in Spain : Madrid, near Toledo and Almeria. The film’s starting point are the ruins. Why ruins ? Because they visually represent an aspiration to rebuild another world based on the old. How can a child proceed with this reconstruction, based on a narrative in which the evanescent meaning of everything that surrounds him has to be reinvented ?

How did you come up with this oniric tale ?
In this film, the children see when they close their eyes to the immediate reality, through dreams and fictions they invent, establishing secret relations between things. The film harks back to the spirit of surrealism that occasionally found expression in silent cinema. The reference to the waking dream, as defined by the surrealists, intervened at every step of the creation here : in the way the film was conceived, shot, edited, and sound-edited.

Why this repetitive, cyclical structure ?
The little girl’s tale tells the story of her younger brother, but she stops in her tracks regularly to take up the tale from a different point of view. The film moves forward in the same way, so that the backtracks, the recurring multiple approaches create a sort of labyrinth that expresses the difficulty of apprehending meaning, and which we can escape only through a journey of initiation. The fleeting meaning of what we see and hear is always deferred.

How did you work on the sound and, in particular, on the music?
My daughter, Jessica Mazars, who is a musician, has composed the music for all of my films for the past ten years or so. For this film, I asked her to proceed according to her feelings about sequences that I described in great detail. Based on the idea that the films that most stimulate our imagination are the ones we don’t see, I decided she wouldn’t see the images I’d shot, for her musical imagination to work with greater freedom. The soundtrack also includes additional music by Llorenç Barber for a specific scene, and sound effects and recordings I made myself during postproduction.

Why did you choose to shoot in 16 mm and in black and white ?
I could not imagine making a film other than on analog film. I wanted to communicate this feeling you could have if, when rumaging through an old attic, you suddenly found a 16mm copy of a silent film, deteriorated by mould. I’ll add that the film’s few special effects were done in-camera, while shooting.

Des enfants et des ruines could be considered a tale without a moral. How should we interpret it ?
The film is a journey through appearances in which the sense of reality is called into question. I attempt to stimulate the viewer’s imagination. Considering this film as a tale without a moral is a very interesting interpretation.

Interview by Olivier Pierre