INTERVIEW I’M A HEROINE OF THE PERIPHERAL
Interview with Muriel Montini
After L’Autre Maison (2019), what was the original idea behind the new project I’m a Heroine of the Peripheral?
The idea behind it goes so far back (a dozen years or so) that I don’t really remember. Was it the desire to make a movie with the rushes from a film I’d barely started (the shots in Greece in DV)? Or to do something with the rushes I didn’t use in my earlier films? Or to tell this love story (already present in three of my films – Provisoirement et pour la vie, 2000, Les Étrangères, 2003, and Les Travailleurs de la nuit, 2005) in a different way? I guess it’s a bit of all three.
The film describes a love story. What were the leads for the screenplay?
The common thread was this love story that’s woven (with visible and invisible stitching) into the rest of the story (everyday life – friends, adventures, solitude – and cinema – spectator, actress, dreamer). Even when this story seems to be absent, it remains the focal point around which everything is generated and organised.
As the film progresses, a multi-faceted fictional character takes shape. How did you get the idea for this?
I don’t know if it was an idea – it just emerged during the editing because, in fact, we all have multiple facets that we automatically assemble deep down and think of as a whole. Here, the self multiplies before our eyes (from the white rabbit that gets shot at to the cowgirl) in a movement that’s both realistic and intellectual.
I’m a Heroine of the Peripheral is essentially made up of images from your films. How did you choose the different sequences?
I remembered a shot of me in the mist, a shot I couldn’t use in my film Les Étrangères because it would’ve disrupted the fiction, but it was an obvious choice to open this film and, this time, it became a trigger for the fiction. Then, there was the passage on the cargo ship, and I also took some images from that, which I’d left out when editing Provisoirement et pour la vie (for which I only kept the shots without life). The heart of the film was still the shots from Travailleurs de la nuit, which has almost exactly the same structure as I’m a Heroine of the Peripheral (love that doesn’t fade/friends, Lou Castel and Philippe Loyrette/cinema) but in this film, time has diluted everything and only traces remain. As far as possible, I tried to find shots that I hadn’t used, but without forbidding myself from re-using certain images. In fact, half the film is made up of images from my earlier movies. The rest uses images shot in Greece, a few images shot at random times and shots filmed specifically for I’m a Heroine of the Peripheral.
Why do you often use voiceover and what role does it play?
The voiceover has a fluctuating role between reminiscence and reinvention. It’s off-screen action that’s taken place and could still take place through dreaming, hence going through the looking glass where the man’s face will appear for the first time at her side. Each time, they’ll be in a superimposed setting – like in the seminal scene with Ivanhoe – until the final dialogue (where their bodies have joined their voices) superimposed with Nouvelle Vague (New Wave). Like a final attempt, and where Godard’s lyricism won’t manage to rub off on the couple. They’ll remain mute in front of a blank screen. And the final sentences won’t even be in voiceover, just written…
I’m a Heroine of the Peripheral quotes film titles and extracts, and shows Lou Castel in a debate. What importance do you wish to bestow on cinema itself?
I spent a huge amount of time at the Jeu de Paume and Beaubourg arts centres during the Hibon-Païni period, it was a way of paying tribute to them. So cinema as a spectator, but also cinema as a playground where our everyday acts and our memories bounce back, a house of mirrors that reflects our desires and peripheral lives.
I’m a Heroine of the Peripheral… How should we interpret the title?
The title comes from a line written by Sylvia Plath that’s been in my head for a very long time, because of both its beauty and its irreconcilable nature – being what we want to be (a heroine) and being what we refuse to be (peripheral). This oxymoron, a vice in which the female character is caught and which, the more she becomes aware of the loss of this love, traps her in solitude, also echoes Clément Rosset’s The Real and Its Double with this woman’s inability to admit reality. Even if the film is very dark, I saw the title more as a joyful stepping stone that allows for all kinds of liberties, all kinds of veering off-track. With a title like that, anything is possible…you can walk down the steps of a lecture theatre reciting a poem by Emily Dickinson with no problem… In fact, maybe the title was the starting point for the film?
Interview by Olivier Pierre