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A children's tale to abolish generations


French director Céline Sciamma receives applause at the Berlinale with her new film, 'Petite maman', a fable about mourning that she shot during confinement

After the international success of

Portrait of a Woman on Fire

, a

lesbian period film that opened the doors of the Anglo-Saxon world to her, Céline Sciamma changes its register and scale.

The French filmmaker presented this Wednesday in the competitive section of the Berlinale her new film,

Petite maman

, a more modest project in appearance, with the appearance of a children's story and only 72 minutes long.

It stars a girl who, after losing her grandmother, meets another girl with whom she bears an incredible resemblance during a walk in the woods.

It could be a twin from whom she was separated at birth, an imaginary friend that mourning her grandmother has made appear in her imagination, or a great-granddaughter who comes to tell her what the future is like.

Sciamma discards these clues until it is clear that this mysterious girl is, in fact, the mother of the protagonist when she was his age.

“It occurred to me in the middle of daytime reverie: what would it be like to meet our parents when they were little?

That was the matrix from which this fiction arose ”, the director specified this Wednesday during a virtual press conference in Paris.

Sciamma defined his story as "a new myth" suitable for our era and as "a time travel film without a time travel machine."

To do this, he was inspired by the Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki - "When I doubted, I thought of him," he said - but also in films like



Back to the Future


only stripped of the obsessions of eighties capitalism, such as money and hotties.

The film is an approach to the genre that never renounces the naturalistic register.

Sciamma signs a story that tends towards abstraction, full of mysteries and ellipsis, allowing the viewer to fill in the gaps.

“In all my films I try to leave room for the audience's experience.

It belongs to him to play with this story.

The hero is not the protagonist of the story, but the viewer ”, said the director, who with her fifth film re-enters the world of childhood 10 years after

Tomboy, a

portrait of a trans boy that she presented in the parallel section Panorama in 2011.

Petite Maman,

who competes in Berlin and not in Cannes, where his latest films triumphed, seems to have a guaranteed prize, judging by the enthusiastic reception that international critics dedicated to him this Wednesday.

In this fable Sciamma addresses mourning to all audiences, although the child seems to be, now more than ever, in his sights.

"They are smart, committed and sensitive beings who are facing the same crisis as the rest of us, despite the fact that nobody addresses them and they do not have any political weight," said the filmmaker about those who she considers the great forgotten of this pandemic .

The director has shot the exteriors of the film in Cergy-Pontoise, the Parisian suburb where she grew up (there she had the writer Annie Ernaux as a neighbor) and in interiors built in a studio, for the first time in her entire career, and inspired by the addresses of their late grandmothers.

"It is my most intimate film, even though there is no autobiographical link," he insisted.

An empty room

The pandemic context lends a gloomy feel to this chiaroscuro film, which Sciamma began to write just before the spring lockdown and which was shot in a few weeks during the French autumn.

This film of imprecise temporality, in which it seems impossible to date its wardrobe and sets - Sciamma wanted them to condense the fashions of recent decades to mislead the viewer - opens with a scene that anchors the story in the present: a residence of old people where a room has just been left empty.

"It is a film designed to abolish the past and present, destroy the barriers between ages and change verticality for horizontality," said the director.

Petite maman

aspires to reconcile generations through a playful and disturbing exercise: to better understand our parents by imagining what they were like as children.

Source: elparis

All life articles on 2021-03-03

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