Director Marina de Van on Don’t Look Back
Sunday 23 January 2011, by
Q AND A - MARINA DE VAN : NE TE RETOURNE PAS (DON’T LOOK BACK)
Although Marina de Van has followed the traditional route of Sorbonne and Femis, from which she graduated in 1996, she is regarded as a maverick film-maker, her films hardly fitting into the neat categories French distributors seek to slot them in. After directing a number of shorts, she made her name for herself with the uncompromising and brutal Dans ma peau (In my skin). Ne te retourne pas, a gruelling and financially troubled seven years in the making, stars two of France’s most famous actresses. Although this certainly did no small wonder for the film’s notoriety, it didn’t particularly ingratiate it with film critics at Cannes.
The less know about plot or characters prior to the film the better so I’ll simply stress that Don’t look back is an intensely creepy film. Marina de Van drops you straight into writer Jeanne’s head as the nightmarish transformation of her world unravels. Marina unveils the monstrosity of her characters with the same concrete, powerful imagery of David Lynch amongst others, and plunges the audience in Jeanne’s creeping paranoia as her increasingly estranged family considers her mad.
The Q and A followed a screening at the Paris Cinémathèque on 9 January 2011.
How did you get the idea for the film?
One of the things that would scare me was to suddenly stop recognising my surroundings, of having small things I know, I see everyday, become unfamiliar.
Troubles of a psychological nature seem to be a recurrent theme considering Don’t look back followed In my skin. Is there a particular reason for such a focus?
In my skin dealt with self-harm. It does seem that there is sort of pattern forming but it’s not intentional. It just happened that these were two subjects I wanted to explore through my films.
Why did you select these two famous actresses?
First of all there is a certain similarity between them. More importantly, both Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci are very famous, they have very recognisable faces which make the morphing stage all the more obvious and disturbing. Had they been less famous, the audience might not have noticed the extent of the change. For example, when it comes to the husband, as he is less recognisable, the audience might not notice the more subtle changes in his face.
How was the film received?
The screening for the film at Cannes was wedged between two competition entries so the critics didn’t pay that much attention to it. The film received a lukewarm welcome by distributors and industry professionals because of the peculiar narrative. It didn’t fit into one particular genre, so they didn’t know how to sell it. However, the response from the general public was much more positive.
Were you inspired by particular events or work to develop the idea for the film?
Not really, everything I go through, films I see give me ideas. But nothing in particular for this film, it was simply a subject I wanted to tackle.
Had you planned to set half the story in Italy from the get go or did the idea come later in the script?
Yes, the idea to set it in Italy was intrinsic to the script. Firstly for personal reasons; I know Italy very well and have roots there. Secondly, Italy conveys an image of community, warmth, passion so that it provided a clearer contrast with the French, slightly stilted, quiet household, it brings the difference between the first and second Jeanne, between the first half of the film and the second into sharper focus.
Has the film been released in Italy?
The Italian distributor didn’t actually think it was good enough to be distributed there!