I'm a sucker for a great love story. But often, the films that hit me deepest aren't filled with happily ever after endings and the perfect romance between a handsome boy and a beautiful girl. It's the redefinition of true love that gets me to my core.
In Mikhaël Hers' latest 'Amanda' which premiered in the Orizzonti section at this year's Venice Film Festival, the filmmaker reworks the idea of family and in the process, also rewrites the perfect romance. Of course Hers' film is not missing out on a handsome boy -- the charming Vincent Lacoste breaks hearts as David -- and a pretty girl -- with the striking Stacy Martin playing his love interest Léna. But at the center of 'Amanda' is the title character, a little girl played beautifully by Isaure Multrier, a child who suddenly goes from being an occasional playmate in the life of her somewhat immature uncle David, to being entrusted to him permanently.
The subtle underlying theme of 'Amanda' is the sense of safety that has been done away with in modern society. From my childhood during the era of the Red Brigades and kidnappings in Italy, I learned not to trust and be prepared for anything at all times because, my parents often advised me, things could change in an instant. In 'Amanda' they do, suddenly and unexpectedly and three human beings who were timidly getting to know each other are immediately thrust upon one another for good, and forever.
Personally I loved 'Amanda' because it created in me a newfound sense of hope. The idea that family can be the nucleus you create, not necessarily the one you are born into, was a message that felt at once positive but also realistic. In our day and age we continue to need to be prepared and adjusting to the situations that can come upon us in the blink of an eye, makes us better human beings. And much more serene, because we don't fear change.
Following is a short chat with 'Amanda' stars Stacy Martin and Vincent Lacoste.
How did you each become involved in this project?
Stacy Martin: For me it was very straightforward, I auditioned. Through a casting process I met Mikhaël and we did a casting together with Vincent It was very traditional.
Vincent Lacoste: Mikhaël just sent me the script and offered me the part and I accepted. I was really afraid of the part but I accepted and in the beginning I hesitated a bit because I thought, “am I going to be able to do that?” But if I start to turn down offers because I think I’m too bad for the part… I won’t be a really good actor!
What scared you about the part?
Lacoste: The emotional part of the character and the dramatic. Because I’m used to doing more comedies in France and this was unusual. It was really new for me. I thought it’s exciting, but scary.
Does it redefine the meaning of family for you this film?
Lacoste: What is family and what it is to want a family and what it is to want a child, and to have it while you’re not ready for it. The character, he became a dad suddenly. In the beginning he’s really a normal guy, he doesn’t think about the future, he lives his life like a young adult and doesn’t have responsibility. After the attacks, it’s a new life beginning for him. He has to take care of the pain of the little girl, to earn money, to raise her and give her what she needs. And at the same time he himself has the pain of losing someone that close — his sister.
Stacy, you are perfectly bilingual. Does your acting change when you speak in English or in French?
Martin: I think so. What was interesting yesterday when the film was showing is I noticed Mikhaël has a very specific way of writing French so you speak French in his film in a very different way than we speak in normal life. It’s almost quite lyrical and I think it’s very specific to French cinema where even Truffaut had a specific tonality in the way they spoke French. It wasn’t the French of every day. It’s almost like another accent and it’s quite different in that way.
You've worked with Lars Von Trier, Matteo Garrone, and many of our modern-day masters. How do you choose your projects?
Martin: So much is out of our control and the little control we have is about choosing who we work with as an actor. That is something I was very specific about, early on in my work. I want to work with people I can have a dialogue with and for example in this film, that was the case. I loved the script, I really loved Mikhaël’s films and I liked the dialogue with him. So I wanted to work in that environment. We spend so much time on a film set that you don’t want to speak to someone you don’t agree with or you don’t trust.
Were you terrified to work on your first film with Lars Von Trier?
Martin: No. He’s an artist. He’s a director who inspires me and I’ve loved even before I thought about acting. I read the script and loved it. It was very much him and he’s a wonderful artist to work with. I trust him more than any other artist I’ve worked with. And I trust all of my directors. He was extremely passionate about making a movie and that’s something. He has the freedom to make the films he wants to make and that’s hard these days in films for directors! It was freeing.
What kind of responsibility do you feel when choosing a project?
Lacoste: I feel responsibility for myself, I want to do some good movies. That’s the only responsibility I feel because I want to do movies that I’m proud of. It’s tough sometimes because you never know how a movie will be. Sometimes you think a movie is great and the script is great and everyone is great but then it’s a little bit disappointing when you see it. Sometimes you like the movie but you don’t think it will be a great thing and it is a great thing. So you never know. Your responsibility is to chose movies for a good reason.
Martin: For myself, but also there is an important dialogue to have with actors to remember that it’s not a master and its puppet, it’s a collaboration. And a lot of actors have been put in situations that have been unnecessary and manipulative. And that can be a wide range of situations. As actors I think it’s important that we take responsibility and say no. Also take responsibility to talk to each — it’s a very competitive industry and a very weird industry. The moments I’ve felt the most part of my industry is when I’ve spoken to my other actor friends, had a problem and spoke to them about it. We are not on our own. I’m sure in journalism it’s the same, where you need more unity.
Is there a difference working with a male or female director?
Lacoste: It’s always different and it depends on the personality of people. But working with a woman, I’ve made a lot of movies with female directors because there are a lot in France, a lot of great female directors and actually it’s a different universe -- but each director has their own universe. The difference is between every movie so there is not something that changes completely when it’s a woman who is directing. It’s the personality that’s changing. Otherwise it’s theoretical. I’ve worked with Julie Delpy, Justine Triet, with Mia Hansen-Løve some really great women directors and each of them were strong personalities but like the men. Just different ways of seeing the directing.