Alexandra Lamy goes behind the camera for the first time with “Touchées”, a poignant fiction on violence against women which is offered this Thursday evening on TF1. Allociné met the actress to ask her a few questions.
Allociné: Touchées is your first production. How did you come to the project? Was it TF1 that approached you?
Alexandra Lamy : Philip Boëffard, the director of Nord-Ouest, with whom I had previously worked on a film, launched a television department and he contacted me to offer me the project. He explained to me that he had a comic called Touchées written by Quentin Zuttion and that he wanted him to read it because he wanted to set up the project.
At first, I thought he was going to offer me one of three female roles, but he told me very quickly that he actually wanted me to direct. So I read the comic and immediately contacted him again. With my various commitments, I thought it was the perfect fiction for a first director.
It was a subject that touches me, so I accepted. And from that moment, I put my fear aside and took the risk of being the director of Touchées. I no longer had a choice.
And how was this first experience as a director?
It was awesome. I loved. I had a heavy responsibility but I knew the subject well thanks to all my commitments. I still took the time to prepare the project. I thus worked with La Maison des femmes, but also with the Résonnante association.
I also listened to podcasts and spoke with victims of violence around me. I didn’t just direct on Touchées since I also took part in the writing with Solen Roy – Pagenault and Quentin Zuttion.
Mélanie Doutey is one of your friends. Chloé Jouannet is your daughter. How was the casting?
I think it was Spielberg who said that a good director is someone who knows how to surround himself well. I decided to follow this idea. For my actresses, I said to myself that I had to take the right people.
For Melanie Doutey, beyond the fact that she was a friend, I knew that she was professional and that the topics covered in Touchées would resonate with her. It was very hard to play what she plays. She managed to ingrain the fear into her body, she didn’t just act it out. Nor was she afraid to go far and mark herself. I think she was the right actress for this role.
As for Claudia Tagbo, I really wanted to work with her. I had seen it in a TV movie and I thought it was great. It is also the first actress who came to mind to embody Nicole. And luckily, she trusted me because, if she had refused, I had no other actresses in mind. I thought she fit the role so well.
For Chloe Jouannet, I think she’s a great actress who, like her character, has this strength and this violence while having a certain fragility. It can be explosive as it can be completely closed. She’s raw and I thought she was going to be perfect for the role. And it was. I think the trio works really well.
I also chose to call on Andrea Bescond because we often found ourselves in causes, commitments and demonstrations. In my opinion, there was only her to camp a therapist. She also knew how to find the right words and she didn’t hesitate to correct me on small details.
For example, she explained to me that we don’t say “She was killed” but rather “He killed her”, so as not to blame the woman again. Finally, Olivier Serwar, who plays the fencing master is actually the real fencing master of the association, who actually exists. It’s really his job.
When you watch Touchées, you almost want to know more about the lives of the secondary characters and what led them to be in this association. Was it ever considered that the TV movie would be a series?
It’s always been a 90-minute format. In comics, the other characters do not exist, they are only in the background. And precisely, I did not want that. So I made a casting for all these women. For each of them, we have created a story.
It was great because we had 10 days of shooting, and just doing silhouettes behind with swords wouldn’t have been very interesting. Besides, I had many people who asked me to do a series because they wanted to know the fate of these other women.
As I am an actress, I am aware that each character is important. An extra can completely ruin a scene. So I ran castings even for a single sentence.
Why did Quentin Zuttion, the author of the comic strip, choose fencing as a form of therapy and not another combat sport?
Quentin Zuttion and Olivier, the fencing master, explained to me that in fencing, you wear a mask so you can put the image you want on the other person. You learn self-control, touching and being touched, the right distance, preparing for a game and knowing what you want to do.
As Olivier says at one point in the film: “under the mask you can be whoever you want” The fact of not being seen and putting what we want on the other allows us to be more free. In fencing, we can also hit everything we want, and put the violence that we want without hurting the other.We are protected.
Through fencing, these women manage to get rid of what is called murderous energy, which is the violence they have stored up when they themselves have suffered violence. Moreover, when you think about it, the attackers have often been attacked themselves. Those who have violence in them have often experienced violence. Fencing is therefore a good way to get out of this violence to finally find peace.
Claudia Tagbo brings a touch of humor to the series. Was it the way his character was written or was it improvisation on his part?
No, it was written like that. But I thought it was important that there was a character like Nicole. I wanted there to be laughs because that’s how life is. The victims do not spend their time crying, on the contrary. That’s why we are always surprised when we learn that someone has suffered violence. In life, we laugh and we cry.
There aren’t many violent scenes in Touched, but there are still a few that are striking. How did the filming go?
I tried to make you feel the violence more than what you can see on the screen, because that’s what interested me. To see an umpteenth violence of a man who hits his wife, we have already seen and heard it. What interested me was the feeling of violence.
Mélanie Doutey knows how to do that very well. But at some point, you still had to show a little violence. What is quite ironic is that Frank Libert, who plays Lucie’s ex-husband, is very committed to women. He was therefore happy to play this role in order to denounce the men who are capable of doing this.
But when he saw the footage, he was impressed by the violence of the scene. It was a very strong and concrete image. It was also something difficult because I was on the wire. I didn’t want to fall into the cliché, but at the same time, I couldn’t not show violence.
You met victims of domestic violence in order to prepare the film. Have the actresses also worked with victims?
I think all actresses have taught themselves. For example, I know that Mélanie and Claudia have listened to podcasts. Chloé also prepared the TV movie with her friends. They all did a monster job before they started filming. I also recommended podcasts, documentaries, books…
Have you shown Touchées to associations?
Yes. It was something that really stressed me out. The first time I showed it to the Résonantes association, Diariata N’Diaye, the manager, told me that Touchée was going to be an incredible support for them. It relieved me.
I can’t wait for it to come out so everyone can see it. We showed the film in high schools and it was very interesting to see their reaction. I think the dialogue will be easier thanks to Touchées.
Who made the drawings that Tamara’s character sketches in the TV movie?
She is the wife of Thomas Rames, the director of photography, who made the drawings. She studied fine arts and is very talented. These drawings don’t really exist in comics but I found it interesting to take a look at Quentin with this character drawing. It was also a way for the character to express themselves which was very interesting.
Did the experience on Touchées make you want to direct on other projects?
Yes. I really want to continue in this field. I have projects that I’m starting to develop but I can’t really talk about them yet. There is one that I have worn for a long time and that I am in the process of putting on the road. And then there is another one that I want to develop and do for my sister (Audrey Lamy, Ed.), who is a very good actress (laughter). And then I will also take over Mélanie Doutey, that’s for sure (laughter).
Find Touchées from Thursday September 22 at 9:10 p.m. on TF1. The TV movie is already available exclusively on Salto.