The story of Antoinette in the Cévennes: Months that Antoinette waits for the summer and the promise of a romantic week with her lover, Vladimir. So when he cancels their vacation to go walking in the Cévennes with his wife and daughter, Antoinette does not think long: she follows in his footsteps! But on his arrival, there is no Vladimir – only Patrick, a recalcitrant donkey who will accompany him on his singular journey …
AlloCiné: Your film Antoinette in the Cévennes is doing a lot of good in this period when we have all been confined for long weeks. We escape and we let ourselves embark with pleasure in the adventures of your heroine. Was it precisely this desire for a change of scenery that was one of the driving forces of the film?
Caroline Vignal, screenwriter and director: I wandered around this region with no cinematographic ulterior motives, a little while ago. I felt freedom. When you walk, you feel very free, and the landscapes there are so vast. I really felt something very strong as a city dweller, as a Parisian, that I wanted to transmit in the form of a film.
It is true that not having realized for a long time, when I said to myself “I want to direct again, it is the moment”, I had not at all wanted to make a film that does not. is not super justified that it is cinema. Afterwards, we can make magnificent films in apartments, but in this case, I wanted a film that takes us elsewhere, where we have a breath that is sometimes difficult to find. I wanted to get away from it all.
Before talking about Laure Calamy, luminous in the main role, a word about the supporting roles, these people that your heroine meets, and all of them bring something to the story. There is Marc Fraize, Jean-Pierre Martins, or even Marie Rivière, heroine of Eric Rohmer’s Green Ray….
For Marie Rivière, it’s more than a wink. I was so happy that she was in the movie. Le Rayon vert is a film that has a special place for me. He’s really the one that made me want to make films. Her role is a bit like a good fairy at the start for Antoinette, and who in a way passes the baton to her with the character she played in The Green Ray. Delphine is a woman who went on vacation alone a little against her will and who ended up finding love. I really wanted her to be there.
As these are roles that you don’t see for very long, she crosses paths with them, then you lose them, like that of Jean-Pierre Martins, it had to be people who brought something in straight away. For example, there is an actress who is there very little time, who is the character who welcomes Laure to the bikers’ lodge. I find that she has a presence, a physique, a way of looking… We immediately have a character. I needed that for all these characters, that they embody a humanity.
This is something that was important because it is something that I notice a lot when we go to walk in places like that, where we meet lots of people. We don’t see them for long and we still remember something. I wanted to make the viewer feel that.
Let’s also talk about Laure Calamy, who we discovered in the cinema in Un monde sans femme by Guillaume Brac, and revealed to the general public thanks in particular to the series Ten percent. What especially interested you about her to embody your heroine?
I didn’t know her personally before I offered her the role. She’s super alive. He’s a person of total intensity, one way or the other. That is to say that she can be very, very funny, very expansive, and sometimes have a sort of vertigo, we don’t know where it comes from. I think we have a bit of that in common, but her is a power 10. We can’t say that we are alike, but we understand each other very well.
There is a common thread in the film which is the book by Robert Louis Stevenson, Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes. Can you tell us a little more about this choice?
It’s a bit of a cult book for people who like to walk. When I started to think about this initial idea that I had – namely people walking from cottage to cottage – I read it. The book inspired me enormously, especially on the relationship with the donkey. Even though I had walked with a donkey before, I can’t say that it upset me as much as it upset Antoinette. In Stevenson’s book, the way they recount their relationship served as a canvas for me, because he tells it exactly like classic romantic comedies. But for example I reversed the sexes in relation to the book.
You did not simplify your task by making a film with a donkey! It is often said that filming with animals or children is the most complicated. Was it the case?
I was lucky because I was told about a woman who is a trainer and who herself had a donkey. In fact, no one told me about her, but about her donkey because he was known in the community for being super well trained, doing extraordinary things, smiling, etc. I contacted this person and she was the one who worked with us on the set even though she had never made a film. She had done a live show.
She was great because I wouldn’t have been able to lead a donkey. I told her exactly what I needed and she found ways to get what I wanted. We were very lucky with this trainer. I did not give up anything that I imagined. Sometimes it was a bit long, a bit laborious. But it was also very important that the actress was comfortable enough. It was almost up to her to lead this donkey during the takes. I couldn’t do anything, I was behind the camera, and it depended on her. And luckily, Laure was really comfortable. Sometimes actors who came on shorter durations were more in difficulty. So we took the time, and we got there!
The trailer for Antoinette in the Cévennes:
Interview at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival 2020