Female Interpretation Award at the last Cannes Film Festival, Renate Reinsve is one of the major revelations of this film year. Meeting with the heroine of “Julie (in 12 chapters”) with our interview-portrait… in 12 parts.
Achieving unanimity at the Cannes Film Festival is not easy. It is even mission impossible at times. But that’s what Renate Reinsve has achieved. Presented in Competition at the start of the 2021 edition, Julie (in 12 chapters), a new jewel signed Joachim Trier, brought everyone together thanks to her actress, who very quickly became the favorite for the Female Interpretation Award. That she wins, unsurprisingly, a few days later.
When we meet her, on the Croisette, Renate Reinsve has not yet been crowned, and is only recovering from the emotions of the official screening (and a bad cold), which had taken place the day before. But her name is already on everyone’s lips and it may be the same, now that this very beautiful portrait of a woman, in which everyone can recognize themselves, is released in French theaters.
While the feature film could, why not, take it to the Oscars, it’s time to meet Renate Reinsve. In 12 chapters.
THE CANNOISE PROJECTION
It was so crazy! I couldn’t wait to be there and finally see the movie with so many people. But when I got to the red carpet I thought to myself: “Wow, this is crazy!” I was a little scared, but also very happy and confused (laughs) And watching the movie was a bit difficult because I really wanted everyone to have a good time. Because I love it. Fortunately the applause at the end was incredible. I felt a lot of love, it was really good.
A TAILOR-MADE ROLE
Joachim [Trier] and Eskil [Vogt, le co-scénariste, ndlr] wrote it while thinking of me, that’s probably why I liked Julie. And I felt very connected to her while reading the script. I felt they really grabbed me, just like they grabbed a lot of women my age. And people from the previous generation also said they felt connected to her.
They wanted me to bring a little of myself to it as well, that was important. Joachim was nervous when I read the script, because they are two men who wrote a female role. They wanted it to be fair, and I was very surprised when I read it the first time. I was very moved by the accuracy of their portrait of a woman. I was really relieved (laughs)
IN JULIE’S SKIN
How long did the shooting take? Your character seems to age over the chapters: is it makeup, or the result of a long shoot?
Make-up. Because the shooting lasted three months. We also focused on her physicality, so that her body reflects her restless side, and that she looks younger thanks to the makeup and the hairstyle. Then, when she settles down and accepts things as they are, through this notion of loss – of her ideas and of the people around her – she is more calm and collected. More sure of herself. Even if she runs after what she wants to be.
Was the filming done chronologically, from chapter 1 to chapter 12?
No. We had to go back and forth a lot, for the lighting, the sets and even my hairstyle, which changes all the time. Respecting continuity took a lot of back and forth in terms of logistics and knowing when to cut my hair, where to go.
We see masks in the epilogue. Is it because it was shot long after the rest of the movie?
No, it was Joachim who intuitively wanted to add masks in the last scene. It wasn’t written that way, but he wanted us to feel like we had landed in the present day. As if the rest of the story was in the past, and the end in the present, where everyone has this relationship to the mask. But when asked, he said he didn’t really have an answer as to why he was doing this. It was just a hunch.
A FAVORITE CHAPTER?
It’s a good question. Because each day of shooting was really special, because I had to look for something special, ask myself the right questions. Without answering them, of course, to leave them open to interpretation by the public. But I really enjoyed the wedding scene [dans le chapitre 2, ndlr], when she meets Ivan [Herbert Nordrum]. We shot it for a week, at night. It was very nice.
And I loved shooting the scene where time stands still. We had to shut down streets in Oslo and I spoke to a lot of people who found themselves linked to those days as they were blocked by the police so they wouldn’t go to where we were filming.
So these are not special effects? I was wondering, seeing the film, if you hadn’t run in front of a green background and then be embedded in a still image.
No no no. They closed the biggest street, called Barcode, and we had people standing still. Everything is real.
The scene is awesome!
They wanted to do everything the old fashioned way. The same goes for the hallucinogenic mushroom scenes. When she takes a huge fall. We had a big, rug-covered mattress about sixty yards from me, and people were running behind me to smash it onto my back, and create the moment it fell to the floor. I like this willingness to do things the old fashioned way.
TWO TITLES, TWO ATMOSPHERE?
In France, the film is called “Julie (in 12 chapters)”, but its original title and its English title translate to “The Worst Person in the World”. Why did Joachim choose this?
It’s an expression in Norway, to say that you feel like the worst person in the world when you’ve done something wrong. It’s like self-loathing. Those days when you don’t love yourself, neither do your decisions and what you’ve done with your life. It was meant to be just the title of one of the chapters, but since it’s a phrase back home, we found it said a lot about Julie’s image of herself.
The original title is all the more surprising given that we are very fond of the character of Julie at the end of the film. And that she is therefore far from being the worst person in the world.
Oh no, she’s not (laughs) But she has the feeling that she is. Even so, she is privileged to be so intelligent and funny. She has everything you want, but doesn’t feel like she belongs. And she doesn’t even want to find it. She doesn’t want to conform to what things are. She’s always looking for something new, but it makes her lonely. And she despairs of not finding who she is.
I have the feeling that I have become a better actress working with Joachim Trier
THE WISH TO BECOME AN ACTRESS
I didn’t have a very easy childhood, so it was my escape route to other people. To be other people and build other lives, build a story. It was my space of freedom and my escape. My mindset about acting has since changed, but I’ve always wanted to find something sincere and talk about how complex it is to be a human being in the midst of the chaos that we live. This is what pleases me.
HIS FIRST MOVIE
It was Oslo, August 31, yes. I remember it was a lot of fun working on it, so free. While on the film that I made after [Kompani Orheim, sorti en 2012, ndlr], it was so much more rigid, with lines that I had to say this or that way. It fits a much more normal production, but since I shot my very first movie with Joachim, I didn’t know how lucky I was to be in it. It was just amazing. Like a group of friends playing situations.
I was among the girls who go to parties with Anders, before going to the pool. We were just having a little drink, having fun. To be at a party. And since we needed a very special light, I ended up finding myself in a shoot that lasted nine days. So I got to know them very well very well during this shoot.
Joachim and I could have worked on Thelma again. But it was a portrait of a younger girl, so I was a little too old for the role. I had nevertheless passed tests for the film. And I’m a bit like Julie, because I lack confidence. And now that I’ve been through what she’s been through, I feel more stable and secure, so this was the perfect time to star in that first role. I am very happy that it has happened now. And I really hope to work with him again.
FROM OSLO TO JULIE, A CONTINUITY?
The two films revolve around the same themes a lot, yes. It is the story of someone very privileged who seeks his place. Who struggles with what to be, how to do it and face the fact that his life is not what we hoped for. The characters are very different. But the two films come together thematically.
THE TURN OF HIS CAREER
This film, completely! [elle n’avait pas encore reçu le Prix d’Interprétation au moment de l’interview, ndlr] It changes everything! I have the feeling that I have learned a lot by working with Joachim. To have become a better actress. My values were in line with his, so there was a real connection. And we had a lot of freedom.
On a lot of productions, you are not there to talk about things but just to perform. You just have to know your role, and deliver your performance. And that makes the work more superficial than when I do it with Joachim. He does things deeply, and takes them to another level.
THE BEST ADVICE SHE HAS RECEIVED
To be relaxed and let it happen. This is the best thing. Let it all come, like you can do a really good analysis and then let it go. And I was more relaxed than I thought [avec un film qui repose sur elle, ndlr], because I was nervous coming here. But there is so much love and warmth, and so many great conversations about the movies. It is very interesting to be here. I feel like I can relax a bit at least.
Joachim was nervous when I read the script because they are two men who wrote a female role.
I don’t have one in particular. I love moments of a lot of actresses. If they make a really sincere scene, I want to know how and why, and what happened there. How did they get to this point where it happened? I think I looked for this. But there are so many amazing actresses. Like Cate Blanchett. And Timothée Chalamet has something too. He is so present and so vibrant at the same time. He was a bit of my spiritual animal for the role of Julie.
Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Cannes on July 9, 2021