Vincent Lacoste and Anaïs Demoustier are united in Le temps d’aimer, a romantic fresco in which the two actors will amaze you. We met its director and screenwriter, Katell Quillévéré.
What is it about ?
1947. On a beach, Madeleine, waitress in a hotel-restaurant, mother of a little boy, meets François, a rich and cultured student. Between them, it’s obvious. Providence. If we know what she wants to leave behind by following this young man, we discover over time what François is trying to flee by mixing Madeleine’s destiny with his own…
Presented in Cannes in the Cannes Première section, Le Temps d’aimer arrives at the cinema this Wednesday. This romantic fresco has already won an acting award for Vincent Lacoste, who reveals himself here in a very different light from his comic roles.
We were able to speak with the screenwriter and director of the film, Katell Quillévéré. She already has several feature films, including Suzanne, with Sara Forestier, Adèle Haenel and François Damiens, and the adaptation of the best-seller Repairing the Living. More recently, she co-directed the series on NTM, The World of Tomorrow.
We suggest you listen to this interview as a podcast, or read it below:
AlloCiné: To begin, let’s talk about the choice of this beautiful title, Le Temps d’aimer. Did he impose himself from the start?
Katell Quillévéré, screenwriter and director: The title arrived quite quickly. There had to be love in the title, that’s for sure. I was looking for a title that was romantic, a little old-fashioned, because I wanted to work with the genre of melodrama. Even if it is a film which also frees itself from melodrama, but that is its base. There was the Douglas Sirk film called A Time to Love and a Time to Die. It’s a film that I love and a filmmaker who is important to this film. The title therefore stood out a little. Even though I had a lot of questions about it! Is that cheesy? On the contrary, is it beautiful? I questioned him a lot! But in fact, he always came back.
Then the question arose as to where to put it in the film. It appears twice. After the archive images, to really affirm the transition from documentary to fiction. At that moment, it makes sense. Then, I bring it back at the end, because it takes on another meaning. It was important for me to reread this title after having experienced the entire film, especially in relation to the mother-son relationship.
The title can have several meanings. It’s not just an echo of the couple…
It is also the time it will take for this woman, who has difficulty being a mother, to allow herself to love this child, who sends her back to trauma and shame. This is the time it will take for him to free himself from this original fault, and allow himself to express his love. She loves this child, but she is prevented. There is something that is prevented in her, which is linked to this initial trauma. There is also an obstacle on the side of Vincent Lacoste for whom it takes time…To embrace his sexuality, to live it. And that’s how long it takes for this couple to find each other. They look for him all the time, like any couple. They seek their balance to invent their story. A love story off the beaten track.
There is a very classic base, as you said. But at times, you confuse us a little. I especially think of the love scenes. These are quite long scenes. They represent a fairly important part of the film. You make time for love!
There is an “abnormal” duration compared to other sequences, all the scenes which touch on sexual desire, sexuality… This is something which did not necessarily appear from the script, and which I really deployed during filming. Because the question of desire and sexual identity is very important in the film. It’s a subject which, for me, also reveals the modernity of the film.
Behind the period film, the setting of the era, there are questions which are completely – I hope – current. What is it like to be a couple? Is love always connected to sexual desire? Can you be sexually attracted to people and be in love with others? Is this form of threesome love viable? Is it possible? What could she come to solve?
Then there is everything that resonates on other subjects. Finally, this woman, who is heterosexual, has a complicated motherhood. Her relationship to motherhood is not obvious. Whereas he, who is homosexual, who is not the biological father of this child, it is easy for him to be a father, and he is a great father. All of this brings back family issues today.
It is ultimately a family which is hyper modern, which asks hyper modern questions, despite these obstacles and difficulties. There is also this idea that these two people, Madeleine and François, carry shame, linked to sexuality. She made an official mistake by having a sexual relationship with the enemy. He was guilty of being homosexual, because homosexuality, at the time, was a crime.
The question of the truth of their desire is at the heart of the film, from the start. And it reveals itself in these moments. For me, spending time on these scenes also means showing how, in each scene that touches on sexuality, we discover another side of the characters, which we could not feel and understand elsewhere than through sexuality. , notably their complicity, in this three-way scene.
They take the risk together of throwing themselves in there, and perhaps damaging themselves, hurting themselves. But perhaps because they hope that their incompleteness will perhaps be resolved in this love story. Maybe their differences can be resolved in a three-way story. Ultimately, it fails. But I couldn’t tell it other than within a sex scene. For me, the most successful sex scenes in cinema are the scenes which have a strong dramatic stake, because sex for the sake of sex has no interest.
A sex scene must be thought of like any other. It must move the story forward. Either these are scenes which reveal something about the characters to us, something indescribable, which we could not have understood without seeing them in these moments.
When I think of this title The Time to Love, I also think of your relationship to time in the narration, marking ellipses that were already there in Suzanne. I like the way in which, once again, you confuse us a little, taking us by surprise. When we see that the child, suddenly, has changed, grown up. Why is this something very present in your cinema? What does it say?
It’s true that I had explored this romantic story based on ellipses for the first time with Suzanne. I went back to it, trying to deploy it to advantage, because I have a taste for it, I love it. It’s a form of storytelling that we rarely see in French cinema. I find it a really fascinating exercise. Within the constraints of the length of a film of around 2 hours, to tell a story over 20 years. It’s really an extraordinary challenge, and it decided what we’re going to put off-camera or in-field in the characters’ lives. How we can, through this exercise, express things that can only be expressed with the notion of time passing. There are things that can only be said and understood through the passage of time. For example, the theme of transmission. What is really passed down from parents to children? What do they inherit? What are they going to do with these secrets of which they are somewhere the innocent victims? It’s only with the passage of time that I can tell it. It’s still very much a film about that, about transmission. We have two children who are growing up and are very resilient characters. We feel that this Daniel is running away. His resistance to his mother’s lie, his faith in his own truth saves him from tragedy, and ensures that he will succeed in extracting his story. This film is about that a lot. How there is always an official history for a country, for a family. There is the story that we tell, that we want to pass on, and then there is the one that we have to tear out, because we don’t want it to be known. She is killed. This is what I do with the archival work at the beginning of the film. I will show unpublished images that have been hidden from the history of the Liberation. Daniel and Jeanne are going to tear their story away from their parents. Daniel, it’s obvious, he gets this letter, he gets his future, he wins his future. Jeanne, we feel when she is in her father’s library and she decides to read his books that she is going to discover her father’s secret. He’s there, he’s in the library.
Let’s talk about the beginning images. You mentioned previously unpublished images. Can you tell us a little more?
I did this research work. I searched for all the archives that could exist on shorn women in France, through all the French, English and American archives. There are some images circulating of shaved women, if you look on YouTube, the INA, you will see some. But most of the images I show have never been seen by anyone.
For me, it was extremely important not to go through fiction, because from the moment we see these images, we no longer want to reconstruct this mowing at all. There is nothing more powerful than this truth. So very quickly, I told myself that I had to do some editing work because it’s the best way to understand the trauma of violence. These were scenes of torture. These women were tortured. It’s not really said yet, really worked on.
I found that it was the fairest way to understand the trauma of our character. Fiction takes over from the moment it was seen. For me, it is very clear that the film starts once the cameras are no longer on these women. We didn’t film them going home, we didn’t film them going about their lives. What happens to them after experiencing this? How do we resist that? How do we get back up? What is the emotional, social, sexual journey of a woman who has experienced this? This is where my film starts.
The cast, Anaïs Demoustier and Vincent Lacoste. There is something obvious. In the actors of this generation. There is a real bond between them. We hadn’t necessarily seen them as a couple. Did you write with them in mind?
I didn’t write with them in mind at all. For the moment, in the four films I have made, I have not written for actors. I chose them because they had never been in a relationship together, I found it exciting. And then, these are characters far from themselves. There was a challenge for them, and the promise of a surprise for the spectator. I really tried to move them. I absolutely wanted us to forget Vincent Lacoste and Anaïs Demoustier. I wanted there to be real compositional work with them to bring them to a new score. They are super strong, hyper technical, hyper moving actors. I totally enjoyed them. I loved working with Vincent, seeing him compose a character. I asked him to lose 7 kilos for the role. So already physically, he doesn’t have the same face.
The work on the look was also super important so that we would go elsewhere and forget about it. I think he gave himself up to this role in a magnificent way. He embodied this fragility, this excitement, this concern of the character magnificently. He touched me enormously. Anaïs impressed me enormously. She is a powerful actress; she can do anything. It has brilliant depth and precision. She did not have an easy score because she is a woman who gives off contrary emotions. We don’t like it all the time. We reject it too. His relationship with his son disturbs us. So it’s not easy for an actress to play a role like that. That’s why, for me, she was great. She manages to touch us despite all the difficulty of the score, and to make this character hyper modern. She is a complex, ambivalent female character. These are characters like this that we want to see in the cinema today.
You co-wrote with Gilles Taurand, who notably worked with André Téchiné. Was that one of the characters you wanted to follow?
Yes, completely. I love the cinema of André Téchiné; I love all his first films, which are very romantic films. With a breath, a relationship to the ellipse in his cinema, to the rhythm. There is a beating rhythm.
Yes, it’s obvious that there is Gilles’ writing in Téchiné’s films. He was one of my inspirations. Wild Reeds in particular.
At the end of the film, we understand that the film is certainly personal since it is dedicated to your grandmother. Can you tell me a word about it?
My grandmother was someone very important to me. I was very close to her. I always knew, from childhood, that she was hiding something, that she had a secret. And at the same time, she transmitted it to me in one way or another, all at the same time, forbidding me from discovering it. There is this ambivalence.
It took a lot of time, and it was thanks to my partner, Hélier [Cisterne, with whom she notably produced the series Le Monde de tourisme, on NTM], who is therefore outside the family and who put me on on the path to this discovery. This discovery was made very late. My grandmother was over 80, so she didn’t intend for this story to get out.
During the Occupation, she had an affair with a German soldier; she was only 17, it was her very first story, and she got pregnant. She found herself a single mother at 17. She was from a rather modest background. She met my grandfather 4 years later on a beach in Brittany. He was from a more bourgeois background. Against all expectations, because his family did not really agree with this marriage – they married alone, in the Church – he married her, he recognized this child, he adopted him . They hid his true paternity all their lives. There is a real, very biographical starting point. I have carried this story in my flesh forever. Then, the unfolding of the story is truly fictional, we really wrote together with Gilles.
Comments collected by Brigitte Baronnet at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival