For “Slalom”, to be discovered in the cinema, Charlène Favier draws on her personal experience and tells a story of influence in the world of ski racing. Meeting with the director, Jérémie Rénier and Noée Abita.
Lyz, a conscientious and ambitious young girl, is ready to do anything to become a champion. However, his meeting with Fred, his trainer, will turn his quest for success into a nightmare. The grip is the subject of the powerful and delicate first film by Charlène Favier, who co-wrote the screenplay with Marie Talon. In August 2020, AlloCine met the director and her two performers, Noée Abita and Jérémie Renier, during the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival where Slalom was presented in competition. Interview.
AlloCiné: Charlène, Slalom is your first feature film. He is interested in a difficult theme in an original setting. Where does this project come from?
Charlene Favier: It’s a very personal story for me. I grew up in the mountains where I shot and, like my heroine, I did a lot of ski racing. I have also known the grip. This story is dear to me, it is deeply rooted in me. I wanted to share it, to tell the story of this young woman and to take the spectators on this snowy journey.
Putting in pictures this experience which is yours allowed you to turn the page?
CF: It was liberating, but also a real source of questions during the writing and even on the set. The grip, the gray area, how far it goes, I wanted all of that to be understood. AT At the end of post-production, there were all these things in the figure skating world that came out, with the testimony, among others, of Sarah Abitbol. I said to myself : “It’s good, we are in the right place, now is the right time.“
I really fought to make this film. In 2014, when I wrote it, no one wanted to talk about these stories, but today times are changing. It’s important to tell yourself that you had something to tell deep down and that the whole world wanted to hear it.
It was imperative for us not to be in a Manichean narrative
Noée and Jérémie, you both play very nuanced characters, who avoid the pitfalls of the “good” and the “bad”. How to deal with such a complex subject?
Noée Abita: Throughout the shoot, communication was essential. We talked a lot. We had to stay true to what we wanted to tell and show that we were not in the judgment of the characters, that Lyz was not only a victim, but a fighter who will get up again. It was imperative to avoid misunderstandings, that everything be clear between us.
Jérémie Renier: Yes, we took the time to listen to Charlene’s story, what she had been through and how she wanted to translate her feelings on the screen. Sometimes she wanted to stay true to reality, sometimes she wanted to stay away from it. We wanted, with this film, to create an opening, to allow a dialogue, a discussion. But despite the subject, and as often when shooting dark films like this, the atmosphere on set was very relaxed. We had to laugh and create moments of tension only when we were about to shoot them.
CF: I would like to add that it was imperative for us not to be in a Manichean story, that the character played by Jérémie Renier is not a serial abuse. He is a man like everyone else, a good coach, but broken by the system of competition. He finds himself trapped in this whirlwind and bets everything on Lyz, until the moment he goes out of control. For Lyz, I wanted to make her a fighter and give her a boost, a liberation. It’s a film about a young woman who learns to respect herself.
How did Jeremiah and Noah get to know your world? Were they in your head when you were looking for actors for the movie?
CF: They were very prepared. They immersed themselves in the world of skiing, which is very strange. On the set it was instinctive, simple and very natural. Jérémie was my first choice. Initially, I didn’t have an answer from him, so I was looking for someone else. The wait was horrible because I didn’t feel like working with another actor. There is something in the body, in this ability to transform, which is incredible. He manages to slip into the skin of a character physically.
For Noée, I discovered her in Ava by Léa Mysius, then we shot a short film together. The current immediately passed. We shared a common sensibility, it was obvious. She has a way of inhabiting her characters, something very animal, very wild. It was what I wanted.
Noée, in the film, your gaze is a key detail. Your character is silent, but he tries to communicate with his eyes …
N / A : She calls for help throughout the film. She does not speak, she is incapable of it. Therefore, it was important for me to make you feel that there was a duality in her. On the one hand, there is her reason, she wants to be heard, to be helped, but her body is incapable of formulating anything. No words can come out of his mouth.
CF: The lack of words is very important. In one scene from the film, she cannot say no because she is too afraid of losing Fred, her trainer. If she loses it, she is abandoned, so saying no is not an option for her. It’s a film in which there is little dialogue because neither the coach nor this athlete have the words to talk about what they are going through. And that’s it, Slalom. This film was made to free speech, to open a debate and to try, finally, to find the words together to talk about what happens when such things happen.
Interview by Thomas Desroches, in Angoulême, in August 2020.