Finding how you want to say in a feature is tricky because you usually want to say and do and show more than one thing. Balancing one’s multiple desires and finding how to translate them into a cohesive and powerful story is a make it or break it exercise. The few filmmakers each year that succeed usually find their audience, if not immediately through laurels and box office numbers, usually over time and word of mouth.
Almost a year ago, after my first viewing of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, I spent some time on the Internet looking for Q&As with its screenwriter and director Céline Sciamma. (Until here, nothing unusual). One of the many videos I watched was the one after the screening at TIFF and the first question asked to Sciamma was
“How did the idea for this film come about?”
Céline Sciamma: “The first desire was to write a love story, a film dedicated to love, centered around a love story, a patient look at how love, desire is born, how it grows, how it flourishes. But also the memory of a love story, and what is left, and the politics of love, and the philosophy of love. There was also the desire to work with Adèle again, the desire to meet somebody new also, and to start a new collaboration, and the desire to speak about women artists. That was a lot of desires, it took me some time to find the right balance and the right structure but that was it.”
Sciamma’s answer has stayed with me ever since so I thought I’d finally archive it here. Being clear about the many desires that run through the story you’re trying to tell is key. The more desires you have, the more work it asks but if you nail it, it can make a deep impact.