André Téchiné on 'The Girl on the Train'

0

Comments

Add +

The veteran French director talks to David Jenkins about Ozu, pop music and why walking is better than taking the railway

André Téchiné is the 67-year-old French director of serious dramas and  considered one of a generation of filmmakers inspired by the French New Wave. He is best known for his pioneering studies of Aids-era France such as 1994’s ‘The Wild Reeds’ and 2007’s ‘The Witnesses’, but he also specialises in smouldering, Rohmer-esque examinations of emotional disquiet (often starring Catherine Deneuve or Michel Blanc) such as the powerful ‘Ma Saison Préférée’ (1993) or the unorthodox love story, ‘Alice et Martin’ (1998). His new film ‘The Girl on the Train’ belongs firmly in the second category, a vibrant enquiry into the nature of lying.

The Girl on the Train’ is based on the real-life case of a girl who pretends to have been a victim of a hate crime. Do you constantly keep an eye out for items in the news to mould films around?
‘Not really. I read newspapers and I follow current affairs. I see the stories that are reported. I’ve made lots of films and this was the first one that was based on a real life event. I think this is because I have a taste for experimentation and almost certainly I won’t be repeating this tact. I see each of my films as being a new adventure. I like to experiment and I certainly do not intend to repeat it like it was some vein I could now exploit. That’s not how I approach my filmmaking. My next film is different from my last one. I try and produce one film against the previous one. I don’t want to be repetitive, for the audience and myself.’

When I first watched the film, it reminded me a little of Ozu, especially as it centres on the relationship between a mother and a daughter and the fact that you’ve got lots of trains in the film and it’s set in the suburbs.
‘I’m very pleased you thought of the connection, but no, I did not have Ozu in mind when I made the film. Actually, what I was looking for in that respect – specifically trains and the suburbs – was that I wanted this modest but nice semi-detached house in the suburbs and I wanted there to be a place from where you’d regularly hear the sound of these suburban trains. I wanted it to be something you could hear all day and through the night and this sound would drill down in to your subconscious. It’s like a constant, persistent rhythm that would in some way influence the girl and the way she told her lie. The film is called “The Girl on the Train” and it’s on the train that she makes up her lie, so I thought that there needed to be the visual presence of this in her home context. I wanted it to be recurrent, almost obsessive.’

The shots inside the train gave the impression that this was when Julie planned her life. Do you travel on the trains a lot and do they give you space to think about moviemaking?

‘For me personally, I think the answer is no. But, in terms of films, yes, you’re probably right. To a certain extent I see movies as a moving train, moving at different speeds and across different landscapes. A train in the night is certainly something that intrudes on your senses – it rushes and rumbles through your perception. It’s an image and a sound. On a personal level, my relationship with trains are not so deep. Most of my ideas come when I’m walking. Trust me on this: when you’re trying to come up with ideas, it does make a difference what position your body is in, whether you’re walking, whether you’re lying on a couch – as any psychoanalyst will tell you, whether you’re ill in bed. So I prefer walking when I’m making films, but I adore trains in movies. “La Bête Humaine”!’

When journalists and critics write about your films, you’re often described as an auteur. Are you happy with that judgement?
‘I don’t see myself as having any kind of label. As far as I’m concerned, I make films for a wide audience, not just the elite. “The Girl on the Train” was based on a real life case, but in my mind it was an action film, not what you’d call “un film d’auteur”. If by auteur you mean that my films have a personal touch to them, then yes, I take that as a compliment, but if you mean that they’re not for everyone, it’s perhaps rather a shame. For me, this is something I see as being very energy-filled, dynamic, exciting. But maybe I’m wrong. In this film there is a scene with a drug dealer where the boyfriend gets stabbed in the stomach, and as far as I’m concerned, this is a film of actions. But is it an auteur film anyway? I don’t know…’

The performance of Émilie Dequenne helped get that dynamism to the screen. She feels exceptionally unexceptional, but very human at the same time. What were you looking for?
‘You’re right about that – she does look and feel very normal. But that’s because I didn’t want to present a caricature of madness with this person. I didn’t want her to look monstrous in any way. It was very important that she had this appearance of being an ordinary person and not particularly upper class. This is what I focused on in the qualities of Émilie – someone who is athletic and energetic but dreams about higher aspirations in society. I would say what is special about this character is the way that she is totally impervious in her lying. Nothing can break down her compulsion to lie. It’s something that could show this contrast between total normality and this exceptional event.’

The music selections in the film are interesting. They add texture to the character motivations and storytelling. How did you choose them? Are you a fan of popular music?
‘Yes, I like pop but I think I prefer classical. With the soundtrack, it wasn’t just a patchwork of songs and bits of music we threw in. We also worked on the musicality of the actors’ voices. By working with a sound engineer, we were able to bring the voices forward in the mix. With the trains, we worked on getting the sounds of them rushing by just right. The sound is very important and it’s very gratifying that you picked up on that. I’d love to go through the sound design in minute detail, but I fear we have no more time.’

Author: Interview: David Jenkins



Users say

0 comments


Top Stories

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.

Oscar predictions

Oscar predictions

The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards

January film highlights 2013

January film highlights 2013

Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow

October film highlights

October film highlights

Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.

Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'

Martin Freeman interview

Martin Freeman interview

'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.

Sam Mendes interview

Sam Mendes interview

Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.

Ang Lee interview

Ang Lee interview

The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'

Michael Haneke interview

Michael Haneke interview

The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.

Read our interview with Michael Haneke

Thomas Vinterberg interview

Thomas Vinterberg interview

The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.

Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.

Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us

On the set of 'Sightseers'

On the set of 'Sightseers'

Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.

Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set

Tim Burton interview

Tim Burton interview

The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.

Read our interview with Tim burton

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.

Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'

What's your film guilty pleasure?

What's your film guilty pleasure?

Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.

Read 'Film guilty pleasures'

When teen stars turn serious

When teen stars turn serious

Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.

Read 'When teen stars turn serious'

50 years of James Bond

50 years of James Bond

From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.

Read '50 years of James Bond'

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.

Read the interview

Hilarious horror films

Hilarious horror films


Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.

Read 'Hilarious horror films'

Martin McDonagh interview

Martin McDonagh interview

The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.

Read the interview

Autumn horror films

Autumn horror films

We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.

Read about this Autumn's best horror movies

On the set of Skyfall

On the set of Skyfall

Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.

Read 'On the set of Skyfall'

Bond: then and now

Bond: then and now

Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?

Sally Potter interview

Sally Potter interview

The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.

Daniel Craig interview

Daniel Craig interview

'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’