Fred Cavayé: interview

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A man with a gun barges into the house of a mid-level drug dealer. Even with the pistol at his head, the dealer refuses to give up the money. He sizes his assailant up: ‘You won’t. You’re a pussy.’ He’s half-right, at least; the man, Julien (Vincent Lindon), is no criminal. He’s a school teacher. But whether he will or won’t shoot is at the heart of first-time French director Fred Cavayé’s Parisian thriller ‘Anything for Her’.

That stick-up doesn’t so much as climax as unravel into a bloody mess, which according to Cavayé is precisely the point: ‘We wanted to retain the feeling that Julien is an amateur,’ he says. The film’s French title is simply ‘Pour Elle’ – 'For Her'. Julien needs money fast to break his wife Lisa (Diane Kruger) out prison and get out of France; she’s been wrongly convicted on a murder charge. And if that’s all beginning to sound like something from a Pedro Almodóvar film, then it shouldn’t.

What Cavayé had in mind when he was writing, he explains, is a thriller whose every twist and turn could – in pretty extreme circumstances, it must be said – happen in real life. Cavayé says he and co-writer Guillaume Lemans would ask themselves what would they do in this or that situation: ‘This is an ordinary guy, who doesn’t even know how to go about getting forged documents.’

When it came to figuring out how Vincent might get hold of moody passports, Cavayé realised that the only criminals he – as a middle-class professional – ever came into contact with, were cigarette touts. So off Julien goes, asking seller after seller for a contact. Later, when he needs to get hold money fast, Julien’s first thought is to rob a bank; after all, it’s looks so easy in the movies. Armed with an old revolver, a family military souvenir, he strides purposefully up to a branch, but just as he reaches the glass door he bottles it. As presumably most of us would.

The part of Julien was tailored for Vincent Lindon, who is perhaps best known here for Claire Denis’s ‘Friday Night’. With his hefty frame and battered-looking face, in another film he could pass easily for villain. Here we read on his face the awful realisation that he is paying off one miscarriage of justice with crime. ‘His wife is innocent but he becomes guilty,’ Cavayé explains. Lindon gives a powerfully understated performance. In one scene after getting beaten up (on the trail of the passports), he catches his own reflection unexpectedly in a mirror and is repulsed by the sight: gun in hand, nose broken, a deep cut seared across its bridge.

It was the moral rights and wrongs of Julien’s behaviour that most interested Fred Cavayé. He compares his character’s situation to France under German occupation during World War Two. ‘Some people joined the Resistance, and others – good people too – chose not to.’ Has he thought about what he might do in that situation? ‘I’d like to think I’d be among those who’d take action, but I can’t know for sure.’

You do wonder if Cavayé and Lemans missed a trick by revealing Lisa’s guilt or innocence so early on (though the scene in which the truth is explained is handled adroitly, passing in a flash). Until now Diane Kruger has been a rather hard actress to place; she was Helen in ‘Troy’ and has since worked on French and American films (she’s actually German), and is in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’. Here she has a siren quality, playing Lisa with a kind of pride that at the start allows you to believe that, yes, maybe she did do the murder.

Cavayé says he wasn’t interested in exploring Lisa as a femme fatale. He wanted a love story at the core of the film. There are awful and utterly believable scenes in the prison family visiting room. Lisa and Julien’s confused son is frosty and backs away from his mother. She is tense and suspicious that Julien might have met someone else. These, like some of the best scenes in the film, are virtually dialogue-free. And when the prison break comes it’s daring and nailbiting, though Cavayé admits that it’s a little down-to-earth by industry standards: ‘We wanted to avoid “Mission Impossible".’

Author: Cath Clarke



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