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'Amour' Auteur Michael Haneke Talks Riva and Trintignant, Death of 35 mm UPDATED

Interviews
by Anne Thompson
February 15, 2013 1:06 PM
4 Comments
  • |
'Amour'

AT: They were. But you have to keep this love story, this drama inside a given space. Why the contained apartment?

MH:  Well first of all, there is a very banal reason for that choice.  When you're sick, when you're old and sick, in fact your life is reduced to the four walls that you live in.  It would have been possible however, to open the drama up, to show the social context to show the family, the hospital, as television family melodramas often do, but to me the story was about, what I wanted to concentrate on, was the emotional relationship between the two characters.  To me the question was then finding an aesthetic form for the structure that was appropriate for such a challenging and such a serious subject, one that affects all of us. For that reason I went back to the three classical unities of place time and action from the classical drama.

AT: You wrote for Trintignant, but you auditioned many other actresses. Why was Emmanuelle Riva the right person?

MH:  She was the best for the part.  Of course, as a young man I had seen her in 'Hiroshima, Mon Amour' and been smitten with her but after that I lost her from view. We did auditions and I had the sense even before I met her, I had seen her picture and I could imagine her and Trintignant as a couple together.  I thought they would make a good couple, but I hadn't seen her perform.  She auditioned for the part and immediately I knew that she was the one for it, because she was so good, but also because they fit together so well, they play to each other so well.

AT:  This is a subject that has not been done a lot in films and I wondered if you were satisfied with the way that other films have treated death, and in fact, if there were other films that inspired you that you were impressed by that handled the subject of death.

MH:  When I'm working on a theme, if I'm interested in a certain theme then on principle I avoid watching films about them because if the film is good it will hamper you, it will bridle you.  But as a whole, I watch very few films.  When I was younger, before I started working in the cinema, I was watching three films a day.  But since starting to direct movies then in fact I see very few films.

AT: You have said that you don't like the way many filmmakers coddle and direct and overemphasize their themes and you try not to do that. Even if you haven't seen a lot, is there someone who has shared some sympathy with you about how to make films?

MH:  Yes of course there are directors like that but I would never mention them because inevitably I will leave out a few and they will feel insulted

AT: I guess I want to know if you've seen Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master'?

MH: Not yet.

AT: That one goes in your direction in terms of not telling people what to think.  Very much so.

MH:  It sounds like you are dismissing him.

AT:  Not at all. It's a subject of great debate that the filmmaker doesn't tell the audience what to think.  Therefore it inspires great numbers of conversations that otherwise wouldn't have taken place.

MH:  I certainly will see the film at some point. I'm a huge fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman and very curious to see that film.

AT: Where do you stand on the subject of shooting digitally vs. shooting on film?

MH:  The fact is that within a few years no one will be shooting on 35 mm film anymore. That's regrettable, but whether I regret that or not is irrelevant, because that's simply how it is.  The problem however is the rapid development of technology, the non-stop development of technology.  Each year there is a new camera and the latest and greatest with new possibilities. That means that none of the technicians can really master what they have, they're all constantly having to try out and test how to work with the newest cameras.  And that comes to problems, so all of these technical developments and technical possibilities that have arisen with new technology really don't impress me. I find working with 35mm far more enjoyable.  When a problem comes up the technician blames the cameraman and the cameraman blames technician...35 mm was a mature technology, people could master it.  That's not the case anymore.  People are constantly having to test things, having to learn how to work with the new tools.

AT:  When have you worked in digital?

MH: We shot "Cache" on video, it was necessary to use video for the entire film.  It wasn't the case for "Amour," we couldn't show it in 35 mm, but my cinematographer was so enthusiastic about working with this new digital camera [the Arri Alexa] that I allowed myself to be convinced by him and I have to say I very much regret that decision, because that decision led me to having to spend a year in different studios working in post-production to make corrections.  

AT: I had no idea, it doesn't show. It's beautiful.

MH:  I've never had so much work shooting a film.

AT:  Will you shoot in 35 for your next film?

MH:  I hope so, it depends for the theme.

AT:  Do you know what you're doing next, do you have that planned?

MH:  My next project is in opera.

AT:  Is this Mozart's 'Cosi Fan Tutte' in Madrid?

MH:  Madrid and Brussels.

AT: Thank you very much.

MH:  Thank you.
 

4 Comments

  • rgm | January 10, 2013 4:00 PMReply

    Excellent and, now, very timely interview

  • Lisa Nesselson | December 21, 2012 6:47 PMReply

    I'm under the impression that the changes requiring that the awards be spread around date back to Polanski's Cannes jury giving so many prizes to "Barton Fink."

    From the Cannes web site:
    >

    In 1991, "Barton Fink" won the Palme d'Or, Best Director and Best Actor.

  • Lisa Nesselson | December 21, 2012 6:52 PM

    Didn't realize the quote from the Cannes web site wouldn't show up.
    Second try:

    **Article 8
    FEATURES in COMPETITION

    The Jury for the feature films in competition is obliged to award:
    The Palme d'Or;
    The Grand Prix;
    The award for the Best Director;
    The Jury Prize;
    The award for the Best Screenplay;
    The award for the Best Actress;
    The award for the Best Actor.

    The prize list must not contain more than one joint award. The Palme d'Or can never be awarded jointly. No film can receive more than one award. However, the award for the Best Screenplay and the Jury Prize can be combined with a Best Performance award, on special dispensation of the Festival's President.**

  • Tyrannosaurus Max | December 4, 2012 4:09 PMReply

    GREAT interview. Thanks for this.

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