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Berlinale Women Directors: Meet Sophie Fillieres

Women and Hollywood By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood February 11, 2014 at 1:00PM

"I wanted to write about a couple being two, about how it is hard to last under the burden of everyday life, about falling out of love. I wanted to write about letting go of everything and saying no to a suffocating life, to insinuations and misunderstandings, which are an everyday form of violence."
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Still from Sophie Fillieres' "If You Don't, I Will"
Still from Sophie Fillieres' "If You Don't, I Will"

Paris-born Sophie Fillieres is the director of five films and the screenwriter of several other features. Her latest work, If You Don't, I Will, follows a long-time couple, played by Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Amalric, falling out of love -- and it's a comedy. 

If You Don't, I Will will play at this year's Berlinale.

Please give us your description of the film.

A man, Pierre, and a woman, Pomme: Their long-lasting married life has become a burden to each. Where has their love gone? Can they capture it again? During a hike in the forest, Pomme decides not to go home, but to stay and live there in the forest, away from everything. What will she find? Herself, and maybe the ability to make the right decision. 

What made you write this story?

My previous films were in many ways portraits of a woman. Here, I wanted to write about a couple being two, about how hard it is to last under the burden of everyday life, about falling out of love. I also wanted to try and grasp the essence of solitude and to film in nature as I had never done it before. I wanted to write about letting go of everything and saying no to a suffocating life, to insinuations and misunderstandings, which are an everyday form of violence. 

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

The biggest challenge in making this film was to keep in mind the humor of everything, to make it, hopefully, deep but funny in some ways -- a no-nonsense way, which is what makes me laugh in spite of hardships and the absurdities of life.

What advice do you have for other female directors?

For me there's no special advice that is different from the advice a male director would give another male director. One shouldn't think too much of one's gender when making a film, but just take a go at it with one's soul and heart. I do not think there is any spectacular distinction between a woman or a man's film. 

What's the biggest misconception about you and your work?

That there should be a difference [from male-directed movies] in my vision and conception because I am a woman. It's a restriction for me. 

Do you have any thoughts on what are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for the future with the changing distribution mechanisms for films?

It's great that access to filmmaking is easier (it costs less, there are different forms of distribution, a possible life on the net, etc.) but as Jean Seberg once said when interviewed about possibly directing a film herself, "Everyone used to think they had a novel somewhere inside him, now everyone thinks they have a a movie inside themselves," and that was already a long time ago! 

The problem is that medium-budget films, at least in France, are harder and harder to finance, and we find ourselves facing extremes: very low-budget ones or big-budget blockbusters. Overall, the new opportunities are still good news, though, because they help [foster] diversity (to some extent).

Name your favorite women directed film and why. 

Recently, I was a great fan of Jane Campion's Bright Star (and of Portrait of a Lady too, though less recently). But it's very hard for me to answer that question as I don't make any distinction between female directors and male ones. My heart goes to Agnes Varda's Cleo de 5 a 7, for example, but it's different -- a new (female) voice appeared during a time when only men made films. Back then, it was a true challenge for a woman to make a film.

This article is related to: Festivals, Berlin International Film Festival, Women Directors, Sophie Fillieres, If You Don't, I Will, Interviews