” The children told me that if they saw this movie before they lost their grandmother, it would help them a lot. “
A scene from the film Little mom – Get in the movie
For 15 years, Céline Sciamma’s seventh art has distinguished itself from conventions, filming the first emotions of love (Naissance des pieuvres), the delicate search for identity in childhood (Tomboy) and the most problematic quest for adolescence (Gang of girls). Then came out in 2019 Portrait of the girl on fire, her masterpiece that ignited the planet of cinema.
Instead of resting on her laurels, the French director offers Petite Maman a dive into the secret world of children, while a little girl befriends a girl her age who could very well be … her mother! A free and magical work like that of the great Miyazaki, who radiates so much beauty.
As part of the Unifrance French Cinema Meetings, we talked to the director …
Your filmography leaves a preponderant place to childhood, this important period in which everything is still possible …
I like having characters for children, because they are characters that do well in the cinema that I want to do. They are observers. It is often said that children also have no choice to observe. They can’t always participate. It is important to watch when you are a child. It is vital to keep an eye on your parents. Because we are curious, but also because this is how we survive, how we try to understand situations.
This way of observing the world around them, of looking at things, was also at the center of Portrait of the girl on fire…
It is true that I make films that are always centered on a character’s gaze and this gaze is fraught with an important question. It produces attraction, cinema, which is something of the order of life or death in the fact of looking at someone. The importance of what a child has to watch in their life goes well with cinema.
Speaking of the gaze problem, you can see a lot of things in this film. For me it’s like a trip back in time, even if the concept remains very different from Back to the Future you hate 12 monkeys. It all really depends on the audience, on their own vision of things …
It is a very collaborative film with the viewer. I think over time my films become more and more open. People can see what they want and are active. So yes, you can see a time travel movie there without the car. The machine would in fact be the film that invites you to dive into it, where your ideas are constantly changing. That’s why I haven’t included too many details and side stories about this family. Everything is seen from the child’s perspective and it is his gaze that allows viewers to see something else.
Do you think it is a tribute to your youth?
There are a lot of links to make with my background. I shot in the city where I was born, in the forest where I used to go as a child. The house was designed on my personal memories of my two grandmothers’ homes. So yes, it is very inspired by my youth. But at the same time it is a universal film that talks about today’s world. Everything comes from a desire for cinema.
Do you think the movie Pony Could Jacques Doillon be a reference?
Ponette beat me when I was young. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie with such a strong and memorable baby. It completely turns your heart upside down! That said, children are often at the center of stories – think about it 400 shots, And., The child by Chaplin, naked childhood de Pialat … France has a long tradition of children in cinema. It’s so weird when you think about it! To be part of this movement, with what is really my first family film.
Do you think children will receive the film in the same way as adults? Could they connect with what’s happening on the screen?
Yes, I think so. Children’s feedback is very good. Relationships with mothers and grandmothers are of great interest to them. Just like the links with death. The children told me that if they saw this movie before they lost their grandmother, it would help them a lot.
Your films are special and personal. They don’t look like anything else. Do you have an idea where your creation comes from?
I spend a lot of time wandering. There, for example, for my next project, I still don’t know where the story will end. I don’t know what it’s going to be about. But I know it will take a lot of my wishes until they form something together. I would like to include elements of comedy in it. When I think about a project, I spend my time reading and writing. I am a true vampire! It’s a long, very long creative process. It took me five or six years to make Portrait of the Girl on Fire. I take my time to make things right.