The Vincent

Interview with Ruth Legrand
( October 4, 2002                                            

Peau d’ange was filmed around Angers.  Do you have any connection with this area?

It’s an area I’m familiar with. I felt something very strong there, even perhaps mystical.  And then Anjou is also an area somewhat far from the world. It’s rural, a place that’s withdrawn from town life. It goes without saying that the countryside there is beautiful and its proximity to Paris obviously facilitated the movement of the filming team. I like what I feel there. It is an area which suited the character of Angele.

The colors of the whole film are very soft, almost pastel.  Why?

peau16a.jpg (18440 bytes)I tried to recreate a very natural light, not artificial, but the light of God's goodness. It is a light which tends to be a little cold. I like the work of Robby Muller. I very much like the work of Eric Gautier, who has done the cinematography for Wim Wenders and Patrice Chereau. When I started to prepare this film with Philippe Pavans, director of photography for Peau d’ange, I spoke about their work and I showed some of their films, and especially photographs which had this tone. Each time I saw that the light was too direct, I asked that it be corrected. Contrast does not constrain me, but I like natural light. I have an eye for photography. It was my first trade. In fact, each chapter of Peau d’ange has the color of its universe. I wanted each one to be singular.  

You took the camera sometimes?

Yes, I did approximately seventy percent of the film, something I had never done before. I held the camera in the sequences at the farm and the sleeping children.  I did not film the prison scenes. In fact, I filmed whenever I wanted to.  

Angele is a girl who comes from a poor family in the countryside. Is there also a sense of innocence in that?

No, innocence and poverty do not have anything to do with the other.  The problem of poverty as in Angele’s family is very current in the rural areas. There are people who sold their land and only have their kitchen gardens. In taking this location, I noticed that many people lived that way as soon as one leaves the cities a bit. The attitude of many towns people is not to realize that this is the way of life for many people. It is enough to fly over by helicopter to realize what happens to the farms. I come from the Swiss countryside. I passed from one world to the other.  My father started with a factory and gradually we succeeded in gaining a certain comfort, not one you would call “easy” but comfortable. In the first ten years of my life, I was friendly with a boy whose father was a peasant on a large and beautiful farm, but that was not the situation for everyone. There is a real crisis in agriculture. 

Is the relationship between the social classes a subject which particularly interests you? 

Yes, it’s something which has always fascinated me. That also brings up questions of integration, which also interests me very much. Getting back to Angele, her naivety and poverty are not connected.  She is not na´ve because she is poor. On the other hand, she is somebody who grew up isolated from the world, on a farm which resembles a place that could have existed at the beginning of the last century. The people there do not have television, and when it arrives in the small borough, they have already lost a little. 

Then there is Bresson's Mouchette, which spoke to me while writing during a certain period. Even if Mouchette didn't directly influence my characters. Angele is a character who lives outside of time and is therefore timeless. She is somebody who sees her destiny without questioning it. Gregoire, on the other hand, thinks that he has bursts of purity.

Did Morgane More immediately embrace the role of Angele or did that take a certain time? 

I had proposed a kind of preparation for the role, and she did it with a coach, body exercises, dance and other forms of expression, in order to release her spirit. At the beginning of the film, I found that she reflected too much. She was playing the role with much introversion. It took time to find the tone of her character.

You took acting classes classes with Patrice Chereau at Nanterre. What memories do you have?

 I knew Patrice Chereau at Nanterre. At that time one did theatre and cinema together. I made three films with him. That was very significant for my career. He was a master. He made me discover the universe, aesthetics in particular.

Is your cinema family in France more than in the United States? 

It is true that I've traveled, but I return to France because I miss it. For twenty years I have worked in France. I like to work in the United States even though I have been a little disappointed in the roles that have been offered to me and in those that are proposed to me today. One must adopt a stereotype. In France I find roles that suit me better. As a director, it would be different. Making Fanfan la tulipe is significant for me. It is a role which I can really exist in. It interests me like my role in Le Bossu.

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