Mia Hansen-Løve who won won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale in 2016, talks about her film “L’Avenir”
Mia Hansen-Løve is writing her new screenplay on the Faroe Islands. What it’s about, she won’t yet reveal. She’s gotten more done in the last two weeks up there in the far North than in a whole year in Paris – where she has to almost steal some time between her role as the mother of a six-and-a-half-year old daughter and countless other responsibilities.
First and foremost, we speak about her film Things to Come, but also about the future, success, and van Gogh. Her newest film won the Silver Bear at the 2016 Berlinale. Previously, she had implemented two relevant projects – The Father of My Children (about a film producer who takes his own life) and Eden (a portrait that documents the band Daft Punk in the 90s) – and has won an impressive number of awards in the relatively short length of her career. A look at her CV is revealing: born in 1981. Chapeau!
Isabelle Huppert plays the philosophy professor Nathalie in Things to Come, a mother of two grown children who is left by her husband for a younger woman. Your film is called L’avenir in French, which translates to “the future”. But one doesn’t know what the future for Nathalie is going to look like. You don’t give any answers along the way – they must be found for oneself.
The title is a bit misleading. At one point I became aware that this word “future” kept popping up again, and that there was something ironic in it because, for Nathalie, it is difficult to attach something to the future, or to cling to it in a moment in which she is being tested in a way. She is confronted with so many uncertainties that it is difficult to say what the future will look like, let alone to believe in it. Rather the film poses exactly this question, the one of a possible future or another.
It’s more about creating the future or your future for yourself…
Exactly – or recreating it. And at the same time, also accepting uncertainty. Because it’s about a fundamental uncertainty. Simply not to think that this situation will completely (dis)solve anything. There is no prefab solution.
For me, the essence of the film exists in that Nathalie doesn’t get involved with a man again. The film doesn’t say that is impossible, that it will never happen again, but it ends exactly before something similar happens. It ends exactly in the uncertainty.
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Could it also be that for women of a certain age, around the middle 50s, books maybe can’t directly replace men, but that books simply come in at some point in the place of emotional sensuality and that it even represents a kind of happiness?
Books don’t mean an absence of sexuality or sensuality. You can have both. And you can love books and not have a man, but still build a relationship to the world. You can also live very well to a certain degree without a man, and without that having to represent an absolute tragedy. Whereby on the other side there’s also a part in this Nathalie that she denies. She wants to minimize her loss.
Now you could say: she is a professor of philosophy that appears however not to use it in her own life?
Philosophy, love, and wisdom don’t necessarily mean that you’re happy, and they also aren’t all there to plug up the holes. They only help to accept our limitations and mistakes, and also to live with our fragility. The question is much more: how do I make something good out of my situation? You could also call that “active melancholy”, an expression that I like a lot and that I found in the letters of van Gogh.
In the exchange of letters between van Gogh and his brother Theo…
He explains in them a lot that he feels melancholic, doesn’t want it to weaken or enfeeble him, but that he wants to work on it against it, that you still have to work on it more. He speaks so much about melancholy, which speaks to me and also to my rolls. That’s what connects me to them and what connects them together.
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Van Gogh didn’t find success in his lifetime. You were successful from the beginning. Would you still make films if you had no success with them, simply out of passion?
I really haven’t had a giant amount of success. That’s always nice to hear, but let’s be honest: this film is going very well, and I think I’m incredibly lucky to make films, but none of them are films that have made a lot of money. I’m not very effective publically, therefore I do it with rather some difficulty. That qualifies things again. If you make films, if you try to finance your films, you’ll always be remembered for it. I never came to the idea to say about myself, let alone to think it: what a success I’ve been! At the same time, I think that this is the point, yet the persistence lies in the artistic search.
In your opinion, what does that require?
…stringency, patience. It requires the ability to go into yourself and the courage to take those closed inner doors and open them. That is work. It requires a freedom in writing and in transporting your own ideas. The two go hand in hand. It requires an enormous strength for success – in both directions: if you have it, not to be complacent and bathe in self-satisfaction, it’s about staying concentrated on your work – and when you have little success, it’s about turning the defeats into something productive. I’ve experienced enough
filmmakers who allow themselves to be discouraged by bad reviews or failure. I find that kind of thing fatal.
You’re an autodidact…
Completely. At 17 years old, I ran into Olivier Assayas and we became friends through the film that I played in, and later we became a couple. He taught me everything. From the beginning we’ve had innumerable conversations, I could and was allowed to ask him anything, to ask for his advice. Since I never went to film school, of course I’m missing a lot of basics. He was my school. And then I’ve also learned a lot by doing.
If you had to choose: would you decide for books or films?
I would choose both, and also to include art, painting, and also music…everything that moves you. A lot of it is invisible and will always be.
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translation: melissa frost
Birte Carolin Sebastian studied comparative literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and received her doctorate on the reception of Goethe in Munich. Today she lives between Berlin and London, where she works as a freelance writer and actress. Her work has been published in Zeit, FAZ, Vogue, and ICON Magazine. In her acting career, she appeared as the only German actress in the recently aired, Spanish language Arte production Capitan Alatriste as well as in the feature film Lou Andreas Salomé.