Hurlevent

Hurlevent (1985) is Jacques Rivette’s impressive rendition of Emily Brontë’s 19th-century classic Wuthering Heights. This dark novel with its uncivilised lovers and stormy Yorkshire landscapes has its roots in the ancient balladic tradition and has never ceased to fascinate renowned 20th-century artists (writers, musicians, painters, dancers, filmmakers…). As translations into various European languages became more and more widespread, the Surrealists saluted Brontë’s work as a literary masterpiece that was in total harmony with their Manifesto’s tenets. For Luis Buñuel, the theme of l’amour fou was so powerfully developed in the novel that he felt compelled to adapt it. In the early 1930s, he wrote a script with his friend Pierre Unik: the movie, Abismos de passion (1954) would only be shot 20 years later, in Mexico, and not properly released until 1983, in New York! But, after all, getting the unconventional fiction published back in 1847 in Victorian England had also been, for its female author, a very difficult journey.

What about Rivette’s experience of Wuthering Heights? Was it worth all the trouble and the anguish?

In our interview of last December, he recalled that he first read the novel in a French translation as a 19-year old. Three decades later, he directed his own Hurlevent, the 126-minute movie which shifts the action to the Cévennes, an area historically associated with a stern rural Protestantism and characterised by a wild, sun-drenched landscape where isolated farms can be several miles apart. This beautiful cinematographic transposition of the accursed book, however, was pretty tough to make and did not bring him much artistic or financial recognition – it went practically unnoticed at the time, the theatres were empty! Moreover, as underlined by co-writer Pascal Bonitzer, it took Rivette a while to fall back on his feet and shoot his next film, La bande des quatre (The Gang of Four, 1988) which was a success.

I wish it were different. I wish I could persuade you to see Hurlevent, which came out in a DVD collector pack last year, together with the more popular La belle noiseuse (1991) (starring Emmanuelle Béart) and Secret Défense (1998) (Sandrine Bonnaire). I wish it were different since Rivette’s latest movie, Histoire de Marie et Julien (with Béart, again), will be released in November 2003 and has, according to the director, quite a lot in common structurally and thematically with Hurlevent.

Hurlevent was a challenge from the start: Rivette, Bonitzer and Schiffman had to condense a 34-chapter novel spanning three generations (1771–1802) and simplify the structure of a story which accumulates flash-backs and is told by several narrators. Rivette made no bones about adapting solely the first chapters and doing away with the successive story-tellers. He would put back the necessary distance between reader/spectator and protagonists by contrasting, in his mise en scène, the realism of the settings (the Provençal farm, the garrigue (1), the stylish castle) and the low-key theatricality (2) of the performances: the young actors appear to be “representing” or “re-enacting” the tragic events of Brontë’s novel, in another century and country, but with the very same result. As in the 1798 Lyrical Ballads of the Romantic poets Wordsworth and Coleridge, the aim is to reveal “the primary laws of our nature as they may be apprehended through human experience in a wild and isolated setting”.

Rivette also introduced three dream sequences, the most impressive of which is interpolated in the middle of the movie and marks a turning point in the action, the three-year separation of Heathcliff/Roch from Catherine. The blurring of frontiers between conscious and unconscious perception which is made tangible in this central oneiric scene allows a poignant insight into Catherine’s psyche without any need for words. Rivette understood perfectly well that simplicity in the dialogues, locations and costumes was necessary to avoid the trap of over-dramatisation – into which the first BBC television productions, not to mention the old period drama of 1939 (with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon) had fallen. The only concession to lyricism can be found in the magical accents of Le mystère des voix bulgares, a Bulgarian choir’s album that Rivette discovered thanks to Willy Lubtchansky in the early 1980s. Their voices echo at some key, epiphanic moments – when, for instance, Roch and Catherine, in a state of utter happiness, dash across the garrigue, or when they are about to be reunited in spite of death, social barriers, and betrayal.

The credibility of the actors was of paramount importance in an adaptation that Rivette wanted faithful to the spirit of Brontë’s classic. In her novel, the fierceness of Heathcliff and Catherine’s impossible teenage love (which originates in their ever-growing childhood attachment) only makes sense if you remember how young and vulnerable they really are. Like the excellent Wuthering Heights made by Robert Fuest and Patrick Tilley back in 1969–70, Hurlevent uses young actors both in the main roles (Lucas Belvaux and Fabienne Babe in their first feature film) and the secondary parts (3). Rivette’s accurate reading of Brontë’s story led him to adjust the age of the servant, Nelly – she is only in her mid-20s when the heroes are in their late teens – and endow her with vivacity, kindness and physical beauty, all attributes which allowed a more touching and realistic depiction of Catherine’s illness. Finally, this interpretation of Nelly’s character – which resembles that of Fuest and Tilley – had the advantage of asserting quietly the parallel, if subdued, attraction between her and the elder brother, Guillaume/Hindley, which so cleverly balances the whole plot.

Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche in Peter Kosminsky's Wuthering Heights

To me, it is a pity that Rivette did not feel like shooting the second half of the novel – and he still feels the exact same way today! But in Emily Brontë’s fiction, the third generation of Earnshaws and Lintons (4) introduces such a difference in tone (with its fairy-tale, rather than fantastic, components) that most film adaptations – except for Kiju Yoshida’s beautiful Onimaru (1987) and Peter Kosminsky’s Wuthering Heights (1992) – have cautiously stayed away from it.

When I met Rivette last December, the only argument I was able to present for an eventual sequel to Hurlevent was the example of the Antoine Doinel cycle where François Truffaut partly solved the problem of dramatic continuity by using the same actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud, from the 1959 400 Blows to the 1979 Love on the Run. But a Heathcliff has very little in common with a Doinel…

* * *

On a crisp and sunny Monday, just before Christmas Eve last year, I met Jacques Rivette in Paris. I sat with my idol for an hour-and-a-half interview in a typical Parisian café, Le Café des Ateliers, situated near Boulevard de la Bastille (in the 12th district) and buzzing with the sound of animated conversations.

I was so determined to discuss his mid-’80s movie Hurlevent which inspired me to start my university project – “The Film and Television Adaptations of the Novel Wuthering Heights” – that I had begun to correspond with him two months earlier. Rivette remained terribly silent, although he did read my mail. As I learnt later, he is rather hesitant when it comes to responding in writing – and a less demanding electronic correspondence is simply out of the question: “I am too old.”

Nevertheless, once I finally managed to take advantage of a golden opportunity to talk with him on the phone, being a nice guy (generous with his time and fairly open to new people) he acknowledged my two letters and instantly granted me the interview I was hoping for…and “instantly” means “instantly”: I rang him at two pm and interviewed him shortly after three o’clock on the same day!

Jacques Rivette

VH: The main topic I would like to explore with you concerns the episodes of the novel that are difficult to translate into images, and their oneiric equivalents in the first, middle and last scenes of Hurlevent. According to what Pascal Bonitzer said in a filmed interview [see the Rivette DVD collector pack released by ARTE in the Autumn 2002], the first scene was inspired by Bataille. While leafing through the critical publications for Emily Brontë’s novel, he came across a book by Georges Bataille, The Tears of Eros

JR: Well, it is not a book but an article, a very long article, which he collected later in a book called – I think – Literature and Evil (La Littérature et le Mal). Pascal knows Bataille far better than I do, since he was the subject of his PhD thesis. As for me, a long time ago, I merely skimmed through this article by Bataille. The truth is that I am not very familiar with it.

VH: So there was this article, but also an illustration, apparently a reproduction of a painting by Poussin…

JR: No, it was not exactly an illustration. It all started – and it has been stated in a number of interviews, so you must have heard about it – it all started when I had no plans to shoot an adaptation of Wuthering Heights, or anything else, for that matter. It was after…

VH: …the Balthus exhibition?

JR: It was after Love on the Ground (1984). I had just finished the editing – it was probably at the end of 1983 or at the start of 1984. I believe it was at the start of 1984 that the Balthus exhibition took place in Beaubourg.

So I went to this exhibition. Seeing as he’s a bit of an eccentric and all that, I am very fond of Balthus. So I went to the exhibition which was actually superb. I already knew the drawings produced by Balthus for the book that the Gallimard editions had intended to publish at the beginning of the 1930s – around 1932 or 1933, I think. These drawings, by the way, were more or less contemporary with Buñuel’s first desire to film the novel … I believe he had already written the screenplay…

VH: Which he only shot 20 years later …

JR: Yes, but still, his screenplay was written at the time in question. So it was in the air for this little group, and Buñuel, Balthus and so on knew each other. They used to gravitate around the Surrealists, while retaining their independence. And then, although I had already seen some reproductions of the drawings, the Balthus exhibition of Beaubourg featured a small, separate room – a kind of tablier, as one says in old French – where they actually displayed all the Balthus originals – the ink as well as the pencil ones, the final drawings as well as the sketches.

And I was struck by the fact that Balthus enormously simplified the costumes and stripped away the imagery trappings which are so much foregrounded in the Wyler movie. I wondered why nobody had ever made a movie in which Catherine and Heathcliff were the age they actually are in the novel. Because in the Wyler movie they are 30 and in the Buñuel movie 30 or 40.

Therefore they are adults, and it does not mean anything. Well, it does mean something, but something completely different. So I felt like making a movie with some very young actors. I started with this idea in mind and made the first adaptation – well, maybe not the first one because there are adaptations that I have never seen – in which they are their age.

It was a novel that I had read, like everyone else, when I was 18 or 19 in its classic French translation, the famous translation called Les Hauts de Hurle-Vent by Frédéric Delebecque – which is quite a good translation. It is a free translation, a kind of adaptation for the French language, which, as far as I know, is pretty faithful. The only criticism that I might pass, very quickly, on the translation of Monsieur Delebecque is that everybody uses the “vous” form while, theoretically, between Catherine and Heathcliff…

VH: Maybe because there is never any “thou” in the novel…

JR: Of course. Still, I don’t know which Emily Brontë would have chosen. Because, on the one hand, when she writes the novel in 1840 or so, the “you” is very strong above all, maybe, in a Protestant environment. On the other hand, I really find that the “tu” form comes more naturally. In English, I am not sure…

The important thing is that it was quite a good translation. In fact, I had gone through it and tried to establish a few comparisons with the English text. And of course, when we prepared the movie, I bought the English text and compared. But then, I deliberately decided not to re-read it.

So I started with this idea in mind, and talked first to my producer, Martine Marignac, with whom I had already made North Bridge (1980) and Love on the Ground, and then to Pascal and Suzanne Schiffman, with whom I had worked on Love on the Ground too. (Love on the Ground was the first movie I had made with Pascal; Suzanne, I had known for years and years.)

But I had decided not to re-read it: I asked Pascal to summarise it for me. I only wanted to have the outline of the story and of the characters, that’s all. And from the start, I told him: “Only the first part”, because I knew about the second part. I had a very strong memory of the Wyler movie – because I hate it – and of the Buñuel movie because, as you know, I find it very beautiful. The characters are 40, but still, the movie remains very, very powerful.

VH: After Love on the Ground, which was shot in the suburbs of Paris, did you feel like heading southwards for Hurlevent?

JR: Indeed, I was tempted to make a film with a very stormy atmosphere, with the idea of “wilderness” which had been completely absent from all I had done before.

VH: Did you know this impressive stone building, this farm or mas, prior to the shooting?

JR: No, not at all. In fact, Suzanne and I spent a long time looking for it. In the end, we eventually found this place. It was mainly the farm that mattered: the farm – as you probably know – is in Ardèche whereas the mansion, which should be nearby, is actually located 100 kilometres below, between Nîmes and Montpellier, near Sommières. However, it became obvious at an early stage that we would not find the mansion in Ardèche, or the setting for the farm near Sommières. I personally like the farm a lot. The mansion was trickier. It was a very, very tough shoot; it was a terrible shoot.

VH: That is why I was unwilling to bring up the subject – I wonder if the novel can cast a bad spell. Why were there so many difficulties? You said that between the actors and the technicians …

JR: We experienced difficulties at every level. The first difficulty regarded the financing of the movie. We had been denied the avance sur recettes (advance on takings (5)) – which rarely happens – and that was it. The movie got eventually financed thanks to the intervention of Jack Lang [then Secretary of Culture], who organised a donation directly from the Ministry and also thanks to Claude Berri who entered into co-production. The latter told Martine “Well, since you have trouble finding the money, don’t worry I’ll co-produce the movie with you,” and brought along the distributor, which was crucial. So that was the first difficulty. The second one was quite typical; it consisted of finding the young actors. In this respect, I was happy, it went well. The only problem was that, in the end, there were, as you know, these two actresses whom I hesitated between for Catherine’s part. There were Fabienne, whom I finally chose – and Emmanuelle Béart. It is unlike me but, for that movie, I did quite a few video tests with a lot of young actresses and young actors. Funnily enough, the only one that we did not see at the time was Binoche, and who knows, if we had met her… She played in Rendez-vous (Andre Téchiné, 1986) almost immediately after our shoot ended. It was the same director of photography.

It was pretty clear to me that our Heathcliff would be Lucas, because he had this sort of “peasant” demeanour when he walked, when he talked, in fact, in his whole being. To me, he was a kind of emblematic Heathcliff, even if he did not possess at all the dark romanticism of Emily Brontë’s Heathcliff. And if I eventually chose Fabienne rather than Emmanuelle – they were both smashing during the tests – it is only because I found that there were more affinities between the two …

VH: Between Lucas and Fabienne?

Hurlevent

JR: Between Lucas and Fabienne, rather than between Lucas and Emmanuelle. First and foremost, the fact that Emmanuelle was a brunette whereas Lucas and Fabienne were both fair. That, I believe, tilted the balance in favour of Fabienne.

However, the shoot was very tough. Since the financing of the movie had taken so long, the crew was everything but homogeneous. The project did not start rolling till very late and the director of photography I wanted was not available. So, at that stage, we hired the people who happened to be free. And it did not go well with Berta: he is a very good director of photography but failed to breathe team spirit into the crew. And the young actors felt traumatised because they could sense that something was not working, that it was a shoot ridden with unnecessary crises.

On top of that, the thing which, of course, weighed considerably on the shoot, was that Suzanne – me too, but even more so Suzanne, since she was closer to him – knew that François Truffaut was dying. And he died a few days after the shoot ended. So, for the whole length of the shoot, every single day, we were expecting to receive the phone call that would tell us “François has died…” it was a truly harrowing situation.

Therefore, everything conspired to make it a difficult shoot. And there were scenes that were not shot because Monsieur Berta, who is a great director of photography, also needs loads of time. So we either simplified or deleted. In my opinion, some important scenes are missing towards the end, in particular when it comes to Catherine’s long illness, which is really too elliptical – and it is so powerful in the novel. That is why I believe that we did a better job of the scenes which were shot on the farm than of those which were shot in the mansion where things went even worse with Monsieur Berta and the heat of the spotlights.

I was personally exhausted and, towards the end, as if it were not enough, a cold epidemic broke out, which means that we were all half-sick. Fabienne was very sick, so sick that it could well have helped her to play the dying Catherine…

VH: But how long did the shoot take? How much time did you have?

JR: I forget. It was probably no more than a six-to seven-week shoot. We had so little money, so little!

VH: And who was your distributor?

JR: It was the distributor who, at the time, depended on Claude Berri, that is to say the AMLF. So the distribution came with Claude Berri. But the film was not a success and, after the editing – it was painstakingly edited – we also faced serious difficulties with the sound mixing. The sound mixing was a nightmare. As it is the sound after mixing was pretty bad – it was already average on shooting. Well, it did not compare with what I usually got from the other sound engineers. But the worst came on mixing: we mixed in a bad auditorium and what we heard did not synchronise at all with what we had on the film. We then had to digitalise and reinforce the direct sound… Well, for me, it is too late now to give it another try! I’d better get on with it…

Therefore, it was really a problematic movie. Actually, I don’t know what to think of it. I haven’t seen it since and would be very much afraid of seeing it now. I believe there are things that I truly like and others that are definitely not so good. But then I hope that we did capture the force of the subject and of the novel, since we remained faithful to it and also since the actors were good. I really like the actor [Olivier Cruveiller] who plays the older brother and with whom, incidentally, I worked again in Jeanne.

VH: How did you choose Olivier and Isabelle, since there is an opposition between the fair hair of the Séveniers (Catherine, Heathcliff) and the dark hair of the Lindons (Olivier, Isabelle)?

JR: I must confess I did not pay attention to that…

VH: Those actors are also very, very young.

JR: Yes indeed, since we had met Olivier by chance, during a casting for Heathcliff. But I told him from the start that he must play the elder brother…

VH: Hindley …

JR: Well yes, but he had to be given a French name. I called him “Guillaume”, if I remember correctly. He is an actor whom I like a lot and chose again for Jeanne. Also, the actress who played the maid-servant [Sandra Montaigu] had a small role in Love on the Ground. And I really like the actress who played Isabelle, too [Alice de Poncheville]: she was only fifteen when we made the movie. She had never done anything. And I think she had the potential, but it just did not happen. Later on, she made one or two movies in which she was good too, but she did not persevere. She lacked the vocation. It was fun for her but she lacked the vocation.

VH: And the costumes were quite remarkable, weren’t they?

JR: Yes, I agree. But this had a lot to do with Lydie Mahias, our script-girl, who, in actual fact, did far more than one job. I had decided pretty soon that it would take place in the 1930s – maybe because of Balthus. And then, from her family house, she dug out lots of original women’s clothes from the 1930s, and she put them to good use…

VH: In particular, the shoes. All along, there is a contrast between white and black shoes.

JR: It is possible, but on this topic you know better than me.

VH: So the scenes you are unhappy with are mostly in the part that takes place in the mansion…

JR: Yes, because then Monsieur Berta took even longer than we had reckoned for the lighting of each scene. So we were under tremendous pressure, especially on the last days when it became essential to shoot all what we could. But again, I haven’t seen the movie since. And if I saw it now, I really don’t know what I would think of it.

VH: This movie is extremely powerful. It is shorter than your other movies, and also has a lot of “punch”.

JR: Since it was necessary to condense quite a lot, by force of circumstance, I believe that it is indeed the most elliptical of all my movies. Otherwise I might have made a three or three-and-a-half hour movie, like I usually do. But there, we were obliged to simplify, to keep to the essentials. It might have given a more vigorous and energetic feel to it …

VH: Regarding the end, it looks like all the adaptations of Wuthering Heights have suffered from great production constraints: Wyler wished the end had not been imposed on him, Tilley was thoroughly disgusted by the way the editing was done.

JR: In contrast, Buñuel’s end is superb.

Abismos de passion

VH: In the tomb …

JR: Completely invented. It is extraordinary… It is beautiful, but different, since the two main actors are definitely 40. Besides, amongst all the versions I know, Buñuel’s is the “shortest”: he uses the most compressed time line. Not only does he stick to the first part, but he also starts when the adult Heathcliff comes back, and finishes with Catherine’s death, which represents a quarter of the novel.

VH: After all, Brontë’s novel had to be divided into two parts, two volumes, to be saleable.

JR: Still, it does not count. The second part of the novel is equally beautiful, superb …

VH: Truffaut kept the same actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud, in The 400 Blows and Love on the Run, the last movie of the Antoine Doinel cycle, with an interval of 20 years between the two films. If you had had the same opportunity with Lucas and Fabienne, would you have been tempted to make the second part of Hurlevent, a generation later?

JR: Not with Fabienne since Catherine is dead. So another actress would be needed. But with Lucas, it could have been interesting. But I won’t do it. Anyway, now, it is too…well no, it has been eighteen years since 1984.

VH: And when was the movie released in the theatres?

JR: If I remember correctly, it was released in Autumn 1985, in September or October 1985. So, at the time, I thought to myself that it was a strange idea to choose and release it in September, when there were already loads of other movies being released concurrently.

VH: Who decides the release date?

JR: Not me, the distributor does. Besides, the distributor was linked to Berri, so they decided… But it is not their fault if the movie was a flop. This movie belongs to a category of movies that people like or do not like. There are movies that, more or less, appeal to many people for many different reasons, like Va savoir (2001). On the contrary, there are movies that some people like a lot while, to others, they mean absolutely nothing. For example, Up, Down, Fragile (1995) belongs to this category. It is a movie that people either like a lot, or, they cannot even conceive why we thought of making it in the first place. And it is going to be the same story with Marie and Julien. This I know in advance – whether it is good or not, some people will love it and others will hate it.

VH: Do you think that this has to with their “reading”, or interpretation, of the movie?

JR: It has to do with the topic, though I could not say exactly why. That’s the way it is, there are some movies that really divide people. Those who are interested are even more interested; however, those who are not cannot even start to imagine what triggered the idea. It was fairly noticeable with Up, Down, Fragile and will certainly be with Marie and Julien. Hurlevent worked much the same way but, on top of that, people have pre-conceived ideas about Wuthering Heights which has merged in their minds with the Wyler movie. But, for me, Wyler’s movie is vaguely faithful to the novel, in the letter, but makes no sense whatsoever with all those ball scenes sprinkled everywhere. In fact, they transformed it into an “Emily Brontë and Jane Austen” production. Actually, Wuthering Heights is Wyler’s movie, after a novel by Jane Austen!

VH: But do you really think that the Wyler movie is being so vividly remembered by today’s true cinephiles?

JR: No, but the only interesting thing is that Gregg Toland did the photography. Therefore, thanks to him, there were moments that were visually powerful… Laurence Olivier, of course, is a fabulous actor: had he done it ten years earlier, he would have been fantastic.

VH: Adapting Emily Brontë’s novel is not a walk in the park and, nowadays, in 2000, there are more adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels than of Wuthering Heights. So why this desire to make a film based on Brontë’s novel since most of these ventures fail one way or another – commercially, mainly? During the shoot, there is always something that does not happen or does not happen according to plan. Or else, it is very difficult to find the right actors.

JR: There have been some successful film adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels, though?

VH: Yes, Jane Austen, but…

JR: I don’t know her novels so well but there is this adaptation with Emma Thompson in it …

VH: Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee, 1995)?

JR: It wasn’t too bad, was it? It is not a great movie because it is treated in a very impersonal manner …

VH: With Jane Austen, it seems to be easier.

JR: Well yes, because first of all, the dialogues are already completely written: they just need shooting. Jane Austen was a true genius when it came to writing dialogues.

VH: Whenever a good version of Wuthering Heights emerges, the filmmaker takes a particular stance, emphasises a certain angle, a personal vision – especially for the character of Nelly, the servant. Therefore, the fact that you did not re-read the novel makes sense to me.

JR: I don’t know. I felt it was necessary not to re-read it straight away. I re-read it later on, though. In fact, I started to re-read bit by bit, when we had decided on everything, when we already had our scenario. Then, I re-read it completely. And afterwards, I was able to say: “What about using the sentence she uttered at that moment – or this sentence, or that one”. Besides, on re-reading it, I could not help thinking that it was a superb piece, the work of a genius.

VH: And did you try to re-read it in English too?

JR: No, I did not. I was just curious to see how it was translated. I cannot read well enough in English. I can read newspaper articles in English, but cannot read English fluently – in particular, when it is a text as well-written as Emily Brontë’s. I did try with another Anglo-Saxon author – not an English one – who is very badly translated into French, James. It is indeed very difficult to translate him. Half to three-quarters of the translations of James are awful in French. It so happens that I have compared the translation and James’ original text a couple of times. In the French translation of The Wings of the Dove, there are some passages that do not mean anything… On following the English text, I realised that the translator had translated word for word because she did not fully understand. Therefore it was a translation that did not mean anything in French. Conversely, there were things she had over-simplified, like the first sentence: “She waited, Kate Croy,” which is so beautiful but ended up being completely flattened out. She simply wrote : “Kate Croy attendait son père”. In short, all the syntactic effect had been totally destroyed…

VH: All the visual quality of the interpolated clause…

JR: Yes, the particular syntax and, also, the polysemy…

VH: Similarly, in your movie, one thing can have several meanings and this leaves a lot of room for interpretation. But who got the idea of the central scene – the oneiric scene?

JR: I cannot remember… It was meant to represent a division… It felt obvious, necessary for this oneiric scene to be in the middle and materialise the passage of the three years during which Heathcliff is absent. I simply felt like having this scene which, indeed, is a creative add-on.

VH: And what about the powerful idea of the blood that appears progressively, like some stigmata …

JR: I forget what we did. I just know that we came up with the idea in an attempt to represent the passage between the two parts, since the first and second parts are about the same length. We knew we needed a visual equivalent, so we felt we could have an oneiric scene – like we had at the beginning and…

VH: At the end…

JR: This is a principle that I have applied again to Marie and Julien. In fact, I realise now that Marie and Julien has been very much influenced by our adaptation of Wuthering Heights since the project was born two years later.

VH: Do you wish to talk about The Story of Marie and Julien?

JR: No, not particularly. I only wanted to mention that it had been structured around dreams like our adaptation of Wuthering Heights. There is a dream at the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end. It does not end with the dream, even though the audience will no longer know when it is a dream and when it is reality.

VH: In Hurlevent, I didn’t realise that the first scene was a dream. To me, the time just seemed to be suspended. It is thanks to Pascal’s interview, which is present on the DVD collector pack released by ARTE, that I learnt about it. However, it is the dream scene located in the middle of the movie that makes everybody want to see the film.

JR: As far as I can remember, I was quite happy about it.

VH: How did you come up with the creative idea? Did it simply occur to you?

JR: Well, I don’t know. I think that we talked about it (the three of us), that we sat down and had a discussion… Personally, I like working that way: we write very little. It is Pascal who writes, afterwards. But apart from that, when we see each other, we talk, we talk, we talk and then, sometimes, the good ideas come. Suddenly, you say something that triggers a reply. And that’s why I quite like working in a trio. Because when three people have a discussion, they hand over the baton frequently whereas two people often go round and round with their opposite views. In a trio, the third person takes sides for one or the other. Additionally, clearer arguments have to be given. That’s how you move forward. It has worked the same way for Marie and Julien with Christine and Pascal. We also had loads of problems – for instance, finding the end that did not exist in the text I had dug out – and tackled them by discussion.

VH: Regarding the release of Hurlevent, there were apparently a couple of hitches. I have the feeling that its screen life was cut short in the theatres.

JR: No, it could not be different because the audience was not there. So, when there are only a few spectators, the movies cannot be shown in empty theatres for long. That’s why I am happy about the DVD. Now, there are a lot of people who will see it who were not even aware that the film existed. They may well buy the DVD for La Belle Noiseuse or The Gang of Four which are more popular… But then, they will feel like watching the other movies.

Endnotes

  1. The garrigue is a particular type of scrubland in Provence and Corsica.
  2. See Marc Chevrie, “La main du fantôme”, Cahiers du cinéma 376, October 1985.
  3. Sandra Montaigu as Nelly, the servant; Olivier Cruveiller as Guillaume/Hindley; Alice de Poncheville as Isabelle; and Olivier Torres as Olivier/Edgar.
  4. Respectively, “Sévenier” and “Lindon” in Hurlevent.
  5. The avance sur recettes or “advance on takings” corresponds to a grant given by the CNC (Centre National de la Cinématographie) to film makers in France. Back in 1985 , half of the French film production benefited from this grant which is attributed after examination of the film project (synopsis and scenario, duration, format, location etc…) by a commission de sélection or “jury”. However, the prestige of the director and personalities of the actors, technicians and screenwriters involved in the project usually play a part into the selection process. See Herve Le Roux, “Un pas en arrière, deux pas en avance”, published in Cahiers du Cinéma 371–372, May 1985.

About The Author

Valérie Hazette graduated from the University of Reims, Champagne in 1998 with a MA in English Literature. Her desire to discover Ireland’s true spirit led her to leave France and settle amidst the lively multi-cultural crowd of Cork. After a brief spell in the Macintosh IT industry, she has again dedicated herself to her passion for cinema, television and literature and has resumed her academic career at the Centre for Film Studies (University College, Dublin). She also works enthusiastically for the Kino Art House Cinema in Cork City.