Birth of the Octopuses, Tomboy, Gang of Girls: Céline Sciamma looks back on her first films

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The director evokes their evolution over time.

Released on June 2, Little mom is Céline Sciamma’s most recent film. Presented at the Berlinale 2021 and in the running for the Golden Bear, this family story is directly inspired by the childhood of its director, and once again testifies to Sciamma’s personal involvement in his films. Her filmography represents her evolution, as a woman but also as an artist, and it is with regard to this evolution that the director took the time, during an interview with the New York Timesto review some of his creations and their evolution in an ever-changing era.

Little mom: Céline Sciamma at her best [critique]

Firstly referring to his very first feature film birth of octopusesreleased in 2007, Sciamma explains that he filmed his very first rape scene there, without realizing it. “How do I shoot a rape scene, if I had to?” After asking herself this question, the director becomes aware of having done so with the character of Anne in birth of octopuses, a character who has a crush on a handsome sportsman. One night, he shows up on her doorstep and almost immediately begins having sex with her. There is no kiss. In a later scene, the sportsman tells Anne that he really loves her and tries to kiss her. She leans towards him and spits in his mouth. This scene, which in 2007 caused a scandal with its violence, is today acclaimed by the younger generation: during a school screening organized by Adèle Haenel in a high school, the students applauded where more than ten years before the spectators booed the screen. This evolution of mentalities is beneficial, it shows the modernity of Sciamma to represent the reality of women.

Kristen Stewart is a big fan of Céline Sciamma and Adèle Haenel

However, this reality is sometimes questioned, especially with his third feature film girl band (2014). For Céline Sciamma, this film is the only one she regrets: “He’s problematic now… which means he was problematic then.” Following the character of Marieme, a young inhabitant of a French suburb in full quest for identity, girl band had caused a sensation at the time of its release: its cast is almost exclusively black. Acclaimed by the press, the long was ultimately not as representative as wanted, and for good reason, many black feminist activists refused the social determinism that was given to them. “For me, it’s really simple. If people you consider political allies say to you: ‘It does not help the revolution. It even slows down the revolution’, then they are right. That’s all”, concludes Sciamma.

The dance on Rihanna in Band of girls: “Everything was very choreographed”

Finally, the evolution of his films also applies to his practice of cinema. Very free in her way of making films today, Céline Sciamma has freed herself from the codes of classic cinema, not without difficulty. About tomboy, her second feature film released in 2011, the director evokes, for example, a scene that was difficult to shoot at the time, and which she now considers to be torture. In this scene, the main character is forced to wear a dress. Today freed from cinematographic diktats (as evidenced by Portrait of the girl on fire), Céline Sciamma says she will never film such a scene again, but at the time she thought she would have to force herself to continue “follow the rules”. A mentality far from that of the director today.

The projection of Tomboy in schools is controversial

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