Virginie Efira is grandiose as a depressed lawyer in Victoria by Justine Triet. She talks to us about the film in the company of the director and the hilarious Vincent Lacoste.
A real feel-good movie that mixes the portrait of a modern woman, romance and a form of the absurd, Victoria was the pretty nugget of Critics’ Week 2016. This film, which consecrates the talent of Justine Trietrevealed at Cannes with The Battle of Solferinoand permanently installs Virginie Efira as one of the essential actresses of French-speaking cinema, will be rebroadcast tonight on Arte. During its screening on the Croisette, Première had met its two stars, and its director.
Justine, does this Victoria look like you?
Justine : It’s me, other women, movie heroines that I love…
Virginie died laughing there.
Virginie Efira : For me, there are commonalities. With Justine, we always have access to all the strata of her thought, which is a mixture of reflection and extreme spontaneity. Victoria is a bit like that: she sticks to a certain rhetoric from which she sometimes moves away completely to better return to it.
At what point in the process did Virginie impose herself on you?
Justine : At the end of the writing, I really had to project myself into an actress. I considered playing Victoria myself, but it would have been a disaster (laughs).
Virginia : I’m not so sure.
Justine : Yes, yes, I would have been unable. So I met Virginie for whom I had a total crush, as for Vincent elsewhere.
How, Virginie, did you receive this very rich and very complex role?
Virginia : When I found out that Justine wanted to meet me, I didn’t think it would be for a main role. I was curious about his cinema, I knew, without having seen it (I have since caught up), to which category belonged The Battle of Solferino. I had also seen her in an interview and her personality seduced me. Talking to her, I immediately had the intimate conviction that I would make the film without having read a line from the script.
Justine : We are both shy, it brought us closer.
Virginia : I immediately liked the scenario. On the first page, there was a very beautiful drawing of this criminal lawyer on the ground with a Dalmatian and a monkey! Justine also sent me a photo of Marilyn Monroe with a chimpanzee… It gave the color to the film. There was also a title for each sequence, like an idea to remember each time. It was already very poetic in form.
What is Victoria worth?
The film plays on your image as a funny sexy creature…
Vincent Lacoste : From Goddess!
Justine : It’s pretty “creature”.
Thank you. Of a sexy creature, therefore, which is cracked from the inside…
Justine : Oh, how cute, “cracked”. Sorry !
Was this idea important?
Justine : A little, especially since the character is in serious sexual problems. Virginie embodies this sexiness perfectly…
Justine : Yes, finally, you see what I mean! (laughs) She embodies something that comes from male fantasy, but I saw very early on the possibility of working on something darker, denser, more melancholic than what she usually shows.
Virginia : Than my breasts, you mean. (laughs).
What image did you have of her. Did she bluff you on set?
vincent : She is stunning (he pronounces the “u” normally)… I had already met Virginie and she also seemed quite shy to me.
You too, right?
vincent : A little yes. It’s worse when I feel the person in front of me is too.
Virginia : The same. One day, Justine invited us to dinner and we started to say to each other, “oh there, she wants to see us to test our duo”. We were in a bit of a panic!
vincent : We had drunk a lot. It helps.
Justine : In reality, the chips were down. I just wanted to see how they worked together. You can’t imagine the charm, the chemistry that a duo can release.
Was it in the script this idea of a younger male character, first babysitter of Victoria’s children then her lover?
Justine : More than age, it was the idea of candor, of a certain grace that I was looking for…
vincent : I take, I take. (laughs)
Justine : For me, this woman who lives a personal disorder had to have in front of her a character who brings a new, detached look.
vincent : I play the character carrying hope and gentleness, who is not in a dynamic of falling but of elevation. At the same time, it’s easy, it starts from very low.
I find him hesitant and determined, deep and light, naive and direct. Could Jean-Pierre Léaud have played this role fifty years ago?
Justine : Surprising your remark… I quite agree, except that Vincent has something more mutant. It is constantly changing.
How did you approach this character?
vincent : There is an evolution in him that goes through changes in outfit, style. At first, I walk with big push-ups which give me a bit of a heavy step. Then I’m more bouncy. I just needed to know what stage of his transformation we were at on each new day of filming because obviously, we were filming out of order.
Sam saves the honor of the men a little. He is less spineless than Vincent, played by Melvil Poupaud, for example.
Justine : Oh you think ? Vincent is also complex, I have the impression… Coming back to Sam, I have a greater taste for men who assume their share of femininity, who are both lucid and naive, full of vitality. No actor other than Vincent seemed to me to be possible in this role.
Virginia : I think it’s also a question of age. Being an actor is a terribly feminine profession but among people of my generation, there is a modesty in relation to that which results in an overstatement in virility. Vincent himself understood that femininity was not incompatible with his masculine part.
You have a great scene, Virginie, that of the plea that Victoria makes while drunk. How do you prepare for such a balancing act?
Virginia : When you’ve been drunk a lot, it’s not hard to remember! We think about standing up straight, above all not trying to be funny.
vincent : It is by being very relaxed that one obtains the best result.
Justine : Virginie’s great quality is to condition herself very quickly. She does not sanctify these moments. She runs.
Interview Christophe Narbonne
PHOTO : Sebastian Vincent