Léa Seydoux: “France is modeled on my own nature”

Before leaving for Greece on the set of the new Cronenberg, the actress, absent from Cannes due to Covid, received us in a Parisian bistro near her home to discuss her work with Bruno Dumont.

This interview is taken from issue 521 of First, available at newsstands and on our online store. You can also find our interview with Bruno Dumont, the director of France.

I actually asked Bruno Dumont to shoot with him. It all started with a fairly simple and direct desire to shoot with a great director. I discovered his cinema with his first films: The Life of Jesus, Humanity … What really started things was a program on France Culture where he was invited. He spoke of the sacred, of the way in which he succeeded in reaching it through his art. For me, the sacred is above all linked to the feeling of love. To be in love is a form of apotheosis of the sacred! The discovery of a work of art allows of course to be transcended. I feel that very strongly when I see Bruno’s films, in his way of revealing the power of a landscape, for example.

France also has its share of the sacred. This does not prevent a form of triviality. Things always exist with their exact opposite. A filmmaker may choose to focus on only one side of a character. Bruno takes everything, hence the richness and intensity that emanate from these characters. France is modeled on my own nature, obviously with nuances. It’s a game of distorting mirrors. Sometimes the ice breaks and it is the actress who looks at her director, sending him knowing looks.

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My first meeting with Bruno was very natural. Some directors can intimidate me, not him, I immediately had the impression of understanding him and inherently grasping his desires. In general, I never oppose a director, my job is, on the contrary, to try to conform to his personality, his thought. The converse is not necessarily true, a filmmaker does not need to know in depth the person he or she directs. The profession of actor requires empathy, the fact of being turned towards the other.

Bruno filmed me as he would look at a landscape, without too much affect. It does not bother me. To play is to be completely in the present. It is very first degree. Take the sequence where I am behind the wheel of the car and France cracks. The camera films me from a low angle. I started by tightening my face. Tears came next. Movement precedes emotion. The game is physical, psychology does not really have its place. In life, we spend our time projecting ourselves or going over things, not in front of a camera. You have to be there. To be in the present is to be immortal.

Bruno had warned me from the start that he would lead me with earphones like everyone else. I accepted even though it wasn’t easy. When someone speaks to you in your ear, it alters your playing, prevents you from modulating your text. He loves the gap, therefore the artificiality that it can cause. Many see nothing but cynicism in France. This is not, however, what defines it entirely. It is crossed by different feelings and sensations. It is by turns light, conceited, tragic … The film tells its path, its evolution. She leaves the system in which she is, questions it and tries the adventure. Everything is exacerbated at Bruno Dumont. It does not offer realistic cinema. Purity is born from the exaggeration of reality.

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