Mélanie Thierry: “This role embodies all the cinema that I love”

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Les Films du Losange

In La Douleur, as a young Marguerite Duras watched over by madness, Mélanie Thierry is exceptional. Encounter.

Adapted from the eponymous journal of Marguerite Duras, relating to the anguish experienced in 1944 by the novelist following the arrest of her husband by the Gestapo, Pain is the occasion for Melanie Thierry to find Emmanuel Finkiel, who had directed it in I’m not a bastard. From all shots, the vibrant and determined actress is beautifully highlighted by Finkiel’s fondling camera. And holds his best role since Ombline (2012, Stéphane Cazes). We had met her at the beginning of 2018, on the occasion of the release of this drama in the cinema. Flashback, to wait until the broadcast of Pain, tonight on Arte.

First: The Duras that you play is not the most iconic, that of the turtleneck and big glasses …
Mélanie Thierry:
(cutting) I’m not really old enough.

So, was it easier to make it yours?

In a way, yes, since Duras did not exist at the time in question, she did not yet have her writer’s name. When she wrote her private notebooks, she was just a young novelist without a publishing house, not really taken seriously by the Parisian intelligentsia. She was one of those women whose men were at the front or prisoners and who were waiting.

How did you “create” it with Finkiel?

Quickly. Emmanuel is too agitated to speak into the void! (laughs) We envisioned her as two characters in one: on the one hand, the tormented Marguerite, in the present time, with a madness that slowly wins over her, a bit like Adèle H; on the other, Duras’s double with this very literary thought that unfolds in voice-over. It needed the youthful and fresh side and the more introspective, more mature side.

How do you work in general?

I need support. When I feel abandoned, I am quickly stranded. I am always accompanied by directors and people I trust. It turns out that the film was very complicated to edit, the shooting was notably stopped for three weeks. We did not know if we would resume and if the result of all this would be a few rushes stored in a closet. It was painful.

Funny that you use the term “painful”.

There was a parallel that fed the character. Unconsciously, all of these events led me to be in a struggle, in faith, and never in renunciation. We were also a small team of ten people, all very empowered. It fostered incredible intimacy and trust.

The character is in permanent pain, seduction in spite of herself and punctual action – with resistance. It is a very dense role, undoubtedly your most striking, with those that you have held in Ombline and The Princess of Montpensier. Where would you place it in your personal Pantheon?

I would say that this role embodies all the cinema that I love even if I don’t want to downplay the others that I liked to do. I feel like I really belong. If I could only work with Finkiel, I would do so in a heartbeat. He has a very particular way of directing, of holding a set, of envisioning the cinema, of talking about it, it’s galvanizing.

Female roles like that don’t run the streets.

You have to be patient and tell yourself that it’s a chance to have had a great role, or two. You can spend an actress’s life fulfilling functions but feeling a certain frustration. I’m still pretty lucky since I started.

There have been some surprising dropouts in your career: after Quasimodo del Paris, you link two films in Italy; after Excuse me, you become an actress of action movies (Chrysalis, Babylon AD, Largo Winch); after Ombline and For a woman, you do Zero Theorem

We didn’t give a lot of my skin afterwards Quasimodo del Paris, that I love. Without Timsit, I probably would never have become an actress. Afterwards, we had to hang on, improve. I had a good margin of progress! (laughs) I wasn’t thirsty for cinema, for great texts, I did what I was asked, I had no film culture. I was deeply shy and self-conscious.

Mélanie Thierry exceptional in La Douleur [Critique]

Are you still suffering from a legitimacy problem?

We suffer from it all the time. You drag your complexes all your life, you manage them.

There was that moment when we thought you were going to turn into a badass heroine …

It amused me and I was old enough for it. We also make certain films to exist, to gain ground, that’s part of the job. But I don’t regret anything. I found it great to do Babylon AD even if, on arrival, the film was a fiasco and was taken apart by its director. It was personally a great experience that allowed me to meet a great English coach, who became one of my best friends, without whom I wouldn’t do anything.

Have you stayed in touch with Mathieu Kassovitz?

I saw him not long ago. He’s an angry guy, a nervous guy who goes straight off that I really like! When he has his camera on his shoulder, he can bring out beautiful moments in the cinema.

The César for Most Promising Actor obtained in 2010 for The last one for the road Did it set you free or was it too heavy for you?

I was madly happy. I didn’t think this could happen to me. It made me happy for my parents.

What makes Mélanie Thierry run?

I want to make films that work, that reach people. I don’t miss it but I would like to.

The trailer for Pain :

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