Raphaël Mathié: “I hate the term documentary”

Meeting with the director of the beautiful Up there perched, shot in the Alps and released last Wednesday.

In Up there perched (released last Wednesday in theaters), Raphaël Mathié left to film the life of the inhabitants of Chasteuil, a village lost in the Alps. But the film is far from a banal documentary on rurality: the director follows survivors (post-sixty-eighters or war veterans) in an atmosphere of mystery and legends, while the outside world connects crises like that of the Yellow vests and the pandemic… Solidly filmed, bewitching, Up there perched is definitely not like the others. Its director, who comes from journalism, tells us how and why he tries as much as possible to move away from documentary.

This is not a documentary

“I hate the term documentary: I don’t know what it means. I work with reality. I mix with fiction. It’s important. What’s great with reality – easier to raise funds by saying you make a documentary, then you do what you want… It gives creativity, the film evolves as it goes – things crystallize.We follow leads, some fall apart others appear. People empty their lives on my shoulders: that doesn’t interest me that much, but it’s a condition for being able to put down your camera. I didn’t work with the camera in my hand, but above all fixed on a tripod , in order to have a real setting and also to follow the geological rhythm of the inhabitants… A man who lives on a limestone plateau is not the same as one on a granite plateau: it shapes him, that models him. “

Wolves saved the movie

“The film is really staged: for example, I found old films in the archives of the inhabitants, and I decided to show them and to film them during this screening. We should talk about cinema tout court – not documentary, there is a lot of confusion, in my opinion… At first, when we started filming in 2019, I was afraid: where to find drama in Chaeuil? dissolve into a tasteless rural chronicle? And then the wolves arrived, it created suspense, we didn’t know where it was going to take us. In Norse mythology, they are the ones who complete the cycle of the world. And there the Covid arrives in the film, the memory of the meteorite, and the wolves that disappear…”

Create myth (and beautiful plans)

“My first edit was two and a half hours: I don’t shoot a lot, I don’t film to accumulate a ton of material and cut into it afterwards. I try to be on the bone, to follow my instincts, but to still have a beautiful sketch. Here, the camera should not run behind the subject. I open the film on a funeral, I captured the birth of a rainbow in the mountains, and at the end, I I chose to literally change the projection format, and to use tricks like an American night and almost Hollywood music. I like to shoot beautiful shots, maybe that comes from my relationship with nature, I just a popular, forest environment. Cinema is there to create myth. I love superhero films, I’m going to see The Batman as quickly as possible… “

His next film is a road movie

“I’m working on two films: a fiction on the question of love, the miracle, the resurrection, an impossible love story… But first I want to shoot a more urgent, political film, on the national 4. I come from the Vosges du Nord, it’s a kind of dilapidated North Dakota, French style. And I often take this Nationale 4. I want to shoot the story of a writer who wants to paint a portrait of the Nationale 4, he goes to meeting people, he breaks down and he goes to Strasbourg during the commercial mismanagement of the Christmas markets… I want to take my film to the end on a fucking bench of this fucking place Gutenberg of this fucking bourgeois town… And stopping on the wooden merry-go-round that turns, at night. That’s it, it’s urgent, I need it, I want to work on the road movie. I don’t want to make a film à la Rufin, I don’t just want to film, I want to direct. We’re shooting between next September and December if all goes well.”

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