The meeting with a first big role in a course is always a moment of intense emotions. Her performance in A young girl who is going well foreshadows a fiery aftermath. Meet.
This Cannes festival is also a festival of actresses. Marion Cotillard in Annette, Renate Reinsve in Julie in 12 chapters, Virginie Efira in Benedetta waiting for Vicky Krieps in Bergman Island to speak only of the competition. And then Thursday evening, the festival-goers present in the Miramar room of the Semaine de la Critique saw the emergence of an irresistible talent. Rebecca Marder is added to the long list of these actors born in Cannes. She is obviously not a beginner. Those who have had the good fortune to see her on stage, at the Comédie Française or elsewhere, know something about it. But never before A young girl who is doing well, she had not had the opportunity to take a leading role in the cinema. Never before Sandrine Kiberlain (in what also constitutes for her a first: her directorial debut in a feature film), no filmmaker had offered her this gift. And Rebecca Marder takes on this role of a young 19-year-old Jewish woman who does not want to give up either her passion for the theater or her first great love story despite the irresistible rise of Nazism in the Paris of the 1940s, with an intensity and an incredible naturalness. She plays the carelessness of youth like the power of the first real heartbeats with an intensity and a precision which count for a lot in the crazy pleasure taken in front of the discovery of the film. We met her the day after the screening, followed by a long standing ovation. She has the speed of the rapids of the timid who are always afraid of annoying their interlocutors. And contagious happiness
A young girl who is doing well is a story with multiple entries. What struck you, reading the script for the first time?
I was quite upset and in tension. In the script as in the film, nothing is too much said or explained. For 30 minutes, it is not known, for example, in what epoch the plot takes place. It is therefore necessary to be constantly on the lookout. But first and foremost I was caught up in the idea of this character who wants to continue to live his passions – in love as in theatrical – against all odds. Sandrine knows perfectly well how to tell the insolence of youth
How did she help you slip into the shoes of this character?
Sandrine has an almost obsessive sense of detail and perfectly knows how to share all her preliminary work. So she gave me a list of movies to watch that in one way or another inspired her or set benchmarks for her: Van Gogh from Pialat for the colors with which she wanted to wrap her film, Goodbye children by Louis Malle, Pocket money by François Truffaut, To our Loves de Pialat again for the relationship of this young girl to her father … But above all, we discussed a lot because I was intrigued to know why she had wanted to tell this story. With Sandrine, it was love at first sight from the casting. And on the set, I could feel all the emotions that won her over without her even expressing them. She has such empathy for her actors that she gives us incredible confidence. She pulls people up. And when I discovered the film, I felt like I had been loved in every way.
As you said, the action takes place here in 1942 but Sandrine Kiberlain does everything not to show it, for the sake of timelessness. But when you compose, do you, your character, need to anchor it in an era?
Everything is indeed quite timeless, with the exception of some dialogues and direct allusions to the rise of Nazism. The film celebrates first and foremost the idea that art can transcend everything, eras as well as the most unbearable tragedies. So if, in creating this character, I think of the time, I do it through the prism of my character’s absolute desire to stay alive in the midst of chaos. And I feel close to her in several ways. First of all because for me, the time for competitions is still very close, the audition to enter the Comédie Française was quite intense, I can assure you! (laughs) But also because my father is a New York Jew and all of his family who had not emigrated to Ellis Island in 1900 were deported. This tragedy is therefore written in my DNA. So yes, I thought about the time but I was above all that character who just ignored this time to try to live his dreams and his love passion.
How do you approach your first big role in the cinema?
Obviously I was apprehensive about this shoot, I had the pressure to rise to the level of the confidence that Sandrine gave me. But from day one, I felt carried by her, by her generosity and her intimate knowledge of the acting profession. And that pressure is gone. Playing a leading role suddenly means going from a sprint to a marathon. You must never lose the common thread of a story that is turned in disorder, protect yourself from moments of concentration when you cut yourself off from others. While when you disembark for 5 or 6 days, on the contrary, you want to live every second at 200%, you don’t think of landing.
A young girl who is doing well marks the beginning of a fireworks display of films where you will be found in the first role. How do you experience this moment of sudden acceleration in your journey?
Before when I got on a casting, I could pass three rounds of testing for a character who didn’t even have a first name and who was simply presented as a “shy girl” in the script. There, I had the chance to chain Sandrine’s film and the Simone veil by Olivier Dahan. I played in Deception by Arnaud Desplechin who will also be presented next week here in Cannes. I have just finished the new Michel Leclerc and I am in the middle of filming The Great Magic, the musical by Noémie Lvovsky. Then I will follow in September with a thriller on secrecy in politics before resuming Fanny and Alexandre and The Cherry Orchard in French. But instead of exhausting me, it galvanizes me. I am in a euphoric energy of work. I am living in a time where I measure my luck every day, believe me. Especially in this period of COVID which has weakened or even devastated our sector. I rehearsed four French plays which could not be performed but at least I was able to practice my profession. I want to continue doing both in parallel, theater and cinema. To return regularly to the great texts and find the life of the troop which offers a framework, even if sometimes we want to send it flying of course. And being in Cannes is necessarily part of this incredible movement. I sometimes feel myself hovering above myself, wondering if what I am going through is real. I feel incredibly spoiled.