Written and directed by Jean Paul Civeyrac, A travers la foret is a story about Armelle (Camille Berthomier), a young woman coping with the death of her boyfriend in a motorcycle accident. Armelle has waking dreams where she sees her lost lover still in her life. One of her two sisters convinces her to see a medium, where she runs into a man that looks eerily like her lost boyfriend.
The film is quite quiet and very visual, and is divided into separate scenes, each shot in one continuous take with a single camera. I wouldn't say this film was quite to my taste, but visually, the film is very interesting, and I could appreciate the director's artistry. Berthomier gave a good and very natural performance, especially considering this was her first film.
Notes from the Q&A; apologies for any mis-translation, as an interpreter wasn't available for the first part of the session: - The film has just been added to the New York Film Festival.
- Civeyrac was originally working on another film, but ran out of money. He met Camille Berthomier and very quickly came up with the script for this film, especially as he had been carrying the story inside him for a long time. Meeting Berthomier made it easy to write.
- Civeyrac wanted to film Berthomier, showing her singing and dancing; she wasn't an actress at the time they met, but he found it a good experience to work with someone fresh and graceful.
- I asked why he decided to shoot each scene in one take with a single camera; Civeyrac said that this fit the reality and mental state of the story, and that the single take creates a tranquil tone. The movie is also about her past existing in the present, and this style helps to mix the two in her reality.
- Someone asked about whether the film intentionally seemed to allude to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Civeyrac said that it wasn't intentional, especially since he more directly addressed it in his last film, Tristesse beau visage, but that film did continue to inform his thinking. In fact, another story from the 16th century gave him more ideas for this film.
- The songs sung by Armelle were written by Berthomier herself.
- Picking the music for the film was a long process; he loaded a lot of music on his computer and played around with what worked and what didn't. The editing process took 6 weeks, which is long considering there are really only 10 shots, all of which are continuous.
- Civeyrac was happiest about the last piece of music in the film, The Unanswered Question, by Charles Ives. It sounds quite modern, but was in fact written in 1906.
- The film was shot on high-definition video and optically transferred to 35mm film.
- Civeyrac had very little money to shoot the film, so he used whatever (free) locations he could find. Those locations dictated the blocking for the shots. Detailerehearsalsls were done off-site, and then they went on-location to shoot, with a 15:1 take ratio, about a day per section of the film.
- The choice of the continuous shots was made to find a fluidity in movement, like a spiral, which ultimately goes to the forest at the end of the movie.
- Civeyrac didn't want it to be obvious that each scene is a continuous shot, as he didn't want it to be seen as a performance or contrived, but rather more simple and alive. The shots were planned out in advance, with lots of marks on the ground; there was no improvisation despite the actors looking so loose and comfortable. This is Civeyrac's normal style.
- His shots are not preconceived during the writing process; rather, he waits until he has his locations and actors.