Pascal Rabaté • Director of The Voiceless
"They try to move forwards and have fun in spaces which are forbidden to others"
- Pascal Rabaté talks about his new film unveiled at FilmFest Hamburg The Voiceless, an offbeat comedy about poverty, which treads the line of absurdity, is entirely lacking in dialogue
Screened in a world premiere at FilmFest Hamburg, The Voiceless [+see also:
interview: Pascal Rabaté
film profile] is Pascal Rabaté’s 4th feature film after Wandering Streams [+see also:
film profile] (2010), Holidays by the Sea [+see also:
interview: Denis Delcampe
interview: Pascal Rabaté
film profile] and Patchwork Family [+see also:
film profile]. Starring Yolande Moreau, Gustave Kervern and François Morel, to name but a few, this film sold by Films Boutique will be released in France by Jour2Fête.
Cineuropa: Where did you get the idea for The Voiceless? A group portrait? A film without dialogue, like Holidays by the Sea was?
Pascal Rabaté: I wanted to talk about people who aren’t much talked about. There aren’t many films focused on the social categories we leave to one side. I started to develop the idea of a group painting, and it made sense to talk about those we don’t often allow to speak through the medium of a voiceless film. The idea of an inverted Tower of Babel also came to me very quickly: a world composed of people from different backgrounds, different countries, who had all but lost the power of speech. Then I realised that the film should also be made without music.
How did you construct the script on this basis?
To begin with, I envisaged a slightly bigger group. I’d been struck by films like Brutti, Sporchi e Cattivi by Ettore Scola, even if its influence was very indirect. I wanted to paint a portrait of a multicultural and multifaceted community. But, little by little, I narrowed the cast down because, with all these characters, it very quickly felt like we were entering anecdotal or gag territory, and we were losing some of the characters’ personalities. So I created a patchwork, of sorts, by combining three or four characters into one, for example. I also created a couples system within this community, and the characters emerged somewhat empirically. My main aim was to make a film about those who are cast aside, gleaners as Agnès Varda called them, ragmen - those people who leave little trace of themselves in literature, if not a rather miserable portrayal. I wanted a comedy which would focus on them and thought that maybe I could broach the subject with humour and sensitivity.
Does the characters’ playful recycling of appliances and everyday modern technology play an important role in the film’s absurd humour?
In some respects, there’s a denial of modern, technological life, but there are still a few remnants of if, such as a love for entertainment, because they do watch sitcoms. But they live on the outside of society. They’ve been pushed to the edges, so they try to move forwards and have fun in spaces which are forbidden to others: bathing in green algae, inhabiting disused gites, racing on abandoned motorway rest-stops… These are forsaken people on forsaken lands. Absurdity is the natural result of this situation. As I was creating this community, I said to myself, "look, they’re not going to play tennis so what would they do with a racket? They’d use it to make fries by attaching it to a ball launcher." When they don’t need an object, they use it in other ways. A bidet can be used as a fish tank, a mosquito swatter can be used to electrocute fish, etc.
How did you come up with the dump décor?
I’d dreamed about a patch of wasteland with some sort of village hidden at the bottom. But that was a set that would have cost a lot of money. Alongside set designer Angelo Zamparutti, cinematographer Noé Bach and chief assistant Sonia Lila Tahallah, we looked at all the dumps in the Ile-de-France region, primarily the largest, open air one where there’s a whole sea of washing machines but which we didn’t obtain authorisation to shoot in. At last, we found one. That huge hill of rubbish: we were the ones who built it. But all the waste around it and the road that leads towards it are made up of seven months’ worth of litter: it’s pretty awful!
How did you work with the actors on the expressiveness of this wordless film?
I wanted each of them to have their own language, which didn’t involve speech, so they have different ways of expressing themselves: growls for some, laughter for others, a bit of Grammelot which is a chaotic mix of syllables, eructation, silences, cries, etc. Each of them tried to play with their bodies in their own ways. I come from a graphic novel and illustration background and, for me, the body has to speak. I asked them to play in quite a realist fashion with a language which was their own but which everyone could understand. In fact, to begin with, I wanted the film’s title to be Desesperanto.
(Translated from French)
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