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CANNES 2021 Cannes Premiere

Eva Husson • Director of Mothering Sunday

"Sex is part of the equation, but nudity is political"


- CANNES 2021: The French auteur talks to Cineuropa about putting a modern spin on the British period drama

Eva Husson • Director of Mothering Sunday
(© Philippe Quaisse)

Director Eva Husson has filmed screenwriter Alice Birch's adaptation of Graham Swift's novel about a secret love affair that takes place after World War I and how this affair is remembered later in life. Mothering Sunday [+see also:
film review
interview: Eva Husson
film profile
has been screened in the Cannes Premiere section of the 74th Cannes Film Festival.

Cineuropa: How did Mothering Sunday come to you?
Eva Husson: My agent sent me the novella, and told me “there's a script that's being written, you should read the novella, see if it's of interest to you.” I was blown away by the sensitivity of the whole book, what it says about the world and what it means to be human, and how hard it is to survive life; basically, it's hard work. And we all go through it, and we'll have moments of despair. It's nice to examine angst, but also what makes life joyous. When I finished the book, I was in tears, and I couldn't understand why until I realised that it had opened a frequency in me, and I wanted to open a frequency in people, which is part of why I am a filmmaker.

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The film has an aesthetic of today. It has a modern way of looking at the 1920s. Why did you go for that?
What's funny is that I always stay away from film references when I work because I think it's a trap when you're a filmmaker. We have gotten to a stage of cinema history where many amazing directors have come before us, and it's hard not to be influenced by these masters. I know their influence is in there somewhere. It's part of my grammar. So one of the ways I could make it fresh was to go back to the source, go back to the 1920s and remember what the frame of reference was. It was paintings, so I chose 1:66 as a format because it was the one that was closest to painting. I framed a lot of shots like paintings. In classical painting, you use a lot of empty space.

How important was it to have naked bodies in this film?
In the book and the film, I think that they are naked both metaphorically and literally with each other. Paul and Jane have a safe space where they can look out for each other.

But this is a hidden love, so is that safe space limited?
I also know that love gets crashed by societal constraints and systemic oppressions that we are all products or victims of. He's a victim of the fact that he was never taught how to have access to his emotional well, but she opens that door. There is no other escape but her. She may not have the money, but she has the brain and the body is an extension of the brain. If you look at it in the film, nudity and sex are not often connected in terms of screen time. It's very short. You think you see a lot of sex, but it's the context of it. It's about intimacy. My experience is you spend a lot of time being naked and getting comfortable with each other. It's incredible to stay away from the sexualisation of nudity. Sex is part of the equation, but nudity is political.

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