Jean-Christophe Meurisse • Director of Bloody Oranges
"There is always a reality in my work"
by Kaleem Aftab
- CANNES 2021: The French director talks to Cineuropa about the most shocking film at the festival, which played as a Midnight Screening
Jean-Christophe Meurisse talks about how he filmed the grossest scene at the Cannes Film Festival for his film Bloody Oranges [+see also:
interview: Jean-Christophe Meurisse
film profile], and how his cinema is always rooted in reality.
Cineuropa: Congratulations on the film. It’s funny and shocking. What was the inspiration for Bloody Oranges?
Jean-Christophe Meurisse: The film speaks of actual events which I read about in the newspapers. In the United States in 2015, a young girl ate the testicles of her sexual attacker. There was a court case, and the judge ruled that it was done in self-defence even though she attacked him for four hours and usually there is a 20-minute limit. When I read that, it made me want to know how that could happen. There was also the story of the politician Jérôme Cahuzac, who went on the news telling people to tighten their belts while he was committing fraud, and I wanted to mix those things together.
One moment we are laughing at the pop violence and the next, we are disgusted by the violence of a similar attack: did you want to shock the audience with your different scenes of sexual attack and torture?
That is a cinematic game. To play with the characters and present them as heroes, but you then see the reality and that is what cinema does well, it can manipulate the spectator. And it’s a game. I show the horror of society. I show the violence of our society, but it’s not my film that is violent; it is society.
How did you make the testicles in the torture scene?
Cannibalism is one of the most shocking things we can see, so it was important to depict it in the most accurate way possible. The first image I had in my mind was what would happen if I put balls in the microwave. What you see in the film are the testicles of roosters. There is only one factory that produces rooster testicles in France, so we used them as doubles.
Can you talk about how you cast the film?
I was interested in making the people in the lead roles less well known in cinema and make the cast in the secondary roles more well known. They are all great actors I know from the theatre. I wanted to invert the norm where directors are always casting well-known actors in the lead roles. I wanted to work differently and use my cinema to launch new actors.
The film starts by introducing a very realistic depiction of the world, and then things start to get out of this world. What was the benefit of this?
I disagree – I think it’s a realistic depiction of the world all the time throughout my movie. Even with the Finance Minister, the whole world may say it’s too much, that he is a caricature, but we were advised by a real political consultant who argued that the truth is even stranger than this fiction. Obviously, to film violence in this way is cinema, but there is always a reality in my work. Even when it turns into fantasy, when it’s melancholic or burlesque, there is always a truth at the root.
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