Morgane Dziurla-Petit • Director of Excess Will Save Us
“My aim while shooting was to open up to things that would happen around us”
by Teresa Vena
- The French director offers an unusual insight into the daily life of a small village in Northern France and, more specifically, that of an extraordinary family
Morgane Dziurla-Petit is a French director based in Sweden. She developed her feature Excess Will Save Us [+see also:
interview: Morgane Dziurla-Petit
film profile] from her short of the same name. The film is now competing at IFFR, in the Tiger Competition. We talked to her about the fascinating mixture of documentary and fiction that she has created, as well as using her family as a source of inspiration for exceptional stories.
Cineuropa: How did you develop the concept for the film, taking a short and turning it into a feature?
Morgane Dziurla-Petit: Even when I was shooting the short film, I thought that there was much more to say about Villereau, especially concerning my feelings about it and about my family. The short film concentrates on the false terrorist alert. I had shot much more than we finally ended up using for the short, and I had the idea of doing a mini-series. Then came the offer from my producer to do a feature instead. So I took all of the stories I wrote for the mini-series and added a common thread, which is that of the family. I didn't want to be the main character, because I wanted to talk about the situation of being in a place you don't choose to be in, and about the difficulties of being yourself in that place. This wasn't true for me any more, since I decided to go back to Villereau by myself in order to make the film – I had the freedom to choose whether or not to do so. This is why I decided that my father and my cousin – actually, a fictive cousin – would be the main protagonists. They represent to a T those people who want to leave, who have this dream, but who feel blocked by the family.
How did the film affect your relationship with your family?
The film brought us really close; we were never that close before. Just the fact that I had come back to this place of my own free will and that I was able to reconnect with everyone there was a big change compared to my childhood, when I felt stuck there. Now I felt very comfortable with them. We found a way to communicate, to laugh together, to have fun and to surprise each other. It was wonderful for our family to make this film together.
Could you tell us more about the relationship between reality and fiction in the film?
We had a shoot, and then finally a film, full of surprises. My aim while shooting was to open up to things that would happen around us and welcome that reality. Often on a set, you shut yourself up in a bubble and can’t see anything else. We were open to including what was happening on the farm or in the wider world, as long as it made sense for the story. The pandemic, for example, started spreading in the middle of the shoot. Instead of reproducing all the madness we saw happening in the world at that time, I found an image linked to our film. The lockdown and self-isolation came in the form of the girl really being locked up in the room. In a more figurative sense, it reflects the fact that everybody is trying to keep her in the village by force.
Your cousin, or pseudo-cousin, is your alter ego in the film.
She represents the outsider in the village. She goes against the grain, and this is also why she walks backwards at times. She is supposed to be the “weird” girl, as the family sees it. But actually, it's the opposite: it's through her that you are able to identify yourself.
Why the title?
I wanted to retain the title of the short since the two are closely linked. The title refers to the idea that in order to be able to exist, it is necessary to distort stories and to create something huge in a village where nothing really happens. But in the minds of the people, many things happen.
You mostly use a static camera.
I think that keeping it fixed shows the beauty of the places and of the shots. It also allows you to see the details. This position represents my own position in a certain way. I came there as an observer from the outside, and this way, the audience assumes my point of view.
Was there ever a moment when any of the protagonists wanted to call a halt to the project?
My father never wanted to. But there was one really difficult moment: my dad stole an object from my grandfather, and my grandfather got furious. He wanted to stop shooting. I had to teach my father what a real apology should sound like. And then, finally, we managed to reconcile them. The advantage in my family is that often, problems can disappear just as quickly as they appeared.
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