Writer-director Shalimar Preuss' first feature My Blue-Eyed Girl made it's North American premiere at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema on March 5. Don't miss the second chance to see it at Rendez-Vous on Sunday, March 10 at 4:40pm! Here, Preuss shares a few thoughts on working with kid actors and the emotions at play for Maden, the titular blue-eyed girl, and her father as they vacation with their entire family on the coast of France.
Your film begins where western civilization begins: with naming. The kids are catching starfish and sea creatures and are naming them. What is the significance of this for you and what do you believe is the importance of naming?
The film probably has something to do with the difficulty of naming feelings or states of being, and more generally of qualifying relationships. The children are—in the end—those who make the most successful efforts in bridging with words their mutual incomprehension of it all. This wording and naming process starts with the outside world (animals, objects, actions) like a practice for grasping the less tangible elements of the inner world and acting upon them.
Your film was beautiful and patient, revealing history and emotions slowly. Were you attempting to express this family vacation as a memory?
I was hoping for the quality of what could be in the present continuous moment rather than a form of memory. For me, it's a way of stressing the state of being rather than the actions themselves. And of course, this takes time.
Was it a deliberate decision to use ruins as a location? If so, what were your thoughts behind that?
The coast of France is filled with German bunkers from World War II, and I think everyone has childhood memories of playing in and around these forbidden, and therefore, fascinating, ruins. They are a great place to put our personal stories in a historical perspective and, of course, a strong catalyst for fiction.
Lou Aziosmanoff as Maden in My Blue-Eyed Girl.
One of the younger boys references Marie Antoinette, which prompts the idea that the trouble with luxury is that it produces boredom. The kids often seem bored, and in Maden's case, begin filling that boredom with unhealthy relationships. Do you think there is a difference between childhood boredom and adult boredom?
Vacation time is indeed a privileged moment for boredom. I feel perhaps boredom is the opportunity for the children to be gently challenged with the questions of the passing of time, the value of action, and the relevance of pleasure and entertainment. I recall these times of boredom while growing up with a mixed feeling of pain and exhilaration. Time seems to stand still and one's life feels out of reach. When have i since experienced time stretching out to the point of it feeling limitless? This is a little beside the point, but it's amusing to me that in French, to say "I am bored" one has to use an active verb form.
I loved the nature imagery and natural responses the children had to nature. What was it like to work with kids?
I loved working with these kids. They were trusting and I hope I was worthy of this trust. They were chosen partly for being careful listeners to my instruction, but also to the people around them, in this case, fellow actors. None of them had been in a film before. I didn't let them read the script, but worked with them quite a bit on this fictional family's background story, as well as on acting methods such as using one's self as a "springboard" for the character. We had fun exploring the possibilities given by the real life family connections between some of the actors. For example, the two smaller children are working with one of their real life parent, the twins and the main character, Maden, are sisters.
See My Blue-Eyed Girl on March 10 at 4:40pm!