I am very much interested in knowing how is co-directing among 4 people. We know there is one of you as an implementer and three artistic directors, Must there always be a leading director in a co-directed film?
Strange as it may seem, we have managed to maintain a balanced role sharing … each other’s skills complementing those of the others. I’m not saying that working together was easy: we sometimes had some ego friction ! Regardless, we really wanted to maintain this balance throughout the work. More precisely, one of us took the leadership in each phase of the work according to his initial skills, but also to his desires …
We must not forget that among the four co-directors, three are sisters, Anne, Aude and Lise Charrin : this often facilitated communication, because all three of us are very connected to the same emotions and artistic ideals.
Jean-Marie Gatin, who joined the team when the aesthetic universe of the project was already well defined, very quickly understood our approach and ensure it a technical realization but also a new look on the history and its coherence.
When you say that The Secret Walls is the main character’s ‘multidimensional path between reality, spectacle in creation and pure imagination, leading him from the artists’entrance to the studios, from the wharehouse to the dressing rooms, and backstage to the stage’, Should that be understood as a metaphor of Dante’s song about the human condition and its trip through three territories for that journey: hell, purgatory and paradise?
Yes, that’s exactly it! We wanted, through the character’s journey, to evoke in a nested way the three kingdoms crossed by Dante. To explain our approach a little better, we did a lot of research on the Divine Comedy and a lot of work on its lexical fields. This research gave a new highlighting on its possible alchemical origin. This brought out strong poetic symbols for each of the three realms Dante crossed, transposed in our film : darkness, organicity, matter and time for Hell, water in different forms (sea, rivers, tears…) and white and blue for Purgatory, fire (incandescence, red) and breath / wind for Heaven. The number three is also very present in the film.
I believe it is great how you materialized the ‘theatrical machinery’ in order to allow us to visualize the man plunging into it as if it was his soul he was .digging into, How long did it take to get to that final production design?
The production of the sets was something quite titanic! We had little money to make them, and we were able to build them thanks to the help of amazing and dedicated people, and also, it must be said, thanks to our tenacity. We were also lucky enough to be able to shoot in an abandoned factory, in the Cévennes, whose owners almost gave us the keys to create the sets of our dreams. It’s pretty hard to quantify how long it took us to build everything … two and a half months, maybe?
Has the film been conceived wordless from the very beginning?
Yes ! It seemed to us that it would be rather trivial to make speak our character, inspired by Dante. We wanted, from the start, to create a very visual, very sensory object, where the sound design and the soundtrack could take over a large part of the expressiveness of the film. We initially drew a lot of inspiration from the magical universe of James Thierrée (Charlie Chaplin’s grandson), who creates silent plays, with lots of sound effects and monumental sets, which unfold his interior life around the main character. He can then have a hold on it : contemplate it, fight against it and then sublimate it. For that, no need for words !