Interview with Nyima Cartier, director of L’homme silencieux [A Quiet Man]
Wednesday 3 February 2021, by ,
What made you want to tell the story of Vincent Blanchot? Is the character based on a real person?
A few years ago I read Melville’s short story Bartleby. It takes place on Wall Street in the 1850s and tells the story of Bartleby, an accountant who ceases working one day and replies to every question from his boss by saying, “I would prefer not to”. The book has a plot and secondary characters, but I was deeply fascinated by this man who is detached from everything while still being there, without any explanation, saying nothing, someone who all of a sudden stops in the middle of a crowd. I found that image incredibly contemporary. I wanted to make a very loose adaptation, to only use the figure of Bartleby who’s both very mysterious and very ordinary. I named him “Vincent Blanchot” precisely because it’s a name that brings to mind the average Joe.
Where did the film’s title come from?
In the end, the film is quite different from the story, and I didn’t want to belabor the connection by using the same name. A Quiet Man is a title that matches Vincent Blanchot, it brings up questions: you wonder why he’s quiet, what he wants… He’s an enigma. I also like the “tale”-like atmosphere of the title, which lends something timeless to the film.
Why did you decide to shoot him from above, as if he’s being observed by a surveillance camera?
The film is from the point of view of one of his colleagues who’s looking out the window of his office and wonders why Vincent Blanchot remains there. It’s very common to watch people passing by your window and wonder for a moment what this guy is doing, what he’s thinking about, and so on. The difference is that you usually go right back to doing your own things. Pierre, on the other hand, doesn’t look away. The “surveillance camera” effect also comes from the fact that this colleague is looking at him from up in a tower. La Défense is a vertical place that forces those above to look at those below. A bit like viewers in a balcony at the theater watching the play unfold below.
Tell us a little bit about the soundtrack.
Two years ago I made some radio plays and I was amazed with everything I could do with sound! The radio plays sparked a lot of fascinating new questions about staging: how to define the characters through their voice, and the setting through sound effects, how to stage gaps, and so on. After that experience, I wanted to make a film where the sound carried the whole story, where almost everything was off camera. So we filmed the images without sound and then recorded the actors separately, almost like you do in radio.
What sort of a reaction are you hoping for from audiences?
Since movie theaters have been closed since we finished the film, we haven’t done any screenings, so Clermont-Ferrand’s will be a genuine premiere! I’m very excited to see their reactions, to know what people think, how it makes them feel.
What do you think the future holds for short films?
Short films are essential for artists because they allow you to try things out, be daring, to meet crews – they’re truly a sort of film school. Also, the short form allows for a certain measure of radicalness. That’s true of my film which could not have been made as a feature film. I also think there’s an audience for them: people who like novels can also like short stories!
If we were to go back into lockdown, what cultural or artistic delights would you recommend to alleviate our boredom?
I definitely hope that movie theaters reopen soon; we all need to be together in the dark and go see films or plays! Other than that, this year I read a wonderful book called Croire au fauves [Believe in Beasts] by Nastassja Martin.
L’homme silencieux [A Quiet Man] is being screened as part of National Competition F6.