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Interview with Valéry Carnoy, director of Titan

Tuesday 1 February 2022, by Abla Kandalaft, Brasserie du Court team

Nathan is thirteen years old boy. Driven by his new friend Malik, he prepares himself for a strange ritual to become a member of a teens gang.

Who (or what) inspired you for Nathan’s character?

When creating Nathan’s character, I was inspired by a childhood friend. A turbulent and reckless young boy who had the annoying habit of pushing me to my limits. A young man, who in intimate moments could be very sensitive and sweet. It is these two faces, tender and violent at the same time, that were the inspiration for Titan.

How did the casting go?

With the casting director, Thomas Xhignesse, we wanted to find young non-professional actors from the Pays Noir, where the story takes place. With the Covid-19 pandemic, casting was more complicated because everything was closed (schools, sports centers, etc…). So, we selected profiles based on photographs, and it was in a youth center that we came across Mathéo, who immediately impressed us with the hardness of his eyes and the softness of his voice. It was important that none of the casting members had an archetypal face (that of the good guy or the bad guy for example). I wanted each face to have some kind of tenderness, something naive and pleasant at the same time.

How did you work with your young actors?

Since Mathéo had no acting experience, he did several internships over a period of 3 months, in which he adapted the text with his own words. We then discussed the subtext of each scene so that he could understand his character. He had to separate the acting from reality, which was a complex process. I then organized several rehearsal sessions with different teenagers who came for casting. This allowed me to model the group according to Mathéo’s feelings and affinities.

Tell us a little about your film choices. (The use of the phone…)

We really wanted to film the actors in an organic way, without restricting their movement. I tried to avoid over-cutting, as long as the length of the shot worked, we kept it. The mobile phone had to start the film, the idea was to shoot a nervous and ultra naturalistic scene that immediately plunges the audience into the intimacy and spirit of the main character. The telephone allowed me to create an almost instant encounter between Mathéo and the viewer.

What kinds of subjects and genres are you attracted to as a filmmaker?

I like to tell stories that are funny and dramatic at the same time, where there is a direct confrontation between two individuals, whether in relation to their social environment or their ways of seeing the world. Stories of emancipation fascinate me, especially those dealing with adolescence. It is a period of novelty and frustration, but it is above all a period during which we experience constant confrontation, whether within ourselves or with others.

Is there a particular short film that has made a strong impression on you?

I loved Nicolas Keppens’ short Belgian animated film Easter Eggs and his way of communicating everything through the poetry of adolescence. In this film, two teenagers are looking for several rare parrots that have escaped. One sees this search as a game, the other sees it as a way to grow and earn money. The two friends no longer see the world the same way, they each grow at their own speed, which leads directly to discord…

What’s your definition of a good film?

In a good film, it is easy to project oneself into at least one of the characters. By the end of the story, we even feel as if we’ve met the character, as if they were real. To achieve this, the character must possess a certain universality while escaping the usual clichés. There has to be a large set of small details included that make the character endearing and original, but also extremely common.


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