Q&A with Ariane Labed, dir. Olla - ClermontFF 2020
Wednesday 5 February 2020, by
Olla responded to an advertisement on an Eastern women dating site. She moves in with Pierre, who lives with his old mother. But nothing happens as planned.
First time director but seasoned actress Labed brings us a visually distinctive look at sexuality and modern relationships.
More on the film...
Olla’s character is particularly interesting. Far from being a victim, she reinvents herself, constantly surprising the viewer. How did you create this character?
I wanted to make a character movie. Trying to create a unique portrait of a woman, who toys with clichés, who acts for her survival, she does what we wouldn’t do, she’s a hero. Olla builds the thread of narration, she does not let her environment transform her. She creates a daily life that is hers, she changes the rules of the game. I didn’t know her name yet but I knew it would be the title of the film. This character was built from a fantasy, that of a woman as a hero; this is perhaps what is still a bit unusual in cinema.
Does your experience in theatre explain the predominant place the body takes within the film?
Yes, theatre and dance, but also my relationship to acting in cinema. My starting point is always the body. From the moment I started writing, I thought of Olla as a full body that tries to remain powerful in the face of obstacles. My film has few dialogues and I hope I got the tension and humor across through the physicality of the characters. The dance scene in Olla should tell us more about her relationship to the world than any monologue (I hope). What interests me is the interaction of the bodies. Bodies amongst themselves, communication or noncommunication, the interaction between bodies and space, harmony or conflict.
Many shots seem to be designed to create discomfort. Was that your intention?
The shots are designed to create that tension I’m talking about between the bodies amongst themselves, and between them and space. So there is a feeling of claustrophobia, but in which we can see bodies submit or blossom. I also wanted to put the spectators in ambiguous situations. I hope that in the same scene one is tempted to both laugh and cry. Maybe it’s that discomfort you’re talking about.
What are your references?
For Olla, Wanda by Barbara Loden, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles by Chantal Akerman,Import Export by Ulrich Seidl, and less obviously the films by Bresson. There was also Kundera’s Laughable Loves and Le noir est une couleur by Grisélidis Réal.
Would you say that the short film format has given you any particular freedom?
The short format, since it is outside the channels of the film industry, is in fact absolutely free. There is no pressure on the “profitability” of the film. So I felt absolutely free to do and experience everything I wanted. My greatest difficulty was to succeed in developing a character in this limited time frame, but I think I learned a lot from this constraint. I must admit, however, that working so long and having only 5 days of filming is quite frustrating. I am infinitely grateful to the people who embarked on this adventure with me despite the production conditions. The beauty of the short film is also that we encounter passionate artists and technicians in this field.