Romantic Adaptation

Claire Denis is the acclaimed French writer-director whose work includes Chocolat, 35 Rooms, White Material and Bastards. Her new film Let The Sunshine In is an adaptation of Roland Barthes’ 1977 text A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments. Juliette Binoche stars as Isabelle, a 50-something artist who contends with a series of male lovers.

ASFF: Juliette Binoche is so experienced. Is that why you cast her?
CD:Experience does not bother me. I don’t feel when I work that I’m an experienced person, because I don’t think I’m an experienced person. Each film, I’m so afraid to miss the film. And Juliette is hard-working to protect herself from the fear to make sure she will be free enough on set to be completely open to direction.

ASFF: How did you assemble all these wonderful male actors opposite Juliette to play her lovers?
CD: The banker is Xavier Beauvois is a famous director and a friend. The actor is an actor: Nicolas Duvauchelle. I’ve worked with him maybe four or five times – he’s in Trouble Every Day, White Material, Beau Travail. He used to be an actor. He was in three of my films before and he’s a friend. I choose the kind of men that would not have to prove how good at acting they were facing Juliette.

ASFF: How much of this was based on personal experience?
CD: I’ve never had an affair with a banker … I’m a little bit sorry about that! It’s a mixture of Christine [Angot, her co-writer] and me…I remember there was a time when I told Christine that the only possible title for me would be “agony” and, of course, the producer freaked out … [but] the pain of love is really an agony.

ASFF: Does the pain of love get stronger the older you get?
CD: If I remember well when I was 13, 14 …I was always thinking that the only solution was to kill myself. There was something always so desperate in teenage love. Separation. But also being in my 30s, I was in hell too, but in a different hell that was not about killing myself, but to think my life was meaningless. And then getting older, it’s the desperate march to the end…will I have a companion? Like in The Beatles’ song When I’m 64 – to be with me, to feed me. No, I think it’s a different pain with age.

ASFF: You cast Juliette with Gérard Depardieu, who was quite rude about her in the past in the media. Was there any tension on set?
CD: Not at all. It was the very opposite. He was very happy and she too. This thing that  happened in the media was very simple. He reproached Juliette for being attracted by sado-masochistic directors. And he was thinking of probably Michael Haneke. He said: “You’re too joyful only to be interested only in that kind of director.” One day, a year later, she was shopping in the market in the street and she was buying food and he was there and she said: “Why did you say horrible things about me?” He said: “Oh! I say always horrible things! Don’t worry my petite jeu jeu!”

James Mottram

Let The Sunshine In opens in cinemas and on demand from 20 April. For more details, visit: