Absurd Comedy

Quentin Dupieux is the cult French filmmaker and techno musician who previously thrilled audiences with Rubber, his tale of a killer tyre, and Deerskin, starring Jean Dujardin as a psychotic filmmaker. Now he’s back with Mandibles, a brilliant black comedy that crosses Cronenberg and the Coens as two buffoons (David Marsais, Grégoire Ludig) befriend a giant fly they find in the boot of a car.

ASFF: Where on earth did the crazy idea for Mandibles come from?
Honestly, I don’t know. Usually I start with a random idea. And then it becomes something else. That’s the only thing I can say. Otherwise, it’s just me writing stuff. And you don’t know where it comes from. This time, the ‘random idea’ was actually the fly in a boot. But that’s it. Just like the way I wrote Rubber. It was just the idea of rolling tyre, but nothing else. Then you have to write something. Otherwise, it’s just a stupid idea.

ASFF: How was the fly created? With animatronics?
QD: No, actually we started thinking animatronics, of course. But then when we worked on it, we realised animatronics was stupid. Because when you look at the fly, the moves it does, you don’t need animatronics because it’s mainly stays still, or flies away. So we decided to make a puppet. So the fly is a puppet. And on some shots, we animated the legs with CGI. But what you see on screen – the head of the fly and stuff – it’s a puppet.

ASFF: Is it different showing characters who are ‘dumb’, rather than intellectual?
It’s the same. We’re all dumb in a way. A few people on this planet are smart. So, yes, the subject is always human beings. And if you make a movie about a scientist, a very smart scientist, suddenly you don’t understand what’s happening, because the guy is too smart, and he’s in a world you don’t understand. I have to say, to me human beings are a dumb race. Really, I think the dumber you are the closest you are to animals. That’s how I see David and Grégoire in the movie. They’re like young dogs. I say that with a lot of affection!

ASFF: Adèle Exarchopoulos plays a young woman speaking at the top of her voice. Was that always in the script?
Yes. It was in the script. She was shouting in the script. And she had to work very hard to create the character. It was a big challenge for me and for her because she arrives right in the middle of the movie so it was like hit or miss. She could have destroyed the movie and it was my responsibility. So I guess it was a lot of work for her to build something she trusts…she just jumped into something inside her to become this character.

ASFF: The film is a brisk 77 minutes. Was it always going to be this short?
QD: I cut the movie myself. So, when someone doesn’t work, he has to go! These movies are not like everyday life movies. So you have to accept the world. Oh, there’s a giant fly.  Oh, the two characters are dumb. And there’s so many crazy things you have to accept…that if you do a two-hour long movie, then people…they leave, they sleep! And it’s too much. That’s why I like to cut them sharp. Otherwise it’s like holding people hostage. And I hate when movies are too long, except for the masterpieces and they are rare.

Mandibles opens in cinemas from 17 September. For more details click here.

Words: James Mottram