An interview with Joachim Lafosse on the release of Our Children
French filmmaker Joachim Lafosse sat down with the The Upcoming to discuss his latest film Our Children and his filmmaking style.
What was the inspiration for the story?
The film was based on a true story – a real event. What interested me was not to reconstruct the real event but to use the story to explore such things as control, the need for personal autonomy and the idea that having somebody looking after you – caring for you – can deprive you of freedom
Was it difficult to direct, considering the subject matter?
There were three main problems with doing this film. The first one was avoiding repetition in the filming of the story; the second was working with children under five. You can’t do things twice with children; they do not do the same thing twice. The third difficulty was creating something new, again not to repeat what they had done – making something new and better.
Why choose to put the ending of the story at the beginning? Doesn’t it lose impact?
I was more interested in what has happened, rather than what’s going to happen next. It is looking at how a mother could get to the point of losing her reason, to the point where she kills her own children. So in order to focus on the how, rather than the what, I put the end at the beginning.
How was Emilie Dequenne cast?
The first person who was chosen was Taher (Rahim), after him I realised I wanted Emilie because she is well-known in France, but she has been able to retain an ordinary person quality on screen: she doesn’t come across as a star. She is also quite competent, quite fierce at times, as well as with an inner fragility which she brings out in the character a great deal. Also I felt that she would work very well with the couple formed by Niels (Arestrup) and Tahar, so she came in and formed a good team.
Is it important to you to be both writer and director? What do you look for in a screenplay?
What I am interested in, when it comes to stories, is: is there something personal in it for me? This film is a case in point. There is something personal in it – I have had experience of women with post-natal depression; that was very important for me. Also I could not imagine directing a movie that I had not written myself.
How did you feel about the reaction at Cannes?
First off, I was very glad to be at Cannes, because there had been such a great hoo-ha about the film in Belgium beforehand (being taken to court by the family and goodness knows what), so getting to Cannes was like a victory, after all we had been though. It’s odd, Cannes. The audiences are very particular. It is a special sort of place, but it was good to be there. And in the end Emilie won the prize, which was good.
What is the underlying message of the film?
One of the things that triggered my desire to make the film was when I heard people describing the woman, around the time of the real news event, as a monster. I do not believe that there are people who are monsters, but there are people who do monstrous things. It’s interesting to find out why they do these things. It is also about the mentally ill as well: people who are mentally ill should not be treated the same way as people who are normal. They need to be understood differently. The woman who did this crime is in a psychiatric hospital prison, where she should be.
Our Children is released nationwide on 10th May 2013.