Marine Vacth stars in François Ozon’s L’Amant Double as Chloe, a young woman who is in a relationship with her psychoanalyst – and his brother, who is also a therapist. The film was selected to compete in the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year.
What was it like working with François Ozon again?
After Young & Beautiful, François made other films and so did I. I also had a child. The idea of making another film together, nourished by these experiences, was very exciting. Considering the nature of the project, François needed to make sure I wasn’t apprehensive, I was ready and willing to take it on. And I was. I had wonderful memories of our work together. I really enjoyed making Young & Beautiful, and making L’Amant Double was even better. We’d gained a new level of complicity and trust.
How did you get into the character of Chloe?
First I read François’s screenplay, then I read the novel by Joyce Carol Oates. François adapted the book quite freely and reading it provided a nice complement. Joyce Carol Oates offers great psychological insight into this woman and what she’s looking for in the two men, and that helped me flesh out my own idea of Chloe.
What compelled you about the role?
I liked that it was dense, open to a variety of interpretations, and afforded a wide range of new registers for me to play. Chloe is riddled with contradictions. Her story and her duality appeal to me, as do her fragility and vulnerability, which make her touching in her quest for truth.
Chloe is double but not duplicitous…
Right. She’s never clear and yet she’s always transparent. Chloe is a woman with integrity. She’s very alive in all circumstances.
Did you do any research on twins?
No. I preferred to focus on Chloe’s exploration of herself and her unexplained malaise. Encyclopedic knowledge isn’t what leads Chloe to the truth. She has to experience the duality of Paul and Louis in order to finally discover what’s going on in her stomach. Research wouldn’t have helped me get there. On the contrary, it would have prevented me from staying on her level. I like to appropriate my characters intuitively. Francois told me about Dead Ringers, but I chose not to see it. I knew Cronenberg’s story was similar to his and I didn’t want to be influenced by it.
Her unusual condition aside, Chloe reflects a common human desire to lead a double life…
Chloe is leading a double life, pursuing a satisfying and uninhibited sex life outside her romantic relationship. I don’t think we all share that desire, but the need for imagination to accompany reality is probably pretty universal. Everyone, whether they’re in a relationship or not, needs their own a space of freedom, a secret garden.
When Louis tells Chloe that Paul is the one she should be experimenting with we tend to agree with him…
Yes, and that’s precisely the moment in the film when Chloe begins to get the upper hand with Louis. Now she’s the one asking the questions. Their dynamic is turned on its head and she reclaims ownership of her imagination. She’s no longer overwhelmed and under his thumb. She’s active and determined.
Your character’s evolution is punctuated by concrete details: hairstyle and clothing changes, different ways of expressing her femininity…
Or absence of femininity. Chloe’s femininity develops gradually. We liked the idea of the short, boyish hairstyle. Francois, the costume designer Pascaline Chavanne and I wanted Chloe to dress casually in the beginning, to be quite ordinary.
How would you describe François Ozon’s approach to directing actors?
François is a man of few words on the set. He has a precise idea of what he wants, but he leaves plenty of room for things to evolve freely. François is always behind the camera, literally plunged into the scene with his actors. We feel his presence intensely, he’s in there with us physically, with no filters.
What was it like working withJérémie Renier?
I was immediately comfortable with him during the screen tests. I could tell he was bold enough to roll with it and have fun. That was important for this film, because we were required to let go of control, abandon ourselves, trust each other and dive into François’s world. Jérémie is a generous acting partner. He’s very present, helpful and considerate. I felt protected. We were very close. And despite the film’s subject matter, we had a lot of laughs!
Tell us about the shoot
First we shot all the scenes with Paul, then all the scenes with Louis. Avoiding an incessant back and forth between Paul and Louis really helped me develop the character of Chloe and construct her relationships with each of the men. Doing the psychiatric sessions with Paul on the first days of the shoot was equally structuring. It laid a useful foundation on which to establish the continuity of the character, beyond the chaos that is her life.
Who did you prefer shooting with, Paul or Louis?
I liked them both! Chloe expresses very different moods, depending on which man she’s with. With Paul, she’s well behaved and reserved. With Louis, she reveals herself to be more daring and provocative, even as she lets herself be dominated by him. The duo Paul/Louis is pretty black and white: one is kind and protective, the other is mean and confrontational. Yet Paul may actually be more complex than Louis. During the shoot, Jérémie and François brought more ambiguity to the character of Paul than had been apparent in the script, and that ambiguity was further emphasised in the editing, making Paul harder to read.
The scenes with Louis are more fantasised. Did you approach them differently?
No, I played everything straight. I tried to embody Chloe’s truth and evoke the realism of each situation, while obviously bearing in mind the complexities of her personality.
What was your reaction when you saw the film?
I discovered the film through François’s direction, which was gripping. I’m especially curious to see how audiences will react when they see the film with no prior knowledge of the story.