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The Refuge

Le Refuge: Revue et entretien avec François Ozon

By Rebecca Connell

The Refuge

An artificial Eye Release
UK Theatrical Release Date: 13th August, 2010

Directed by: François Ozon
Starring: Isabelle Carré, Louis- Ronan Choisy, Pierre Louis-Calixte, Melvile Poupaud

Winner of the Special Prize of the Jury at the San Sebastian International Film Festival 2009
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect before sitting down to watch The Refuge,
François Ozon’s latest film. He is one of France’s most popular directors, but
going to see one of his films is not like going to see, say, a Spielberg. It is
difficult to assign a particular genre or formula to him.; who could compare 8
Women with 5x2, or Under the Sand with Angel? So I was eager to see what
he had gone for this time.
The Refuge tells the story of Mousse, a young drug-addict who finds herself
alone and pregnant after a night of using heroine with her boyfriend Louis who
fatally overdoses. Told by his wealthy French family that they want nothing to
do with her and that she should abort, she chooses instead to to seek refuge
Louis, the night of their
Louis, the night of their overdose
in an old farmhouse by the Atlantic Coast. 6 months into her pregnancy,
Louis’ brother, Paul, arrives at her door and from there, the film tells their
story: how two lonely and confused people, who appear to be mismatched on
the surface (she is a pregnant drug addict, he is wealthy and gay) find each
other, and in doing so discover themselves.
For any of you who might find yourselves put-off by what may appear to be a
dark tale of death and drugs, let me reassure you: it is a beautiful film which
manages to tackle a difficult subject with great softness and simplicity. There
are none of the clichés of the “druggy” genre, each scene is treated with
delicacy, giving the characters as well as the film, a sense of innocence. It is
not a big, in-your-face kind of movie; it is of the quiet variety, that softly carries
you along, yet leaves you gently moved and thinking of it for some time after.
Smaller in budget than Angel or 8 Women, it nevertheless had more of an
impact on me. I highly recommend it to you.

Interview with François Ozon:


Ozon on set
Ozon on set


FranceinLondon: Where did the idea for the film come from? I know that it
started with you wanting to make a film with an actress that was actually
pregnant, but it is quite a leap to go from that to writing a story about a young
pregnant heroine addict…
Francois Ozon: What really interested me was making a film about maternity,
and to do so using a pregnant actress. Normally, you always see them
with their fake bellies because studios can’t use pregnant ones due to how
difficult it would be to ensure and how dangerous financially. I wanted the
challenge: short shooting time, limited budget…What really interested me was
telling a story in which maternity was not the result of a desire for children. In
Mousse’s case, she is a young woman who accidentally falls pregnant. The fact
that she keeps the child has nothing to do with the fact that she wants a baby,
but rather from her need to preserve some life inside of her after the death of
the man she loves.
FIL: What I liked about your film is how it manages to put us in her shoes
from the start. Everything happens so quickly: they shoot up together, he
dies of an overdose, she wakes up after two days in a coma to be told “your
boyfriend’s dead and you’re pregnant.” And all of this in the first ten minutes!
So like her, we already have a feeling of loss, of emptiness, even before the
film has really started.
FO: Yes, I really wanted to get all the melodramatic elements, all of the
information, over and done with at the beginning, so that I could then focus
more on emotions, on senses, so that it could be less narrative and it could
become something more contemplative. I wanted to get rid of everything dark
in order to move towards something much softer.
FIL: The change in location, moving from the harshness of Paris to the
idyllic, isolated house on the Atlantic Coast, definitely helps with this. But
then again, in this, as in other moments of the film, there is a difference
between appearances and reality: the little idyllic house does, in fact, belong to the old man she slept with as a young girl.
FO: Well, after all she’s not a saint. There is no judgment in the film: she is free, and she is living her life.
FIL: You say there is no judgment in the film, but the subject you have chosen is one that many people could find discomforting, there are certainly things that could attract criticism in the film. Were you not worried about this?
FO: Yes, but that’s also what I love about cinema: taking things that could be controversial, that many people might not understand and putting them in the context of a story with characters they can understand. People may potentially find it difficult to sympathies with Mousse, saying “she’s only a druggie, what do we care, she’s only getting what she deserves.” So maybe, if by the end of it I’ve managed to move people with her story and made them understand her journey, I will have accomplished something. Either way, there will obviously be people who can’t stand this kind of story and will be completely unable to relate to her character.
FIL: It must have helped to have an actress like Isabelle Carré with her angelic face to make the character more likeable, as well as being a welcome change to Isabelle who is normally cast in much more conservative roles.
FO: Yes, she was happy to get herself a bit dirtier, to play something so far removed from her usual roles of the beautiful innocent, or first in the class. That’s one of the things I found interesting, pushing her towards something so completely different. The disparity also made it a lot easier for her to separate what she was going through in her pregnancy from that of Mousse’s character: She couldn’t stop touching her stomach, talking to the baby, doing her exercises, whereas she was in a completely different state when she was in character.
Mousse and 
Mousse and Paul
FIL: And how did you find the experience, because it must certainly have been different: actresses are not known for being the easiest people to deal with at the best of times, so add to that the fact that this one was 6 months pregnant and raging with hormones couldn’t have made it any easier…
FO: Well actually, it ended up going rather well as we adapted ourselves to her biological rhythm, so most of the time we were shooting according to her schedule. It was also made a lot easier by the fact that the film is pretty simple- most of the time there are only two people, always more or less in the same place- so there weren’t really that many difficulties.
FIL: Where did the name Mousse come from? I was wondering how you came up with it, as it’s not exactly a common name…
FO: A lot of people questioned it, even Isabelle wasn’t too sure about it at first, and after a while she got used to it. I wanted a name that said something: we know nothing of her background, her family, her history, but I thought that the strangeness of the name in itself said something about her.
FIL: It also sounds very childish.
FO: Yes, and it’s precisely for that reason that she’s not yet ready to become a mother: she is still a child, she still hasn’t found herself.
FIL: You explore the subject of motherhood a lot in the film, particularly through Paul and Mousse’s relationship.
FO: Yes, well in contrast he’s ready to be a father.
FIL: But we also see her being very maternal towards him, their roles are interchangeable. For example in the scene where he comes back high and drunk and she looks after him, undresses him, tucks him up in bed…
FO: Well, there are many different feelings there, many things that develop, but she is still not that maternal: she’s a sexual being, a mistress.
FIL: On the subject of sexuality: why did you choose for them to have that last night together where there relationship finally became physical?

FO: What I wanted to show was two people coming together, even though they have nothing in common, even though they’re not going to go on and have a love story: he’s gay, she’s still heartbroken over the death of his brother. I wanted them to suddenly have something a little magical, a little miraculous, where each one of them would feel a bit healed, as well as giving something to the other: there is a sort of symbolic exchange that happens that night.

FIL: I was surprised to find out that this was Louis-Ronan Choisy’s ( the actor who plays Paul) first film, I had no idea he was actually a singer. What made you decide to use a non-professional actor to play Paul?

FO: Because I wanted someone naïf to play opposite Isabelle to have that contrast between their ways of acting. I also liked the fact that he was someone quite tortured, quite fragile… and obviously very attractive but without being aware of it: he almost wears it as a handicap.
FIL: He must also have been useful as far as the soundtrack was concerned: the song he wrote for it is beautiful, and I loved your use of it in the film, how most of the time the scenes were done in silence and then all of a sudden we would hear a few simple notes. It was very touching.
Seeing as you only use one song throughout the film, it must have been quite important to get it right. What guidelines did you give him for it?

FO: As you say, it’s the same simple song that comes back throughout the film. I wanted it to be almost like nursery rhyme, which would say something of the brothers’ childhood. We never see them together in the film, so it was a way of talking of their relationship, a little bit of Louis that would appear throughout the film.
FIL: The ending of the film is left open: were you not weary of letting people draw their own conclusions about your characters? My first reaction was to think that she’d abandoned her daughter to go back to heroin.
FO: Obviously that’s a possible outcome, but there are others to. Isabelle had a different view, for example. In her mind, Mousse would come back, that she was going away to rebuild herself, to find out who she was, and that then she would return to her daughter. I think that what you imagine depends entirely on each individual’s outlook, on their pessimism, their experience with drugs. I spoke with a lot of doctors who said that, of course, a lot of women stop taking drugs throughout their pregnancies, give birth anonymously, and then immediately go back to their old lives. Personally, I hope that she will come back…


20/07/2010 - zamoth280 a dit :

I invite you has join the Facebook group "Le Refuge", Francois Ozon's last movie:


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