André Téchiné releases “Les Âmes sœurs” on a young man seriously wounded in the war with amnesia, whose memory conceals a troubling secret.
Always so creative and unexpected, André Téchiné recounts in Soul mates the reconstruction of a young man seriously injured in Mali, repatriated to France and cared for by his sister. Amnesiac, he does not recognize her. His journey of physical and memorial healing reveals to him how intimate his relationship with her was. Also, if you want to be surprised, read this interview that André Téchiné gave to Franceinfo only after seeing the film. Soul matesthe director’s twenty-eighth film, is released on Wednesday, April 12.
Franceinfo Culture: Aren’t there two films in soul matesgiven the two themes of war casualties and incest that you address?
André Techine: Two films?… No, for me, the common thread is the passion of this brother and this sister. He is given for dead as a career soldier in Mali and she will do everything to save him, and so the whole film shows his journey and his care, which are central, and it is by saving him that she heals herself. -even, emancipates herself from a romantic relationship which could be dangerous, and which made her recluse, closed to others. For me, the film has a very pure line, I don’t see how it can be separated in two. If there were two films, they are very linked, because the amnesia he suffers from, and the trauma of war, create suspense. Will he regain his memory, his access to memories, when, how, in what form? She is involved in this, since after the hospital, she supports him in a corner of deep France, a medical desert, where she continues her healing. This is where she tries to reconnect him with his past. The memory is never erased, but it is not accessible to him. If I had to sum up the film, it’s the story of a woman who, by taking care of another, takes care of herself.
The part in the hospital is filmed like a report, and the shooting is a camera worn throughout the film. We feel “the patience of the patient”, we go from sensations to emotions, then from documentary to melodrama.
The care part is very important to me. It’s about the work of doctors, which I tried to show as a sport, a marathon, things that you don’t see in the cinema, when you talk about hospitals. The way we address the patient and to whom we tell how we treat him, for which we try to build a bridge with him, by explaining to him that it is a question of bringing him to the world of men who stand up . This is a very recent therapeutic practice.
How did you come to switch from seriously wounded in the war to incest?
This is the whole process of the story, the incest only intervenes in the last chapter. There is all this reconstruction, and then when it comes to fruition, there is the revelation of this sexual relationship. It’s the last turning point when he learns that he has to live in society, that it has rules. It is about a report to the law which is brutal, and that this love has no place there, as the mayor tells him. This moral conscience which must make him renounce his desire, he has great difficulty in accepting it. The question is how to overcome incest. He is always off-screen in the film. Admittedly, he renounces it, but it is not a liberation, as it is for his sister. She opens up to the world, it’s an emancipation, but for him, it’s a bereavement. Because he is not in the same time as her, he is in the present, he discovers her as if seeing her for the first time. Everything that happens to him is a first time.
Where does this accuracy come from to frame your characters perfectly in their environment with a continuity that sucks the eye in all your films? Is photography or painting a practice or an inspiration for you?
It’s true for painting, I know photography less. I am a painting enthusiast. Like silent cinema that was extremely “picturalized”. Without it being voluntary on my part or conscious, it is still my taste and my deep culture. So it must be felt somewhere. I study the setting a lot, I am directive on this point with my cinematographer (Carlos Conti). Since we now work in the combo, it also allows us to open up to more improvisation, with more freedom for him. I correct if it does not suit me, I am very sensitive to the visual force. For me, cinema, before being an experience of meaning, is the meaning of reality, it is image and sound. And there, I wanted us to be captured by image and sound from the start, and by what will happen, and how David (Benjamin Voisin) will rebuild himself.
Have you directed Benjamin Voisin and Noémie Merlant a lot?
I was very present, I assisted her, like a person in danger. Because the actors are in front of the camera. They go there with their bodies, it’s not me. It is very difficult to compare them without contrasting them. With Benjamin, I felt like everything was for him for the first time, and that was exactly what I was asking for. What interested me in this project was dealing with a character deprived of psychology. From there, he is like an animal on the lookout in relation to the present, in relation to everything that is happening, in relation to what he sees and hears, precisely as in the cinema, images and sounds, and in relation to this unique woman, with whom he falls in love without knowing that she is sister. Noémie did very well with that, simple and direct, all in improvisation. With Benjamin, when I took him back, it wasn’t on psychological issues, since there were none. It was more technical, gestures, looks, his voice, he had to be anemic, like a living dead. It’s almost a fantastic film, but at the same time I had to be very vigilant so that it had energy. And he knew how to show me both vulnerability and a libidinal, sexual energy that he exuded while conforming to his handicap and his infirmity. That was great. Eroticism and disability, that’s something that amazed me, frankly. It is a register which is not marked out for an actor, it is not an agreed employment, there, it is necessary to invent, really. Both are very embodied. She is recluse, internalized, we see that she has disappointing relationships with others, from the moment she has to take care of a brother like her.
He is very self centered
Yes and at the same time completely lost, without landmarks. Like a blank page. And that’s my whole culture in painting, with the Virgins and Child that come to the surface. I bathe in that culture. I’m going to see the Bellini exhibition. I’m more intimate with that than with contemporary art or photography.
Gender : Drama
Director: André Techine
Actors: Benjamin Voisin, Néomie Merlant, Audrey Dana, André Marçon, Sya Rachedi, Alexis Loret, Mama Passinos, Jean Fornerod
Country : France
Duration : 1h40
Exit : April 12 2023
Distributer : Ad Vitam
In the family home in the Pyrenees, between mountains and lakes, Jeanne tries to revive her memory, but David does not seem anxious to be reconciled with who he was.