September 5, 2013
Mrs Robinson’s Anne Brodie spent time with director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) to discuss her hotly anticipated film, Adore. The story of two lifetime friends (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright) who embark on affairs with one another’s sons will make some people squirm (including this reviewer!) but the film yields some interesting twists and surprises.
Older women and young men together is an idea that’s gaining ground now, it’s less taboo than it was years ago. Why the shift?
Probably because the very notion of age has changed some over the past 30 years or so. A 45-year old woman is deemed young today, and it wasn’t the case not that long ago. A mature woman falling in love with a young man has become widely accepted. That being said, and whether in literature (from Stendhal to Henry James) or in real life, history is full of those relationships, where a young man, sometimes a boy, becomes the satisfied lover of an older woman.
Some people will have trouble with the idea of the women in Adore having relations with their best friends’ sons. Is it a natural or imposed constraint?
It really depends on the circumstances. In our case, the two women have enjoyed some sort of a love story since childhood. They have had this intensely fusional relationship forever. They raised their children together. Their foursome is like a family in itself. In a way, the love they feel towards each other’s son is a natural extension of their own specific relationship. Back to your question, our reluctances as well as our inclinations can easily shift from natural to social (or imposed), subject to a variety of factors.
But today, if the sexes were reversed, it wouldn’t be okay. What’s the difference?
If the sexes were reversed, I think we’d lose some of the subtlety, and of the sensitivity. Perhaps because the older guy dates young girl thing has become a cliché. Or because, unfairly maybe, we tend to reduce male motivations in those circumstances mostly to a sexual impulse.
Do you think its okay for the woman in this kind of situation to make the first move? Or does it matter?
Again, it so much depends on circumstances. In our story, it’s one of the boys who makes the first move. It felt stronger that he had the courage to express his desire. And also, pragmatically, it would have been very unlikely that one of the mothers would be that bold.
There is so much emotion in the film. It’s tough at times because you feel it. How did you make so visceral?
I really think this has mostly to do with the very nature of the story. They all know their affairs can’t last for long, and yet they can’t accept the obvious and live otherwise. It’s a built-in tension that binds the four characters together, and creates, I believe, a permanent state of emotion.
Robin Wright and Naomi Watts are astonishing. Did they think the roles were risky?
Naomi responded immediately to the subject matter. At our very first meeting, she said, talking about the main characters. At first, you’re ashamed for these people… and you end up being envious of them! Which is an extremely clear and smart way to picture the journey. Later, she also added that it was very rare to find a story especially in Hollywood based on two women’s profound friendship – instead of their rivalry over a man, a job, etc.
Robin, I think, got Roz’s strength exactly right, and from the start. I had seen her in many parts where she is the fragile, somewhat lost, damsel/lady in distress. She now comes across as much more powerful, with some kind of inner glow. Of course, the fact that she is the flawless forty-something beauty must help.
Adore is based on a Doris Lessing story, but what about it resonated with you enough to commit to it?
Most of my films have dealt with more or less the same pattern, an impossible, or near-impossible, or seemingly impossible love story, specific and unusual, yet of universal value, with no respect for social prejudices or politically correct reactions. The Grandmothers (Doris Lessing’s novella) fitted the bill rather nicely.
How did you cast the young men? Theirs were huge complicated roles with many layers but they’re young and less experienced.
We had a long casting process in Australia, but I was lucky enough to meet with Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville quite early on. First of all, they were plausible, physically speaking, as Naomi’s and Robin’s children. But beyond this, they had a very rare and valuable blend of maturity and spontaneity. They’re also seasoned professionals, in terms of working their parts, and do not just rely on their charismatic looks. Both of them brought a lot to their characters during the shoot, adding emotional nuances and various layers of complexity to the written parts.
Your films are mostly female-centric. Why?
In my view, being a filmmaker is all about your ability to jump from one standpoint to another, and to shift from woman to man to child and back again. In the case of that particular movie, probably being a woman helped me connecting with the material. But in general I don’t really draw a line between genders. The way you look at the world is what matters.Adore opens September 6