An Interview with Pierre-Marie Goulet (Director)
Reviving Memories through Film
Q: It seems like you have taken a dreamlike approach to creating this film through your use of poetry, song, and landscape.
PMG: The people who composed those poems are impoverished day laborers with no choice but to work for the rich landowner in the area. Nonetheless, the lives of these laborers are deeply connected to the Alentejo region, and they bear an intense love for this land which they themselves own no part of. So, by introducing their poems, I also hoped to give the audience insight into the land of Alentejo which inspired their writings. The beauty which appears on film is a result of the work of the people who stand on the other side of the camera lens.
Q: How long was the filming process?
PMG: The overall filming process itself did not actually take that much time, as it mostly consisted of compiling various scenes that I shot at separate times, like the poems and the film in the village. On the other hand, the preparation period for making this film was incredibly long. I began preparations for this film right after finishing my last one, and it took about two or three years. I went to meet with Virginia and simply listened to her stories, without filming at all. She also appeared in my previous film, and we have known each other for more than ten years now. So, the ideas which formed the framework of this film had been slowly accumulating for some time.
The editing process also took much more time than usual. This film was edited together in an experimental style where the people and things that appear in it come together as rhymes. We assembled the scenes in this film to create a kind of musical resonance between objects and people on screen, such as the rhyme created between the wheat fields and the sea.
To film the scene where the villagers watch Paulo Rocha’s film, we first had to assemble the people who used to live in that region and then set up an area where we could screen a film, because there was no movie theater. Once the Paulo Rocha film began, I didn’t direct anything. What happened in that scene was completely natural, a miraculous series of moments that just happened.
Another miracle occurred when we took Virginia to Corsica, the birthplace of Michel Giacometti. When she sang her poetry for villagers in Corsica, a Corsican man started to play music to accompany her. I knew that he was an excellent musician, but it was a completely natural occurrence that this villager happened to accompany her singing with instrumentation. We only had one take to film that amazing scene. I also had no idea beforehand about the poem Virginia composed upon leaving Corsica. You could say that this was all real, the result of improvisation that came into being once the long preparation period had ended.
Q: What were your intentions in creating the dreamlike scenes moving along the road at the beginning and at the end of the film?
PMG: I wanted the audience members to feel as if they were discovering a strange and magical world. It is structured so that as the audience members slowly make their way up the slope at the start of the film, this world gradually comes into view. Then, they begin to hear Virginia’s poem.
The final scene of the film is one of my favorites. I didn’t want it to simply be the mirror image of the opening scene. There are moments where the hills off in the distance appear and disappear while moving down the winding road. There is a feeling of sadness when it vanishes, but yet when you turn the corner the hills reappear, creating the strange sensation of returning to the place you just left. I did not want to give the impression that everything ends here. I also put a lot of effort into the sound design in this scene. For example, I combined music and poems that were originally separate and changed their order in an attempt to create something new.
This is a film about memory. In the last scene, I wanted to create a moment which revives the memories of the film itself.
(Compiled by Yokoyama Sara)
Interviewers: Yokoyama Sara, Kubota Keiko / Interpreter: Abe Koji / Translator: Christopher Gregory
Photography: Suzuki Takashi / Video: Takada Ayumi / 2007-10-05