Ira Sachs: “Franz is an animal, Adele a goddess and Ben a gleaming knife”

”While preparing the film, my formidable director of photography, Josée Deshaies told me that Pialat was really the monster in the room, the one whose influence bathed the plot the most. The influence of this filmmaker is enormous on me but the film I you he she by Chantal Ackerman gave me clear directions to follow. I’ve been involved with certain filmmakers since the beginning, it’s not just a question of choice, they are an integral part of my personality as an artist. I didn’t go to film school but I learned the trade by forming my gaze as a spectator, by confronting myself with this history of the 7th art”. underlines director Ira Sachs (Love is Strange).

Franz Rogowski and Ira Sachs during the photo-call of “Passages” at the Berliner, in February 2023, where the film was unveiled. ©2023 Invision

Selfish, manipulative, reckless? The personality of Tomas questions…

”Tomas is driven by his desires; his actions do not necessarily follow the beliefs of others. But he is also very generous and genuinely eager to give pleasure to others. He lives with the mistaken idea that he can easily combine two lovers, two visions of the world. He wants it all, but it’s an unattainable goal. Like a man living in a castle full of gold who always wants more. It’s the very nature of the beast… I think my experience of the lockdown gave me this feeling of already having a lot and yet wanting more. And I think the drama is between what the characters have and what they want. This drama is specific to this trio, but the concept of being dominated by one’s desires is inherent in human nature”emphasizes Ira Sachs.

Because Tomas achieves what he really wants when it’s already too late…

”Yes, and at the same time, the only moments when Tomas is calm and doesn’t want anything more are when they spend in Agathe’s sheets or in the bedroom with her husband. But these moments are very brief. The film is fueled by the idea of ​​the inaccessible. Agathe herself is as driven by her desires as Tomas is and ultimately it is the clash of those desires that makes the film highly inflammable and creates the pleasure in it.”

Ira Sachs in four themes: love, friendship, social identity and Paris, the night

A cinema nourished by reality

The cinema of Ira Sachs feeds on reality, the question of the profession of his characters is therefore anything but insignificant in his eyes.

”I thought about it a lot and chose them carefully. The fact that Tomas is a director, for example, seemed natural to me. Finding the perfect match between a character and his profession is a real challenge. And you have little background to establish the authenticity of these professions, so you have to be very specific. My producer Saïd ben Saïd pointed out to me that in Rohmer’s films, everyone has a job, but we never see them on screen. Their job is part of their social position, it contributes to the power of their character. I was looking for a balance between these two poles: jobs that are not at the heart of the plot, but that are real and illuminate each person’s personality”he says.

The link between personality and profession is a really interesting question in his eyes. “As a parent of two 11-year-olds, I realize how different I am privately or professionally and even in my romantic relationships. The difficulty of being a father joins that of someone who used to be in a position of control and who can no longer be. It is a very interesting human challenge to take up. I have to control my own desire for control. You have to realize that the problem comes from you, that’s the hardest part. These are universal problems.” (He’s laughing)

”Initially, I thought Martin would be an architect or work in interior design, but I discovered this old art printing house in Paris and it redefined my choice. I knew straight away that this would be an organic profession for Martin.” During the site visit, Ira Sachs filmed the owner with his phone; his relationships with his assistants and clients fueled the plot. “I also hired the two clients to play in the film. This is in line with my way of working: I have always infused moments of reality into fiction. It adds depth to the story.” He smiles broadly.

Power relations

The choice to make Agathe a teacher is part of her desire to introduce a relationship of power between these two men and this young woman.

“I wanted there to be a social class difference between them. This also appears in the scene where they find themselves in the country house of Tomas and Martin. The film takes the turn of a genre film, mixing horror and male power. We want to shout to Agathe to get away from this house. She makes the decision to leave and this proves that she is not helpless in the face of both of them. She shows great autonomy, even if from the outset, we see that she is used to being badly treated by men.

”The more I move forward and learn about the experience of women, the more I become aware of the significant amount of abuse and violence they face. Not just in the film industry, but in the world in general. When we meet her for the first time, Agathe is insulted for having said “no” and it seems natural to her companion, it surprises no one. That says a lot about the world of men. Fear of failure always drives men to want revenge.”

Ira Sachs remembers well his discovery of the talent of Adèle Exarchopoulos. “I saw her in Sibyl (by Justine Triet, editor’s note), I had never seen it before. She’s exactly the type of actress I love: natural and incredibly talented, a real goddess. It’s the same for Franz Rogowski, he is both timeless and a real movie star: he makes everyday life monumental. There is the same energy and the same qualities in Adèle. And she also has something of the mystery of Jeanne Moreau: to be both very present and restrained. You did see I don’t give a fuck ? It’s a great movie and Adele is great in it.”

”Adèle works a lot, but it doesn’t weigh on the screen. I knew it was difficult for her to sing, but she didn’t let it show. I never rehearse and I’m sure she practiced a little at home, by cooking her son or in her bathroom. She is like that, Adèle, she is a hard worker.”

Three amazing actors

Ira Sachs does not hide his admiration for his trio of performers. “I discovered Ben Whishaw on stage and in a film where he camped Bob Dylan (I’m not there by Todd Haynes, Editor’s note), he was perfect. I consider Franz as an animal, Adele as a goddess and Ben, in my eyes, is like a knife, because of his great precision. It is precise and brilliant, intense and strong. And his way of modulating his voice is impressive. I’m preparing a new movie and he will be part of it.

“To be a good actor, you have to have a sense of humor, even when you’re very serious. It is an important dialectic. It’s the difference between a non-actor and a professional, between Ken Loach and Fassbinder.” he specifies.

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