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Festival de Cannes 
61e Semaine de la critque 2022 
 
Interview

Iris Chassaigne
Swan dans le centre / Swan in the centre
Competition Short Film
13 May 2022

In a deserted shopping centre, Swan, a junior consultant, navigates the empty hallways in search of clients and salespeople willing to participate in her survey. As days and encounters go by, desire gets in her way...

Hello Iris, it’s great to get to talk with you, how have you been keeping after everything that’s been happening?

 

Thank you for having me! Hmm… Do you mean the depressing French elections, Covid or the climate crisis?

 

Have you been able to remain positive and creative at least?

 

Creative, yes. I am working on a script for a new short film, and a feature.

 

Congratulations on having the World Premiere of Swan dans le centre at the 61e Semaine de la critique, where you are also nominated for the Leitz Cine Discovery Prize, what does it mean to have your film part of such an amazing selection of short films?

 

Thank you! I feel very lucky, it means the film will travel and will be seen by more people that I could have hoped for.

 

How important are platforms like Semaine de la critique in championing and supporting the short films and filmmakers?

 

They are amazing opportunities for young filmmakers, in addition to having the chance to show your short film during Cannes film festival, they have a program to accompany and support you for the writing of your first feature film.

 

Can you tell me about how Swan dans le centre come about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

 

The first inspiration was the decor of the shopping mall. I’ve always been fascinated by these ultra-modern spaces, where anonymity and intimacy coexist, and it is this idea I wanted to explore with this film. How the forced anonymity and loneliness one feels in these transit spaces can create unique encounters.

 

You co-wrote Swan dans le centre with Anna Cohen-Yanay, who you worked with on Les gens qui roulent la nuit, what was the experience like collaborating again on this film?

 

It was great, and there will be more to come. For my previous short film, I had a first draft of the script when we started working together, but for ‘Swan in the centre’, we built the story together from scratch. I find it extremely enriching to write with someone, they are in some way your first audience.

 

When creating a character like Swan do you draw much inspiration from your own life and experiences?

 

Even though the character seems far from me, I mostly feel close to Swan’s solitude, characteristic of our individualist society, which echoes in the film with the image of the empty shopping mall.

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In the final scene of you have Swan (Asja Nadjar) go through a host of emotions but I think it’s the giant poster with the woman with her arms outstretched that really captures the situation Swan is in. Is she free? Has she given up her freedom? Does she regret coming back? This ending seems open in a way that allows the audience to really understand Swan’s situation, what where you wanting to say with through this scene?

 

Yes it is an open ending and I like the idea that people can interpret it differently. For me it’s not that she is free – mostly because this poster is in the mall, and represents more the illusion of freedom then freedom itself – but that, after what she experienced during the film, she at that moment allows herself to dream, to desire.

 

Did filming in a mall offer any major logistical issues for you?

 

Yes, we shot both when the mall was closed and open, and it was of course more challenging when it was open. The major problems we had was with the sound, as even when there were few people it was very noisy, due to the architecture, and as the film portrays a desolated shopping mall, we had to find ways to make it the more silent possible.

 

Though Swan dans le centre is not a period film by not filming in widescreen you’ve given the film a much more impactful look and feel. Why did you decided to film in this way?

 

It was for me a way to contrast with the modernity of the decor, to create a mismatch which takes its breadth when we get to know the different characters that inhabit the mall. Also, this format permits to leave more space in the image for the background, which I found very relevant for the film. I like that at times the character seems lost surrounded by emptiness.

 

You feature cruising from both a male and female perspective (something I’ve never seen in a film before) which is very uniquely crafted into the storyline, what was the most challenging part of filming these intimate scene for you and your cast?

 

I wanted to talk about desire, and the complexity of it, from a young lesbian woman’s point of you, as it is something I also rarely get to see.

 

We talked a lot about these scenes with the cast, which are of course always a challenge, but we shared a will to try to create a different kind of sex scene.

 

How flexible did you allow yourself with your screenplay?

 

I like to leave some space for improvisation with the cast within the scenes, but globally we stayed pretty truthful to the script.

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"...I find it very enriching to work alongside other directors, I learned a lot about the many ways to work with actors, which helped me to find mine."

How different was your approach making Swan dans le centre compared to your previous short film Les gens qui roulent la nuit?

 

In fact for Les gens qui roulent la nuit – which was a student film – we worked almost only with improvisation, which was very stimulating but also more stressful, as we invented everything as we shot.

 

Where did you passion for filmmaking come from?

 

I grew up in a cinephile household so I watch a lot of films from a young age. I think it’s when I discovered Chantal Akerman’s work that I started to want to make films.

 

Has your background as a script supervisor helped you in your approach to making your short films?

 

Yes very much, I find it very enriching to work alongside other directors, I learned a lot about the many ways to work with actors, which helped me to find mine. Also, to work frequently on other sets taught me a lot about the organisation of a shooting.

 

And finally, what would you hope audiences to take away from Swan dans le centre?

 

Some laughter I hope, and maybe some reflexion upon the world we live in.