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“To try and live together”


Mon cher sujet (Anne-Marie Miéville, 1988)


As soon as I started thinking about Mon cher sujet, I had exactly seventeen sequences in mind, each with a title, as many as the finished film contains. I didn’t want to write a script, so I produced a videotape that presented the film, already using Mahler’s music. Then I started to make little drawings of shots, with detailed notes on angles, frames and décors. This document was a necessary step, because when you describe a sequence in two pages, everything still needs to be done. All the “drawings” of the shots were very precise from the beginning.

The three ages of womanhood

Mon cher sujet presents three women, but also three ages of womanhood through a kinship. I wanted to show the differences in the relationships between these women. Between Agnès and Angèle, for example, there is not much bodily contact. They can understand each other without it. You understand, through what she says to Angèle on the phone, that Agnès has a more respectful attitude towards her daughter than her mother had towards her. Odile still brings to bear a sort of moral right with regard to her daughter’s birth.

Agnès has reached the age of decisions: she no longer has to seek, she has to find. She doesn’t manage very well. With François, she has brotherly relations, and they play like children. Hans, on the other hand, approaches her as a man and openly laughs at these games.

Angèle is not satisfied with speech. When she sings, she pos- sesses a universal kind of communication, and her singing voice is also her own way of providing herself with a force that is lacking in the mother and the grandmother.

When it comes to men and women, I feel like I’m honest, and I think that both worlds need to collide or to circumvent each other in order to try and live together.

The soul of the subject is the child, the arrival of the child. It’s creation, creature, and above all creator.

The music

I have difficulty approaching the use of music in the way it is traditionally used in cinema, where it is like a spice sprinkled on the film. Ever since Le livre de Marie, I have tried to turn the film’s music into a character of the film or to let the music emerge from the very situations inside a sequence. Marie and her father were listening to and discussing Chopin’s concerto no. 2. The music is inside the room; it doesn’t come on top of it. In Mon cher sujet, the singing comes from a character’s body and the “film music”, the fourth movement of Mahler’s symphony no. 9, comes from below, I would say. It is like a river that never ends and that expresses very well the idea of the subject of kinship. The least I can do is to make sure the music is called upon in the same way a character is...

And I consider the singing a sort of birth. To sing a work is to give new life to it, and that’s why they never stop singing about beautiful things.

The approach

In Le livre de Marie, I was somehow reluctant to do close-ups of the little girl. In Mon cher sujet, thanks to the distance I took from psychology, I no longer considered the close-up approach trivial.

The music and images create ellipses in the film. For example, the shots in which snow is falling were conceived in order to show that “time passes”. You see Agnès’s house covered in snow, which is a bit as if Agnès’s winter starts then.

For this subject to exist, I didn’t need to put myself in the position of its characters. I had to take advantage of the affection for a subject, and not concentrate on the characters.

Originally published in the press file of Mon cher sujet (1988).

In Passage, Sabzian invites film critics, authors, filmmakers and spectators to send a text or fragment on cinema that left a lasting impression.
Pour Passage, Sabzian demande à des critiques de cinéma, auteurs, cinéastes et spectateurs un texte ou un fragment qui les a marqués.
In Passage vraagt Sabzian filmcritici, auteurs, filmmakers en toeschouwers naar een tekst of een fragment dat ooit een blijvende indruk op hen achterliet.
The Prisma section is a series of short reflections on cinema. A Prisma always has the same length – exactly 2000 characters – and is accompanied by one image. It is a short-distance exercise, a miniature text in which one detail or element is refracted into the spectrum of a larger idea or observation.
La rubrique Prisma est une série de courtes réflexions sur le cinéma. Tous les Prisma ont la même longueur – exactement 2000 caractères – et sont accompagnés d'une seule image. Exercices à courte distance, les Prisma consistent en un texte miniature dans lequel un détail ou élément se détache du spectre d'une penséée ou observation plus large.
De Prisma-rubriek is een reeks korte reflecties over cinema. Een Prisma heeft altijd dezelfde lengte – precies 2000 tekens – en wordt begeleid door één beeld. Een Prisma is een oefening op de korte afstand, een miniatuurtekst waarin één detail of element in het spectrum van een grotere gedachte of observatie breekt.