Today we are very excited to sit down with actress Ariane Labed in order to talk about her starring role in the new film out today Fidelio: Alice’s Journey. Ariane won the Volpi Cup for her debut performance in Attenberg and since then has impressed in a number of films including Alps and Before Midnight she will soon be back on our screens with Assassin’s Creed and The Lobster. Today she is here to talk about the intimate drama Fidelio: Alice’s Journey which impressed us here at Rumsey’s and which opens in the UK today. Read on for our interview…
Could you initially introduce the film and your role within it to our readers?
Sure, it’s a story of a woman who works as a mechanic on cargo ships and it’s about her journey between the man whom she loves who is back at home and the man who she travels with. Somehow it’s a journey into her desire and searching for what she wants in her life whilst also being a story of a dying boat. A boat called Fidelio.
One thing which really strikes the audience when watching the film is how real and complex your character feels, she certainly has her contradictions… what was your initial reaction to her when you read the script?
I was just very happy that somebody could write a film about a woman’s desire, about a female character like this and not a fantasy projection of women but something that is true. I just really loved the fact that we can talk about that without trying to prove something. I don’t think I would call it a feminist film or something like that, it’s just very honest about a relationship and a women’s desire.
It’s just a film about a character who just so happens to be female rather than being something overwrought…
Exactly. But of course there is something very interesting about a woman working with all of these men on a boat because she doesn’t have to fight for her job you know? She is good at it. I think that being established from the beginning is an even more powerful statement rather than talking within the film about how she is a woman in this environment. Just by making it a simple situation you achieve something greater.
She has many ‘feminine’ traits within a ‘masculine’ world, were you quite conscious of how to pitch that character? These are troubling terms but were you conscious of how feminine or masculine to make her?
I didn’t want to make her a tomboy, but for sure when you are spending a lot of time with men you have a tendency to act like they do somehow, even if you don’t want to. I didn’t try to look like a man at all, we just had to forget about this kind of social code. It’s not even about being a woman or a man, it’s just about being there as a human being there with them but not trying to be like them. It has to be more straightforward than social behaviour somehow.
Yeah I believe it is, although I wouldn’t say it’s a lack of development but it’s quite rare to have a female director who is also writing. It’s interesting to get a female point of view. But I also love it when a man writes a female character because they have their own perspectives and perhaps fantasies which are very interesting, I just think we have plenty of those in cinemas already! It’s not more or less interesting but it’s just different and quite rare. Even though there are loads of films written by men with amazing female characters, I think they can often still be quite far from what we would call true.
When you first sat down with the script how did you approach playing her? What research did you do?
I went on a boat, I do a lot of practical things to prepare for a role! A mechanic and I went for 4 or five days and I just followed her and tried to do the jobs with her, spent some time with the machine and tried to learn some technical things despite not knowing anything about mechanics. I tried to learn the machine in order to make it my world rather than my enemy because it’s really like a monster. It’s like going into a belly somehow with its weird architecture. I need to learn how to travel in there like she did and that was an inspiration to me watching her just simply doing it as it’s her job. I needed to find a way to be in this machine like I would be in a room. Walking, having sex… whatever, in every level of this boat I wanted try to adapt to this monster, I just tried to make it my universe and love it. And I did!
When you try to prepare for role generally do you prefer to focus on the experience and the physicality, or can it be research based?
I really like the practical, physical work because I think it is the best way to transform yourself inside actually, although you don’t know exactly how. That’s the thing for an actor, you have to do some action and be active with it.
One of my other biggest inspirations here was a book called Le Marin de Gibraltar (The Sailor From Gibraltar) by Marguerite Duras. I read books like that to inspire my relation with the sea, adding something perhaps more romantic to it. Part of the beauty of my job is that I can go out on a boat for a long weekend with a mechanic in order to experience another life! Each job is another world which I have to explore… but yes I work from my body first and that allows me to have control upon the rest that follows.
Exactly, that’s more my language.
How then has your dramatic technique changed overtime then as you moved through dance, theatre and now film?
When I first stopped dancing and moved to the Vasistas theatre group (Ariane is a founding member), I always tried to maintain the logic of the dancer. I would like to keep that something which is very simple, focused on presence and movement in space. It’s something which is very concrete actually. With every film that I do I feel like I have to learn a new language and that I’m starting with zero, and that zero is me and my body. However I would never like to become an actress and stay like a dancer acting in films but at the same time I would love to not be just an actress simply acting… if that makes sense.
Thinking back to character, thankfully this isn’t how she comes across due to your and the film’s work but I think there is the chance that she could come across as quite unsympathetic if handled differently. Did that concern you at all?
I felt that it was the power of the script which made her someone you could follow and not judge, I was sure that that was the case but you’re right there is no foreign cinema with a woman having sex with multiple men who is not a whore, or a victim or something like that. Perhaps not a whore but something bad, it’s always something bad.
I was very happy to portray something that is normal, a part of life which you can judge her for like you may judge a friend perhaps, but the way I wanted to do it was something absolutely human. Perhaps stupid, but certainly human with her making mistakes. It’s something both men and women do, but if it was a man we would judge him differently.
I don’t think many people would look at the film and judge her…
Oh I’ve heard some things!
Yeah, I’m happy you said that.
Looking forward, I know you’re going to be in the Assassin’s Creed film, have you started filming on that yet?
Yeah I’ve done five weeks already. It’s great, it’s… a big film! I’m having fun and it’s so physical which is great!
And what else have you got coming out over the next few months?
I have The Lobster coming out which will be at the London Film Festival and will be in UK cinemas from 16th October. And then I have some French films coming out which may not reach the UK.
Is there anything you can tell us about The Lobster? About what we can expect… it’s hard to know exactly what to expect with that one!
In the film you have to be in a relationship and if you’re not you have 45 days to find a partner, if you don’t you are transformed into an animal. So that’s the basis of this world, it’s a comedy actually. It’s quite dark but in a funny way, that’s Yorgos Lanthimos’s way. I feel like it’s my first comedy somehow!
New Wave Films are releasing Fidelio: Alice’s Journey today (2nd October)! Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!