Award Winner - September 2021 Edition
. Best Narrative Feature Film
. Best Drama Film
. Best First Time Filmmaker Feature
Hello Philippe Cormier, thank you for this powerful and moving film. When did you first pick up the camera, where did your desire to make films come from?
I always knew I wanted to make films. From a very young age, I wondered how productions were made. When I was 10 years old, I discovered the series Lost by J.J Abrahams, and I developed a growing interest in behind-the-scenes footage. That series gave me all kinds of emotions and I realized that I could do the same thing, with stories that I could create.
So I started out making amateur short films as a child and continued to make them as a teenager while I developed my artistic identity, until life led me to my first feature film, DISTURBED HEART, which is also my first professional project. It all happened very quickly and somewhat by chance!
You deal with several difficult subjects in one story: life after death, suicide, psychiatry among others. How did you come up with the idea for the script?
If I could have done anything else in life, I would have been a psychiatrist. Mental health and the human brain have always been of great interest to me. Several years ago, I heard the story of a man who, after being resuscitated in hospital, said he had experienced life after death.
I was inspired by this phenomenon, around which I built a story, with a troubled character, a broken family and a world rooted in despair. I wanted to deal with difficult subjects through the story of a misunderstood woman, herself questioning her own identity on the wake of particular events that she will experience, surrounded by skeptical and sometimes ill-intentioned people.
How did you work on Bénédicte's double story on the set? With your actress first of all, how did you direct her? And with your crews, did you shoot with one crew for "one life" and another for "the other life"? How did you organize yourselves in terms of cutting, for example, but also in terms of the actors' performance and their interactions?
The double story of Bénédicte was the main issue of the production. We separated everything into two parts. Rebecca Gibian (Bénédicte) and I had to be strong and develop a special connection to be able to separate the character's personality into two distinct worlds.
First of all, we only had one technical crew for the whole film, to make sure that everyone understood the essence of both worlds and was invested in them. Rebecca and I did a lot of work together to figure out Bénédicte's intentions, since the film was shot out of sequence. One day we would shoot scenes from the imaginary world and the next day scenes from the real world.
Sometimes the two worlds overlapped in the same day. It was very difficult to untangle all this, fortunately we had the luxury of being able to rehearse for two months prior to the shooting, during the summer of 2020. For example, we shot the wedding scene and the scene where Bénédicte has a seizure in front of the receptionist of a law firm on the same day. In terms of aesthetics, when we’re in her imagination the camera is rather vaporous and the colors are brighter and warmer, to recall a warm world. This helped us to distinguish in which world Bénédicte found herself.
The actors of the imaginary world, notably Astrid (Anne-Marie Falcon) and Jean-François (Emmanuel Auger), had to imbue themselves with a positive and dynamic energy, even utopian, while the actors of the real world, notably Marjorie (Fanny Rainville) and Marc (Karl Farah), worked with a more composed, down-to-earth energy.
What is the situation of youth in Quebec these days? In France, the shock of the pandemic and its consequences on the daily lives of young people are causing a huge wave of depression and a disturbing number of suicides, or attempts. Even among very young children. What is it like for you?
It was very difficult in Quebec at the beginning of the pandemic. A bit like the rest of the world, we couldn't see our families and friends anymore. I was 19 when the pandemic hit Quebec and the state of health emergency was declared in March 2020. It was quite difficult at first, but we found alternatives to return to normal life.
According to statistics here, almost half of the youths felt anxious or depressed, others experienced negative impacts on their finances. With the easing of measures, things are better and we are finding freedom again, while shooting has resumed and is easier to implement.
And to talk about the pandemic again, what impact did it have on your shooting, its conditions, its organization etc.?
The shooting took place in October 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak. The public health rules were strict. The actors had to stay away from each other, but there were some specific regulations that allowed them to get close to each other every day for a certain amount of time.
It was very difficult to manage, to make the relationships between the characters believable while the actors had to be distant from one another. To me, the work of an actor is very much defined by contact and connection, whereas in this case, I had to deal with actors who couldn't really touch each other.
Organization was more difficult, but the new "health manager" position was very helpful during the shoot and we were able to simulate contact and intimacy in other ways.
Do you have any favorite filmmakers that you claim as your own or that will always influence your vision of filmmaking?
Absolutely! My aesthetic is primarily inspired by American auteur films. My main influence for this film was Darren Aronofsky's Mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, but there are many other filmmakers who inspire me and influence my cinema, including Carlo Mirabella-Davis with Swallow, as well as Quentin Tarantino, Lars Von Trier, Steven Soderbergh, Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Quebec filmmakers like Monia Chokri and Xavier Dolan.
Would you like to tell us a little about your upcoming projects?
My second feature film, PURGATORY, is currently in post-production. It deals with post-traumatic shock and loneliness in a 55 year old man, played by Normand D'Amour.
I also have a third film scripted and other projects to come.
DIRECTOR, PRODUCER & WRITER
PHILIPPE CORMIER - BIO
Philippe Cormier, born on May 31, 2000, is a screenwriter and director from Quebec. After studying film, he began producing his first feature film, DISTURBED HEART, entirely self-financed. Following the media buzz around the film in Quebec and its premiere at the Imperial Cinema in Montreal, Philippe signed his second film, PURGATORY, currently in post-production. After having written and directed two feature films in less than a year, the director is now focusing on the scripting of a third film.