MARIANNE Farley’s short film Marguerite is a heartfelt story of unacknowledged longing and love. It tells the story of Marguerite (Béatrice Picard), an ageing woman who is inspired by a tender friendship with her nurse (Sandrine Bisson) to begin reflecting on and making peace with long-hidden feelings.
Marianne joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about the Marguerite’s brilliant lead performances, taboos about sexuality, emotional responses to the film and much more.
Q: I think we have to start with Béatrice Picard. Can you tell us about your experience working with this legendary French-Canadian actor?
A: WORKING with Béatrice was an incredible experience. I have been a fan of her work since I was very young. She is a brilliant actress and a genuinely sweet human being.
I was astonished to see how open and generous she was with the crew, and me always willing to push herself further. Because I am very precise and resolute when it comes to directing actors and she is a great perfectionist, we were a match made in heaven. And Béatrice is still as passionate about her craft as she was when she was just starting out many decades ago. She is a dream actress for any director; strong yet vulnerable, subtle yet fearless.
Q: Sandrine Bisson (who plays Rachel) is also incredible. Can you talk about Sandrine and Béatrice’s chemistry and how they worked together to capture such sensitive moments?
A: SANDRINE is a very close friend of mine and I wanted to offer her a role as empathetic and kind as she is in real life. I wrote the part of Rachel for her because she usually gets cast to play characters who are a little rough around the edges and I craved to see her play a more subdued and subtle character. She is an amazing actress and such a warm-hearted woman.
Sandrine and Béatrice had met before – and were fans of each other’s work – but they had never worked together. Instantaneously they bonded and developed a genuine and intimate friendship that transpires on-screen. They got along perfectly and became quite the team. And that is already half the work! You create on-screen chemistry by authentically connecting with your partner. That is what I wholeheartedly believe.
Q: I imagine it was an emotional shoot. What emotions did their performances evoke from you and your team?
A: THE one thing I wanted to create on set more than anything was a calm and safe space to explore and create. We often focus on getting as much footage as possible – and as quickly as possible – but we tend to forget that actors need to feel protected, cared for, to be able to open up emotionally. It was very important to me that we create a serene environment for Béatrice and Sandrine.
This story is both incredibly sad but also filled with love and hope. It is the story of two women connecting in a deep and meaningful way. The end of the film was particular magical to shoot because there was such respect on set for both actresses. A sense of calm, of peace. In fact a few days after the shoot, one of the crew members called me to tell me how deeply it had affected him. He told me that he had started crying as he was telling his wife about the film. It surprised him and it profoundly moved me.
Q: This is a story gives a rather unique perspective of sexuality. Where did the inspiration for it come from?
A: I have never had any taboos about sexuality. Although I understand where those taboos come from for most people, it has always pained me to think about those who were never able to be true to themselves because of society’s rules or religion.
I believe that love is love. As long as it is between two consenting adults no one should ever have the right to dictate whom you should or shouldn’t love. But I am also very aware of how fortunate I am to have been born at a time and in a country where those rights are enforced by law. It wasn’t so for the people of my grandmother’s generation for example. And that for me is a tragedy.
Q: The line that very much grabbed me was when Marguerite says: ‘What is it like to make love to a woman?’ I wonder if you could expand on it.
A: WHEN I wrote that line, I was trying to put myself in Marguerite’s shoes. What thoughts would be going through her mind at that point? How far could she go? How could she get Rachel to understand without having to come out and say too much?
In the film, at that moment, Marguerite needs to open up to Rachel. She needs to reveal herself, her vulnerability. But for me, the idea is always to do as little exposition as possible and to keep it simple. Simple dialogue leaves a lot of space for more complex subtext.
And underneath that simple question, Marguerite is showing us – and Rachel – who she is, what she’s missed out on. This makes it a huge pivotal moment for her. The courage she needs to muster up in order to ask Rachel that question makes the audience feel for her because what she is really talking about is her own desire, her loneliness and her regret.
Q: ‘Marguerite’ has won awards a number of festivals. How proud are you that this film is connecting deeply with audiences?
A: I have to say that every award that Marguerite wins makes me feel deeply blessed. I have gotten many letters and emails from audience members who have been moved by Marguerite and that is the thing I am most proud of. The process of coming up with a story and making it come to life is magical to begin with. But getting it out there and knowing that audiences are connecting with it is incredible!
Q: I believe you are currently developing two features. Can you reveal anything about those?
A: THE feature I am in the process of writing is still too embryonic to talk about but my next project (WARRIORS written by Celeste Parr – Gurov & Anna) is in the late development stage. I am currently looking for financing and plan on shooting in the spring of 2019. It takes place in a pre-apocalyptic Southern Quebec when women and the environment have been ravaged. It is the story of a woman who risks the safety of those under her protection – her son included – when a treasonous “water warrior” is discovered on her land. It is beautifully written and stars François Arnaud (The Borgias) and Émilie Bierre (Jenny). I am very excited at the prospect of going into pre-production soon.
I am also in the post-production stage of a film I co-produced (with Benoit Beaulieu – Turbo Kid) and co-starred in – LES NÔTRES directed by Jeanne Leblanc. The film is set to come out in 2019.