Lou de Laâge in “You will choose life”: “I am in the present, in the concrete”

Marie Deshayes: How did you come to this project?

Lou de Laage: I did not know Stéphane Freiss before he offered me this role of a young Orthodox Jewish woman who is going to refuse the taboos. This intimate and personal film is his wink, his homage to his mother. The story of my character is not his, but he wanted to talk about this universe he knew through it. I didn’t know anything about this community, but that’s what I love about cinema: each project immerses us in a new world.

I documented myself with films and books, and I also learned a lot from Pierre-Henry Salfati, who plays my father. He is not an actor, he is a scholar who transmits the Talmud, and I have been enriched by contact with him.

MD: The constraints that your character undergoes are similar to those of many women…

LoL: It is the story of oppression and emancipation with which many can identify, regardless of their religion or background. Finally, Esther asks herself a universal question: how to assert her free will when it goes against the education we have received? I admit, on the other hand, that I did not experience these problems. This role is very far from me, from what I have experienced. I was born into a family where debate has always existed and where contradiction was allowed.

MD: Esther is reserved. How challenging was it to play it?

LoL: You had to be constantly vigilant. Before their marriage, the young women of this community are not allowed to look men in the eye. But it’s a natural reflex for us, for me. Sometimes I stare at the character played by Riccardo Scarmacio, but because he represents transgression, the forbidden fruit. For the rest, it’s a very interior role: nothing authorizes Esther to share the weight she carries on her shoulders. It’s all the more difficult since she lived in this environment without questioning it, without understanding that she was in a prison, that she was suffocating.

MD: Going to the cinema is the first transgression she allows herself. Do you believe in the act of resistance that art can represent?

LoL: Art is an act of freedom where morality and rules can be exploded, where one can allow oneself to reflect by leaving the norm and conformism. The cinema is a place where words and gazes are open and multiple. It is a window on worlds to which we do not always have access, and it is precisely in this that it is essential for constructing our view of society.

MD: Is being directed by an actor a game-changer?

LoL: The only difference is that they are more attentive: some directors do not realize the state of fragility in which the game puts us, they do not understand that we blow up the masks and the protections to enter the another’s skin. That, an actor-director like Stéphane or Mélanie Laurent is always aware of. The rest is all about temperament and personality.

MD: What place does spirituality have in your life?

LoL: I grew up in a family with very different profiles, between nobles and farmers, practicing Catholics and atheists. This immediately implies a form of openness. And then, whether we find them in the Bible, the Talmud or other texts, I believe that we need stories and legends to construct a philosophy of existence. All these great humanist writings make it possible to question the human condition, our values ​​and our outlook on the world. If you want to find meaning in life, I find it difficult to do so without being spiritual, mystical or religious.

MD: What do you believe in?

LoL: In what I undertake, otherwise I would not be able to accomplish a tenth of the actions in my day.

MD: The film is about transmission. What heritage are you the fruit of?

LoL: I grew up in a house where the artistic had its place. My father, a journalist, was very fond of theater and cinema. He was in touch with all the questions draining his time. My mother was a painter. The fruit didn’t fall very far from the tree… My parents taught me to listen and to take a tender, empathetic look at people and things. We live in a world where the debate is more and more complicated, where we take any contradiction as a form of aggression. My father, who spent his life trying to understand other people’s thinking, taught us that you had to be able to hear ideas different from your own for the dialogue to remain.

MD: At the end of December, you were the heroine of whirlwind of life, which explores the various paths that existence can take. If you hadn’t been an actress, what would you have done?

LoL: I am neither nostalgic nor a follower of “what if”. I am too much in the present, in the concrete. For now, I’m an actress, I love what I do and I don’t see the point of torturing myself by imagining another path. I started acting so young that I didn’t have time to dream of other careers. At 6 years old, I already wanted to play in the theater and the rest of my life was made up of experiences that confirmed this desire and this passion.

MD: You have just shot WASP 22 in France, under the direction of Woody Allen. How was it ?

LoL: Wonderful. It’s a thriller, in French, in the vein of Match Point, with Valérie Lemercier, Melvil Poupaud and Niels Schneider. My parents loved his films and I grew up with Woody and the robots, Hannah and her sisters, Manhattan… But I have an artistic relationship with cinema and those who make it. I don’t idolize anyone, because I don’t know the men and women behind the works. Also, when I met Woody Allen, despite my admiration for his work, I had no specific expectations. I was in the pleasure of discovery as with any filmmaker and he turned out to be a modest, elegant, brilliant man.

MD: You were crowned best actress at the International Emmy Awards to The Fools’ Ball, by Melanie Laurent. What does she represent for you?

LoL: This is the third time that I have worked with Mélanie after Respire and the Last Testament at the theatre. This prize is a way of crowning our bond and the pleasure we have in working together. Mélanie was essential in my journey, because she gave me her confidence and offered powerful characters. Over time, everything is fluid between us, as if we hardly need to talk to each other anymore.

Also to discover:Mélanie Laurent in Storm: “I am a free woman and artist”

MD: Do you also have a desire for achievement?

LoL: Not at the moment, but I’m not closing this door. I may feel the need one day.

Cinema is essential to construct our view of society

MD: With experience, do you better deal with the waiting periods inherent in your profession?

LoL: It all depends on the state of mind I’m in when the breaks come. It’s more or less destabilizing. It’s hard to be serene, but I stopped fighting because, even if it were to end tomorrow for me, I would have already had a chance that many will never know Life is in perpetual motion, you have to ‘accept.

You will choose life, by Stephane Freiss. Released January 25.

Lou de Laâge in “You will choose life”: “I am in the present, in the concrete”