Raunchy drama Stranger by the Lake made waves at Cannes earlier this year for its sex scenes. The Star Observer’s Nick Bond chatted to director Alain Guiraudie.
Q: Hi Alain, congratulations on Stranger by the Lake. Tell me about the wins the film has had already – the Queer Palm and the Best Director award at Cannes. What was the reaction like at Cannes?
A: This will be quick because I’m at the library and I want to go and lie in the sun (I’m on holiday). Hello, and thanks. The reaction in Cannes was very good. I know that people talked about the film a lot. But then, it’s not really up to me to judge how my film was received. As a director, I see it as my right mainly to receive benevolent and positive reviews.
Q: Was it difficult finding actors who would be comfortable with the sex and nudity shown on screen?
A: No, not really. I thought I’d struggle to find this particular pair of actors. Of course, there were actors who refused to audition once they found out what the film was about.
Q: Tell me about casting Franck and Michel – they have a real chemistry onscreen. Was it hard to find that mix?
A: We tested several pairs and this one worked from the beginning. Afterwards, we worked on the choreography and the believability of the sex scenes, and then we rehearsed. As a result, the two main actors ended up spending time together before we started shooting.
Q: The landscape of the setting plays such a vital part in the film. How did you find the location?
A: First of all, I wanted to shoot in the sunniest regions of France, and it was getting financial subsidies that determined which one we’d shoot in (Provence Côte d’Azur). And it’s not a region rich in lakes. Once we’d settled on a lake, we explored the area around it to find the best locations, the sunniest ones.
Q: Franck flirts with danger a lot in the film – in his relationship with Michel, but also in his attitude towards unsafe sex. Do you see the film as a warning of sorts?
A: Not really. Let’s say that I wish that AIDS, which has completely changed our relationship with sex and love, wasn’t so rarely dealt with in films. What was important to me was for it to be talked about and discussed in my film and that the question as to whether to use a condom or not would be dealt with. As to Franck, I place him within a romantic tradition of love, this idea of love where you explore with the other, where you push limits, where you put yourself at risk to the very end.
Q: Were you ever tempted to make the sex in the film less explicit, so it could be seen by a wider audience?
A: The scenes have already been softened. Reading the screenplay, you could have expected more non-simulated sex scenes. I took out the penetrative act because it was complicated and ethically impossible to ask of two actors (the doubles) to penetrate each other without a condom. On the other hand, there was never a question for me to cut out the only two non-simulated sex scenes that are still in the film.
INFO: Stranger by the Lake is screening on Thursday, September 19 at the Dendy Newtown.