New Europe spoke in Venice with the iconic Oscar-nominated French actress Isabelle Huppert, who recently starred in the political drama Les Promesses by Thomas Kruithof, which was screened in the Orizzonti section as the opening film.
New Europe (NE): You have had a very long and you have been described as one of the best actresses in the world, what do you still love so much about acting and the world of cinema?
Isabelle Huppert (IH): Is there really anything you can’t love about cinema? Personally, I love acting because it always makes me feel new emotions for each role I do. I try to test myself continuously. Furthermore, I love to have the opportunity to meet many other talented actors and directors with whom I share this passion for cinema.
NE: Has your work been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic? If so, how?
IH: To tell the truth, my work was not hindered by the pandemic. We were able to do the shots that we had to do only by respecting the various protocols. As for having the opportunity to go to the cinema or to the theater, on the other hand, I continued to go there as often as possible. I don’t really like watching television, but as far as streaming is concerned, I’m not against it. If I were told to make a film intended to be streamed, it would be fine for me.
NE: At the end of the film, what will your character decide to do in your opinion?
IH: The director has created an open ending so we don’t know. There is an air of mystery surrounding my character which is what makes her particularly fascinating. It is not possible to put my character in a category so even her life decisions are not predictable or obvious.
NE: How did your character react to the possibility of becoming a minister?
IH: My character was at the end of her political career, but that possibility (of being a minister) rekindles her ambition and also a sense of revenge towards those who had hindered her up to that moment. My character, in a certain sense, gives up her integrity to meet her professional fulfilment.
NE: Is there a clear line between ambition and integrity?
IH: The film clearly reveals that there is no clear line between those who remain true to their integrity and those who bet everything on ambition. In the film, you see bad people doing good things and good people doing bad things. It all depends on the circumstances. There is no real escape from human nature.
NE: Your character represents a woman of power, how do you think she is perceived? Were you inspired by someone to interpret it?
IH: Even though you don’t often see women with this type of power, in that small town in the province of Paris, she is the mayor and her deputy is a young man. I was not inspired by any particular political figure, I followed the politicians of my country and I remembered some of their ways of behaving, dressing, and some of their attitudes. In the end, she does not abuse her power, but she always seeks an agreement to fulfil the promises she made in the mandate.
NE: Where was the film shot?
IH: Much of the film was shot in the studio, but some scenes were shot in buildings that need to be renovated. In that case, it wasn’t easy to see how much poverty there can be just outside Paris.
NE: What are the next projects that you have coming up?
IH: My next project is called Caravaggio’s Shadow; it will be a film about the life of this wonderful artist. My daughter Lolita Chammah will also play in the film and we will shoot it in Italy and I just can’t wait to start.
NE: Do you remember how it was at the beginning of your career?
IH: My career started in the theater, and I studied acting. I remember acting has always been spontaneous for me and it still is. Each film presents me with a new role and I can live many different lives. Acting is a very personal thing. In the theater it was more difficult for me because there were many more rules due to tradition, but cinema gave me the freedom I was looking for.
NE: Have you ever said yes to a director without reading a script?
IH: No, to be honest I can’t say yes to a job if I don’t know a little about the script. To decide, it is important to know what kind of role you are going to play.
NE: What is the last song you heard and what do you like to listen to?