Made up of four very talented individuals, creative studio Les Monstres has made its name by creating projects which consistently astound and impress. Their latest music video Staring at the Lines for Buvette is no exception. Arousing immediate curiosity, the film transports us to a land which is like no other. A land in which the characters wear the same face within its esoteric structure, giving rise to the feeling that we too are floating in space with them through the unknown, and evoking memories of 2001. Staring at the Lines expresses the disparity between oppression and the search for freedom, as it compels repeat viewings which provide the opportunity to discover and absorb new meanings each time. DN picks the brains of Les Monstres team member Marion LeBastard to discover the thought and production process it took to create this unique piece of filmmaking.
The plot for Staring at the Lines is very unusual, how did you go about pitching the idea to Buvette and Pan European Recording? Did they have any reservations when they heard your extraordinary concept?
It is Buvette’s first animated music video, which can be sensitive in terms of establishing an artist’s visual universe. However, Buvette and Pan European Recording came to us very open-mindedly. They had already seen Felicien’s film Iwako. A very short animated movie paying tribute to the science fiction series Gundam on Koudlam’s music. They had loved his style and other works from Les Monstres and came to us giving us total freedom for this music video. After brainstorming with the two directors, the first strong ideas to come up were the motorcycle, designing Buvette as a character, and furthermore Buvette being all the characters. Buvette immediately loved it, he was very enthusiastic as it echoed the hidden themes of the song, much darker than we could expect from pop music. Then Ludovic had the idea of a totalitarian world he wanted to develop. They took this essence as they didn’t want the film to be too narrative. It is meant for a viewer to construe it differently each time they watch it.
The piece is complex. There are so many different elements and meanings to it. Is there a formula you follow when creating new works?
Les Monstres have a strong sense for experimentation. Each project is different and needs its own research, even sometimes creation of tools (both artistic and technical). Every production and every client are different.
The film’s direction is credited to Felicien Colmet-Daage and Ludovic Versace, how did co-direction effect production? Where there any production obstacles you faced along the way?
Felicien and Ludovic were 2D animators on The Great Greek Myths, a documentary TV series Les Monstres co-produced. This music video was their first co-direction and it went really well. They have directed another film since. The challenges of this project arose from the short pre-production and production time (we only had 3 months when it should have been done in 6 to 7 months), which is a common issue we’ve learned to handle. When we accept a project and its constraints we always manage to adapt and deliver on time.
It is meant for a viewer to construe it differently each time they watch it.
The two directors plunged into this challenge and found solutions to develop the storyline, direct and animate in the limited timeframe, making production choices and seeking the contribution of other animators (Arthur Sotto gave the direction of the VHS compositing, Siying Yu, Emmanuel Lantam and Alex Bouvier worked on colouring and animation).
You describe Staring at the Lines as an ‘ode’, one which traces the journey of a marginal character and his search for freedom. How did you decide to explore that theme?
Ludovic Versace is very involved in non-profit organisations such as La Voix des Rroms, an association defending Romani people in the world. He aims to evocate justice at large in his work and wanted to give this colour to the film, without making it heavy either. Felicien Colmet-Dâage brought his strong graphic identity to this narration.
Bentham’s Panopticon provided inspiration for the spherical city whose design directly relates to the search for freedom at the centre of the narrative. From where else did the film’s visual concepts originate?
The visual inspiration came from arts and literature such as: Michel Foucault – Surveiller et Punir, Alain Damasio – La Zone du Dehors, Terry Gilliam – Brazil, Orwell – 1984, Moebius M.C. Escher and his Mathematical Art. The terrible strength of Bentham’s panopticon is that the authority never has to intervene. This founding idea was pursued further by the directors as they designed the transparent apartment cubes.
The films Les Monstres produce are so versatile, how did your collaboration come about?
Les Monstres is a collaborative creative studio. We elaborate a strong visual language in all of our works: music videos, commercials, cinema, animated movies, installations, scenography and objects. The union of our skills gives us a unique expertise. We create our work in a way we think is authentic. The main core of the studio is four people, however we can have up to twenty people working on a piece, depending on the type of projects we are working on.
What’s next in the pipeline for Les Monstres?
The production of two new music videos, released in October. A new release from La Jungle, an awesome Belgium band. We are huge fans of theirs. A new EP from Louise Roam, a young French artist whose music inspired us something massively – baroque and unusual! We are finishing the editing and can’t wait to show these two films, we have mixed live shooting with 3D effects.
We are eager to develop new skills especially technical expertise and we thrive on meeting new talent. After the success of the documentary Les Batailles du Louvre in which we made all the 2D and 3D sequences, we are now enhancing our 3D department. Although we are very interested in the development of series, we have a few projects we have pitched recently.