Drawing from her own experience with death, Director Amanda Lago has made a touching piece of filmmaking with Mrs. Poucheau and we are proud to feature it on Directors Notes today for its online Premiere on International Women’s Day. The film beautifully depicts feelings of deep sorrow, unconditional love and grave nostalgia as it follows a woman’s journey through the acceptance of change. I caught up with Amanda to talk about how she cultivated cinematic language to paint these profound feelings on screen.
What inspired you to produce a film addressing the subject of deep sadness and loss?
It was more than a feeling than anything. A sensation of recurring emptiness and nothingness. It made me want to translate this into images, and by doing so I would be able to somehow share it, release it and diminish it. Of course, I also thought that this is something that the viewer would be able to connect with and relate to.
Death and life come together with their roles almost reversed; living comes across as banal, whereas dying is seen as enticing.
What I was looking to portray is how the character becomes almost more alive with how she relates to death. Not her own death, rather the one of the person she has lost. In her mind, living for the sake of living is of no importance. Her relationship with death is a way to feel alive in the present, by connecting with her past.
Mrs. Poucheau embodies the intrinsic nature of human emotions. Can you tell us how you arrange things on set to best share your view of the world?
First of all, this is a personal film and a homemade job. In situations such as this one, I like to rely on a small and trustworthy team, in which I can put all my confidence and work in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. There’s a great margin for improvisation, meaning a certain amount of playfulness, instinct and above all fun. I want the team to be on the same wavelength, have a good time and feel part of the film. I want them to be excited, just like me. I always work in the same way, giving great importance to freedom and improvisation (something that tends to drive the team crazy, especially my DoP Diego Aldabaldetrecu).
For Mrs. Poucheau, we rehearsed the scenes on site, while preparing the set. I spoke to the actress, explaining the layout of the shoot, and then gave her absolute freedom to flow. We did set some guidelines for her but told her she’d be able to overlook them at specific points whenever she felt the need to. I don’t believe in giving strict orders to actors, as often they are able to come up with something that works way better on camera. Perhaps I’m being too extreme, but a 50/50 approach works.
For me cinema is almost a therapy, one of the best ways to convey empathy and self-reflection.
For this reason, I usually use a handheld camera, as you never know what’s going to happen and I don’t want to miss a special moment due to technical restrictions. I enjoy movement and for it to be dynamic – the camera itself is alive and a player itself. In any case, what’s more important to me than an immaculate aesthetic, blurring or overexposure is the action itself and realism.
This is why an environment of trust is absolutely necessary. Giving freedom does not mean that anything goes. Not at all. Rather that, what could initially come across as a mistake, could end being the exact opposite. You never know what’s going to happen and this is what has me hooked. Assess what’s going on in front of you, see if it works and connect with it. This is a timeless moment, almost magical.
Can you tell us more about the creation and evolution of the script?
Generally, I think of the idea and then write the script. During that process, you end up feeling quite lonely. Most of the time you think what you have on paper is worth nothing, but there are a few moments of delight. I guess filmmakers have very few people they can count on when it comes to honest feedback and input. At the time of developing the idea of Mrs. Poucheau, I connected with a friend of mine, the young but very talented Raúl Ferrer. One night, when he was online, I decided to share my idea with him, as he was going through a similar situation as me. Within two hours he sent me the script and we practically didn’t change anything – it was perfect as it was.
Your personal projects feel like an exploration of the metaphysical and human emotions, do you find filmmaking a therapeutic tool to create some semblance of order in the world?
I don’t believe that there’s any order in this world, nor that it will ever exist. We are all virtually connected and yet entirely alone. I’m not sure how my approach to the audiovisual world will change. However for the time being, whenever I get a break from my bleak view of the world, I channel that to gain a deeper insight into myself and how people function. That is through images, words and sound. And it’s true, for me cinema is almost a therapy, one of the best ways to convey empathy and self-reflection.
I’m currently working on a couple of video clips. I’m also completely absorbed by the idea of a potential short-film about twin brothers. At the moment I’m reading and learning about them, investigating and trying to tie things up. And if it goes well, I would like to turn it into a full-length feature.