Alexandre Richard’s music video for Felixe’s Ellipse is a sombre and emotionally raw venture into the land of complicated feelings. Told through a series of non-linear moments, the visuals occupy an almost dreamlike state where the events that unfold could be honest memories or vivid manifestations of our protagonist’s mental state. Felixe’s song provides the perfect sonic palette for Richard’s visuals as her track meanders through an anthemic blend of shoegaze and contemporary alternative rock. We asked Richard to walk us through his approach to visualising Felixe’s song, revealing how he decided to tackle her moving story.

What was it in Felixe’s music that inspired you tell Ellipse’s story this way?

What struck me most about Félixe’s lyrical prowess on Ellipse was the uncanny depth with which she deconstructs a toxic relationship (one of friendship, one of love; of both) where two people wrestle with the power dynamics of the dominant and the dominated. Although the roles are firmly established in the opening scene, the line blurs as the song progresses. Felixe’s graceful exploration of this evolution warranted a symbolically-driven imagery and ideological montage.

It’s a pretty ambitious story to tell in a music video! How did you approach it and not over complicate the story’s queer politics?

The story of Emma confessing her love to Sandrine, her legal guardian, is ultimately rooted in a sad truth: that of LGBTQ+ teens seeking to flee their conservative small hometowns for the sake of finding inclusivity in “the big city”. Sandrine, the older, wiser and traditionally-minded, rejects Emma’s love even if her feelings are reciprocal. Instead, Sandrine opts to hide behind a facade, which Emma sees as the betrayal of their unspoken love and of one’s own integrity. The gesture sends Emma on a journey to reclaim her identity and find a community that she could proudly call home.

What interested you in telling this story in a non-linear fashion?

The non-linear storytelling is steered by the emotions Emma associates to her memories: some of beauty, some of pain, all out of order and guided by heart rather than logic. Through symbolic imagery (Emma digging a grave to bury a handheld mirror and the artist, Félixe, being buried alive with a plastic bag covering her face), Emma’s memories take on a new role: that of shepherding her quest of unburdening. While the mirror visually represents Emma’s past, it’s the recurrence of one sound – the shovel hitting the dirt – that gives Emma the strength to push onwards and ultimately find her voice.

Understanding both the artist’s state of mind and the lyrics nourishes my creative approach.

You shot over a variety of beautiful locations, did this make production difficult or did it have its benefits?

We were lucky to shoot the entirety of the film in the small and extremely welcoming village of Lac-du-Cerf, located three hours away from Montreal. The distance only became a crutch on our last day, which included on-location filming in Montreal as well. It worked out in our favour as Emma’s story paralleled our shooting schedule (and vice versa) allowing Romy Bouchard, our talented young lead, to incorporate the company move into her performance for a more organic feel. Shooting in Lac-du-Cerf was relatively easy, for me at least, but I’d bet my Assistant Director Alexe LaRoche would argue the opposite, especially with my insistence on filming as much as possible during Blue Hour.

What’s your process for realising an artist’s intentions in film and how much of a challenge do you find that?

I’m a ‘niche filmmaker’ so whenever I’m asked to make a music video, the artist knows what to expect: a layered narrative representation of the artist’s lyrical manifest. It’s very much of a collaborative process. I sometimes feel like a therapist in the questions I ask the artist and the profound answers I seek. Understanding both the artist’s state of mind and the lyrics nourishes my creative approach. As a result, a concept that’s visually rich and thematically intrinsic to the music is born. I think the only challenges that music videos present are those I burden myself with in order to constantly keep surpassing my own previous works.

What do you like about the music video format as opposed to a traditional short film?

I feel that, unlike short films, music videos are rarely a singular vision. There might be a concept, an image or a tone that you’re craving to do but none of it matters when another creative enters the picture. You must be open to another person’s ideas, to a stranger’s vision, to an artist’s instincts. I think that’s why I’m blessed to work with like-minded artists: we share similar sensibilities and allow ourselves to quickly become emotionally vulnerable because of our shared beliefs in the depth for a solid collaborative foundation. It’s human connection in its purest form.

What’s next for you?

My next project is a music video for the artist Mada Mada, entitled Autonome which dropped recently. I’m also working on a short film and a feature script that are both thematically connected. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you soon.

Ellipse is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.

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