VIA – Interview with Leonore Mercier – “To me, the sound permits a wider interpretation to the audience, as the picture leads and frames on what we have to focus on. I try to explore this dichotomy as a theme. I am writing a feature where the music is a character.”

Starring the versatile Denis Lavant (the fetish actor of Leos Carax), VIA is both a charming sample of meta-cinema and an intriguing journey of self discovery.Graduating cinema at The Paris Pantheon-Sorbonne University, and studying piano at the Bourges Conservatory, the visual artist LÉONORE MERCIER (b. 1985, Paris) has a very particular artistic background, obvious in the musical quality of her cinematic work.

Ioana Mischie: During the shooting of a silent black and white film, an actor successively plays different characters. He soon understands his predetermined condition of prisoner of the cinematic frame, which triggers in him a deep identity crisis, a strong need to break free from the script. What inspired you in approaching this theme? And what inner connotations has the title, “VIA”?

Leonore Mercier: This short movie results out of short notes inspired by real facts personally experimented and obviously out of my imaginary world from my childhood to nowadays. Since my early age the idea of being manipulated, imprisoned makes me wonder about our condition in the world. The imagination and the creation are the only possibilities for my character to escape. VIA means in-between, the passage from a place to an other one, the WAY. I like that word as it represents the concept of the movement, a direction, not something in stagnation, an eternal evolution.

Ioana Mischie: Starring the versatile Denis Lavant, the fetish actor of Leos Carax, VIA is both a charming sample of meta-cinema and an intriguing journey of self discovery. How challenging was working with Denis Lavant and how did you involve him in this project?

Leonore Mercier: Denis Lavant is both a brilliant theatrical performer as a great movie actor. I saw him for the first time on the stage, performing “Les Saisons” from Maurice Ponce in 2002, directed by Wladyslaw Znorko in Bourges. It was obvious for me, this man had to be my character!

Denis who affectionates Charlie Chaplin, has played a crazy character double of Chaplin in the movie “Mister Lonely” by Harmony Korine. He is as well pretty interested in pantomime. I really think this kind of role is delightful for him and becoming part of a silent film was a natural choice. To direct Denis Lavant is really easy, he has the sensibility and cleverness to guess what I wanted in few words. The team became a family I really enjoyed those moments.

Ioana Mischie: Avoiding dramatically correctness and classical Aristotelic mechanics of telling a story, VIA gains a unique freedom of storytelling. How did you develop the concept of this film? Did you work solely with a scripted story or with improvisation as well?

Leonore Mercier: I wrote the script myself only, I did not improvise at all. During my studies to the Beaux Arts I already had the wish to realize a fiction movie. I also like to  compose radio pieces, where the sound tells us a story, but with no frame, the vision is based on the listener who creates his own world and narration. To me, the sound permits a wider interpretation to the audience, as the picture leads and frames on what we have to focus on. I try to explore this dichotomy as a theme.

Ioana Mischie: As an impressive ars combinatoria of perspectives, you take the spectator both into a new type of audiovisual experience and into a beautiful journey of self-discovery. How would you describe your own type of cinema, your own fetishes presented in filmic language?

Leonore Mercier: I would qualify my movie as absurd, poetical, musical and spatial. My work is surrounded by contemporary art, music and cinema, those three fields inspire my realization.The richness of the cinema offers me to gathering all my passions and reflections. I want to invite to an introspection of the senses and to a higher attention of the sound and visual phenomena.Lately, I created a Tibetan bowlsamphi theater named Le Damassama. This installation offers to the visitor the role of conductor, triggering by its instrumental reactions to gestures (via Kinect) inviting everyone to a customized musical journey.

Ioana Mischie: You studied as well piano at the Bourges Conservatory. How did and how does this influence your current cinematic work?

Leonore Mercier: The music is essential in my creations. For instance I build my radio pieces based on electro acoustic concept, with short moments recorded in the everyday life or completely imagined. From that combination will blossom a composition  between soundscapes and films for the ears. My piano composition are more intimate and more focused on my emotions than the technical aspect.

Ioana Mischie: What are your future aims as visual artist?

Leonore Mercier: I work on the next step of the evolution of the Damassama, I wish it will soon turn into a real music instrument. I am writing a feature where the music is a character. It is an ambitious project, une mise en abime( nested doll principle), where the audience is considered. This takes place in the maze of the ear transformed in a giant juke box.

More about VIA.

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