We had a chance to sit down with acclaimed director Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void, Irréversible), and ask him about his new, sexually charged 3D drama, Love. Watch the video and see the transcript below.
First off, we loved the movie, we thought it was fantastic, I think the one question I really wanted to know is, this movie, you guys call it controversial, obviously there’s a lot of sexuality in it, why the decision to do it in 3D?
I don’t think this movie is controversial at all. There’s been movies shot in the 70s that were very daring for their time, but this one… there’s nothing shocking in this movie, because it’s a very relatable love story, as they happen in real life. Maybe the two main characters involved in the plot like taking risks but, no, it’s a loving movie. Also to remind myself of what the shocking movies, the controversial movies were I put all the posters of my favorite movies in the room of the main character who’s a film student in Paris. You see movies like Pasolini’s Salo, Flesh of Frankenstein, Freaks, An Andalusian Dog, Taxi Driver, Deliverance. You can say those guys put themselves in a risky situation, in my case it’s just an unwritten movie showing what it is to be inside a love addiction when you’re 25.
In the movie, you’re actually seeing sexual acts play on the screen, but the movie itself feels so far away from being pornographic, it feels very sensual. How is it skirting that line?
I would say making love to someone… love is the most natural thing, it’s like the conclusion of mutual attraction. When you fall in love and you spend the night with a girl you never say “I did a pornographic act”, you’ve just been kissing, hugging, doing the most natural things, and the most life affirming things. At the end the sexual instinct comes from a natural instinct of the species to reproduce the species and to survive on this planet, and so we all come from a sexual act, we all have a hidden program that pushes us to be attracted to the one we think is the best in order maybe to reproduce the species, but there are many situations that are not reproductive, they are still enjoyable, but it’s a very natural thing. And mostly what’s weird is that you never see images of carnal love in a narrative movie or in a commercial movie, you just see people talking about love then they wake up the next morning and the scenes that are the most important are always missing in commercial movies, there’s no reason. Now in America you can release unrated movies. Now if people who are young want to see images of love they end up watching very mechanical images of sex on websites and those images are feelingless. No one is kissing and also the girls don’t look like regular girls, whether they had plastic surgery or not, they’re all shaven, the guys they all look like bodybuilders, and I don’t think those images are relatable to affection or to lovelife. I’m really surprised in the Western world we all think we’re more developed than the religious societies around, but the truth is that what is almost the most taboo is to show the joy that we all take in those situations. Why in the American cinema is it so hard to find a non-erected penis? Is it because we live in a male dominant society in which most men are afraid of their neighbor’s penis that could excite their wives, their daughter, or their mother? I don’t know. But the genitals are as natural as hands or ears or faces. It should not be a problem. You can see guns in almost one movie out of two, you don’t see the natural part that is a part with which we are reaffirming life. And in the case of this movie the project was about showing how is life for young crazy but not so crazy film student in Paris who likes partying, drinking, and meets this gorgeous girl that he’s madly in love with, even if it’s maybe not the most positive way of loving a person, they still try to construct the future with their own patterns, and they fail. And the whole movie is in the past time because when the movie starts you know that something bad happened to the girl and during the whole process of the movie you see those images of joy with a very melancholic eye.
The actors in the movie, a lot of them weren’t really actors before this, what made you, when you met these people, decide that they were perfect for the roles?
I would say some people have charisma and some people don’t. You can be a very willingful actor, if you’re not charismatic you can always work hard, it will not happen. You can be someone who’s charismatic without taking acting lessons. I like mixing, all my movies are a mix of people who are friends, people I found in the street or in bars, and people who are skilled for some particular jobs because they’re charismatic and also they can cry on demand like five times in a row, or also having one actor among non-professionals also helps the other people to find a pace so I know that the fact that Karl Glusman, who is an actor and really likes his job, that he was an actor really helped the girls who had never been on screen to understand how the whole process of lying, because as an actor you’re lying, there are things that you pretend to be that you’re not, there are things that come out from your own way of talking or moving that come from your personality so at the end when you see a movie what you see on screen is a mix of the person who played the part and the character that you wrote. For boys or girls who have never acted before they can get confused. Is it about me? Is it not about me? No, it’s not you, it’s really someone else but still maybe some aspects of your identity will appear on screen, for sure your face. Sometimes you just need to change the color of the hair, or sometimes you just change the clothes, and people already feel they’re in Halloween playing something else.
What made you choose to make the main character American?
I wanted the movie to be in English. I wanted the movie to contain some voiceover of the main character. So it would not have made sense if I had picked up an actor whose first language wasn’t English. You know if he had been a Danish actor, why would a guy speak with the Danish accent, but actually I was casting Americans, Canadians, Irish, British, and the best person that I found was Karl so one week before shooting I knew the main character would be American, but it was not in the script.
Do you have a love story, anything like you put on the screen for Love?
I would say the movie is about experiences that belong to my group of people. I never got a girl accidentally pregnant, or situations like that, but still I know those situations, I know these kind of girls, I know these kind of boys, I know the main character Murphy is a kind of little brother I would have who’s been through some similar situations, some I haven’t been through but I understand him. Although he’s not a hero, he’s like a younger brother that is also kind of an extension of the main characters from my previous movies who were also very cool, a bit of party kids, who are bright but not always bright, especially when they drink.
Can I just change gears for a second, do you like superheroes and superhero movies?
I can like science fiction movies, I can like horror movies, but no, the superhero genre is not my favorite. Maybe the only superhero that I really enjoyed when I was younger, when I was 8,9,10, was James Bond, but it was not because of him, it was mostly because of all the girls around him.
The first scene in love, it is a bit shocking because it kind of shows you exactly where the movie is going to go, what made you decide to go with that scene for the first scene?
Actually the opening scene was not meant to be there, it was meant to be a bit later in the movie. It was written in the script they’re having sex in the bed, they change positions, and so we filmed that and actually I said that particular take made sense in its full length, like it was two minutes long, and also I had this music from Satie that would really fit that scene, but in the middle of the movie it would kill the pace of the movie, so I said well where can I put it, where can I put it. So I keep it in its full length, and towards the end of the process I said well maybe at the very beginning it would make you feel that when he wakes up he’s dreaming of that, and also it was good to start the movie with the very frontal image and yeah I really like it much better there than where it was put originally.
What do you hope people take away from Love?
I think no, they will not take away, because it’s a very relatable story and I guess that most people will recognize maybe their friends, their ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, or their own life in some aspects of the movie, and the movie is not teaching anything, it’s just showing something that’s around.
The scenes in this movie were done so beautifully, they came out so beautifully, were any of them particularly difficult to shoot?
I would say the one that I was the most afraid of, and also that Karl was the most afraid of, was the scene in the bathtub with the little baby, because in the script it said the father is crying in the bathtub and the young boy gets in and tries to calm down his father. Of course the kid was freaked out when he saw a bathtub because he thought we were going to give him a shower so actually we ended up having the two year old kid crying all the time, it was not the father crying it was the baby crying, but at one point I said you know Karl just try to cry harder than him and so he ended up crying and at a point the baby stopped because he’s not the focus of attention of the team, it was Karl, so he stopped and he stares at him and he hugs him. We kept that particular minute, that was the magic minute of the long scene we shot.