Fragments of chaos

Alice Winocour on assembling Disorder.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Alice Winocour on Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut:
Alice Winocour on Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut: "The first scene where we see Nicole Kidman wearing this fabulous dress, with Tom Cruise going to the party." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Augustine and Disorder (Maryland) director Alice Winocour, co-writer of Deniz Gamze Ergüven's Mustang, talked Beauty And The Beast, Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte, Vincent Lindon meeting Matthias Schoenaerts, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on holiday, Pascaline Chavanne's costumes for Diane Kruger, Jacques Audiard's Rust And Bone (De Rouille Et D'Os) with Thomas Bidegain, and alluding to David Lynch's Lost Highway and William Holden.

Alice Winocour with Valley Of Love's Guillaume Nicloux, A Decent Man's Emmanuel Finkiel, The Great Game's Nicolas Pariser and Melvil Poupaud
Alice Winocour with Valley Of Love's Guillaume Nicloux, A Decent Man's Emmanuel Finkiel, The Great Game's Nicolas Pariser and Melvil Poupaud

Vincent, a troubled Afghanistan veteran, after being discharged from the army, becomes bodyguard to the wife (Kruger) and young son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant) of a wealthy Lebanese businessman (Percy Kemp) at their luxurious villa on the French Riviera. Denis (Paul Hamy of Maïwenn's My King), Vincent's colleague, can make light banter, while Vincent is struggling with his PTSD. No interaction for him is casual. Shifting social dynamics create fears of what is to come and identifying with the little boy shoved into the closet to hide is not far-fetched.

Never quite sure if what we see stems from Vincent's paranoia or is a real threat brought about by the husband's links to high government officials, the intense, exquisitely paced drama unfolds like a thriller. Can it be that this trophy wife - with a swan boat in their pool and the Minister of the Interior at their parties - has no friends or family to turn to, besides her husband whose dealings she is ignorant of?

Alice Winocour's remarkable sound design links the noises in Vincent's head to the present. Jessie is an enigma for him and very much alive and he does his best to keep her that way. Her outfits emphasise exposure and strength.

Anne-Katrin Titze: I was fascinated by the choice of costumes for Diane Kruger in your film. They work on second glance. There is always some detail hidden or exposed in each of the things she wears. The dress, you see from the front and then you see the exposed back. But also with the bathing suit and the white top. You think you see her as something and then it turns out to be something else.

Deniz Gamze Ergüven on Alice Winocour:
Deniz Gamze Ergüven on Alice Winocour: "We met at the Atelier Cinéfondation in 2011." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Alice Winocour [laughs]: For the costumes to me it was very important that she should wear a fabulous gown in the beginning and then … She is a prisoner in a golden prison, she is like frozen. At the beginning, I thought, we had to see her as a beautiful creature. And then as the film evolves she is wearing this jogging and she is not really getting dressed anymore. She becomes herself.

I thought a lot about Eyes Wide Shut. The first scene where we see Nicole Kidman wearing this fabulous dress, with Tom Cruise going to the party. And you see her on the toilet. This little idea makes her suddenly very human. That's what I imagined for the scene when she [Jessie] is feeding the dog [Ghost] in this fabulous dress. That you see her doing something really super natural and common with this incredible outfit.

AKT: It's also interesting that by the choice of outfits you have different parts of her body exposed at different times. It speaks of vulnerability and strength in her. We wonder about her background. She knows how to drive. She's German.

AW: To me, she met this Lebanese guy, who really loves this kind of trophy wife. Cars, blond girls, really beautiful. I thought she had met him really young and now she was stuck with him.

Vincent chaos (Matthias Schoenaerts):
Vincent chaos (Matthias Schoenaerts): "What I noticed with soldiers was that their stories were written on their bodies."

AKT: She has no friends.

AW: She has no friends because it's not her country. At the party she is bored. I also thought a lot about La Notte, the Antonioni film.

AKT: I can see that.

AW: It really inspired me for the swimming pool scene and all this decadent world.

AKT: What a horror you capture at that party. "They're privileged and they're all blond," security says.

AW: I've been to a party where I saw people having caviar on their hands, licking it. And I thought it would be really violent to have the sequence of the soldiers with no legs or no arms, the world of arms dealers and the world of soldiers suffering from it. The hospital is a real hospital. Parts of Rust And Bone were shot there.

AKT: The hospital feels unmistakably real. So does the party. The rain with the swan boat in the pool - that's when I thought, it's a doomed world. Were you happy about the rain?

AW: It's called Disorder and I liked the idea that on the French Riviera, which is always represented as beautiful beaches and sun, it should rain constantly. During the shooting we were stuck in the house and there were incredible storms. Sometimes it was even difficult for the sound to record it. All the beaches were damaged because of the storms.

Jessie (Diane Kruger) Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant):
Jessie (Diane Kruger) Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant): "I like the idea of land, I guess the opposite of Wonderland."

AKT: I noticed a girl on the beach with a big tattoo of scissors. It is only after that we see Vincent's tattoo, spelling out 'chaos', for the first time.

AW: What I noticed with soldiers was that their stories were written on their bodies. We did a huge amount of work on Matthias' body to find together the backstory of the character. Matthias had dates that were written on his arms that were real dates that meant something to him. Also there was a very famous soldier's prayer asking for violence. Lots of stuff and scars. To me the girl on the beach could be a girl he could have liked but then she becomes scary as well.

AKT: I thought maybe a hairdresser would get a tattoo like that, but then maybe not.

AW: I like the idea that she's scary.

AKT: There is a scene in the film alluding to Lost Highway and how William Holden died?

AW: Yes, of course. But I also thought of Beauty And The Beast. It's really a Beauty And The Beast story. Even if she is attracted by him, he scares her. I like the idea that the one that should protect you, is scaring you. That's how I directed Matthias. I told him, "You have to look at your hands after the fight as if they were not your hands. Or, it was your hands that had done the job but not you."

Jessie with Denis (Paul Hamy), Vincent and Ali:
Jessie with Denis (Paul Hamy), Vincent and Ali: "He [Vincent] doesn't belong anymore to that world."

When he has that look, I told her, "He is ashamed" like in Beauty And The Beast when he has eaten all those things and thinks, I'm a monster. Matthias has this monster part in him in the film. He doesn't belong anymore to that world.

AKT: And he notices it when his colleague comes and interacts with her in that lighthearted way. That flirtatious stupid way that he is incapable of.

AW: He is incapable of. That's, I think, my favourite sequence of the film, because it felt very free in the way I directed it. There was something so fun about the actor and what he did and also there was something really tragic about the situation. You see it's so simple to make her laugh. Some people asked me, why don't they have sex together. But I think he is in too bad a condition.

In the beginning he is asked: "Do you have any sexual problem?" and he says "No". But we can see that when he says it, that he has. It's a strange relationship but they have a little moment together. Maybe she won't be the same after this. He awakens her. To me the watching TV together on the couch is really like the sex scene of the film.

They fall asleep together. They can't sleep in the beginning. That's why she is watching TV all the time. And he can't sleep either. That they fall asleep shows that they abandon themselves.

Vincent: "He is that very big guy with muscles and everything but he has a kid thing in the eyes."

AKT: A gift they give each other at that moment. I give you sleep!

AW: Exactly. You have to trust someone to sleep next to him.

AKT: Another scene I particularly like is when he is packing his bag in his childhood room. You have the guns and you have this little boy's room.

AW: That's what is really touching for me about Matthias. He has this childhood thing in him. He is that very big guy with muscles and everything but he has a kid thing in the eyes. I loved in the scene where he is calling his mother. You show the soldier with masculinity and then he is a little boy.

AKT: You captured something similar in Augustine with Vincent Lindon. He also can make that little boy visible all of a sudden.

AW: It's funny, earlier this year, they met on a train to Brussels so they called me together because they were together on the train.

AKT: By chance?

AW: By chance. They hadn't met before. And I told them that I thought they had some similar thing. They are both very physical. In fact, we don't have many physical actors like them. Because I am fascinated by body language, I think I'm attracted by these types of actors. I feel close to them.

Jessie: "It's really a Beauty And The Beast story."

AKT: Maryland was the title of the film before it was changed and it's the name of the house.

AW: Exactly. It's a real house, not the one we shot in. It's the house where Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are spending their holidays. It was to me to infer the versus of wonderland, like a shady, corrupted place. And I like the idea of land, I guess the opposite of Wonderland. But I've been told that here it sounds like the state Maryland.

AKT: But there also is Mary as in Virgin Mary in there … When he tells the boy to hide in the closet, that is a very frightening scene. To have a child in there - to protect and not protect.

AW: I thought it was the only way to protect him, to put him away. But I like this idea that you hear sound but you don't know. The sound recorder was recording sounds in the house and he was spending nights in the house recording little cracking sounds. Because it was really a scary house.

Read what Alice Winocour had to say on Julien Lacheray's editing, Kevin Powers' Yellow Birds, the Bataclan and Charlie Hebdo attacks, Gesaffelstein's sound and the influence of John Carpenter.

Disorder is in theatres in the US.

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