Creatures of the night

Yann Gonzalez on sex, death, dreams and You And The Night.

by Jennie Kermode

Preparing for a special occasion
Preparing for a special occasion

In a remote house in the middle of the night, seven people gather for an orgy, but nothing goes quite as they expected. You And The Night is the first feature length film by Nice-born director (and musician) Yann Gonzalez. He agreed to talk to us about how he put it together.

“It’s very hard to make a first feature in France,” he says.”I really wanted to work with specific actors who played in my short films. Then I started to fantasise about some other actors. I had nobody in mind for the Stud when I started to write the script. I never thought Eric Cantona would accept it.”

Despite the recently launched Rainbow Laces campaign, football is not known for its openness to diverse sexualities. Was this a factor? Yann doesn’t think so.

“He’s been very supportive with gay rights, so he’s open-minded,” he says. “There’s a moment in the film where he’s caressing Niels Schneider, taking his crown down then starting to caress his body. I told him after we shot that I was really proud because it was a beautiful shot, very religious. He was pleased but he said he didn’t think his father would be very proud of this shot. His mother really likes the film though.”

The Stud And The Star
The Stud And The Star

The plot of the film initially emerged from practical concerns. “I wanted to gather some characters in one single space and I thought an orgy was the best way to do it through having the film take place in one single room on one single night,” Yann explains. As for how it develops, he adds “There’s no boundaries between life and death in cinema. I like to be able to make the audience believe there is still a way to connect with dead people, even sexually. Sex and death are the two most prominent topics. They’re very powerful.”

The film also looks at the sometimes uneasy relationship cinema has had with sex. I ask if Yann intentionally set out to have each character’s story reflect on a different cinematic tradition.

“The film is a tribute to the cinema I loved as a child,” he says. “Horror, weird film, strange movies I was forbidden to watch. When I was writing I didn’t have any references in mind apart from The Breakfast Club and The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie. I had to find visual references for the set designer and director of photography, then I started digging into early cinematic memories from my teenage years. I made some reference from these films and unknown films. So I had these strange films in mind and I was inspired by Dario Argento. I took screen caps that I showed to collaborators. I needed some help because I’m a budding filmmaker, it’s my first feature film. I needed the help of my parents and grandparents to make the film. I hope in my next film I can get rid of most of the references and find my own way to make a film. I like idea of collage, very different genres in one film where maybe it shouldn’t work but by some magic of the cinema, some mysterious process, it does.”

Perhaps all this is making the film sound a little too serious, I suggest. Humour seems to be an important element too.

“Definitely. If a film has only tragedy it would be like a chore to go through the film. I needed the audience to laugh with the characters so when tragedy happens it’s more powerful because before we’ve enjoyed ourselves with the characters, but it’s really funny because a lot of people don’t know if they’re allowed to laugh with the film or not.”

The Slut
The Slut

There’s also a lot of tension in the film between reality and unreality, or what people perceive as not real. Reality – death and police brutality – doesn’t fare very well. Did he want to talk about the importance of dreams and intellectual pursuit in making life bearable?

“To me cinema is really the land of dreams,” he says. “It’s not that I’m trying to escape reality, I’m trying to deal with reality but with the means of cinema, the means of dreams. It’s more powerful than through reality. The power of the unconscious to make a photocopy of reality is not interesting. Dreams wake up inner demons, things I couldn’t elaborate on in a more realistic film. It’s more interesting, especially in the visuals. We live in a difficult world today, a world full of disasters, and all the characters are coming from disaster, gathering to heal themselves, to heal the wounds from the disaster. Reality is present in the violence of society, the cops knocking at the door. I didn’t want to film in a bubble, I wanted to reflect on reality.”

There’s a sense of threat from the dawn as the narrative draws to a close. Is it bringing the end of the dream?

“It’s the end of the dream and the end of the film to because to me cinema is part of the night – ghosts, vampires and monsters. I’m not very inspired by daylight. The film is over because it’s like a new film starting.”

Like the light on the projector hitting the screen?

“Yes,” he says.

One of the other striking things about the film is its soundtrack, by M83, the band Yann is in with his brother Anthony. How did they approach that?

“I shot the film before. I made my band members read the script before, several times, and sent footage as I was editing and some tracks I had in mind, different songs by very different artists. I wanted to find way into eclecticism in terms of music. My brother had this idea to bring in female voices like sirens. I’m very close to my brother. We only have a three years gap between us. It was great to be able to work with him.”

Finding funds was also tough. The budget increased in pre-production despite Yann’s best efforts but eventually he had to find a way to make it for less that €1m. He hopes, however, that now he has one feature film under his belt it will be easier to get funding for another one.

“I’m in the middle of the writing process. I hope it doesn’t take long because I’m impatient to shoot again. This new film will be horror set in the gay porn industry of the Seventies.” With You And The Night having strong cult appeal, there could be many people eagerly looking forward to it.


You And The Night is out in cinemas from 3 October and on DVD from 10 November.

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