Youthful leap into the light

A new Lindon becomes a French name to watch

by Richard Mowe

Centre of attention: Suzanne Lindon in her debut film as actor, writer and director, Spring Blossom
Centre of attention: Suzanne Lindon in her debut film as actor, writer and director, Spring Blossom Photo: UniFrance
It cannot be easy to cut ties and emerge from the shadow of famous parents yet with her first film Suzanne Lindon appears to have managed the feat that has eluded many in her position.

Daughter of actors Sandrine Kiberlain and Vincent Lindon, Suzanne Lindon, now just 20, started writing Spring Blossom (Seize Printemps) at the age of 15 as she was studying for her secondary school exams. It tells of an infatuation between a teenage girl (played by Lindon herself) and an actor (played by Arnaud Valois) she spies in a local theatre who’s in his 30s. It was chosen in the official online selection at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and was part of the New Directors section at San Sebastian Film Festival.

She demonstrates a wise awareness of her privileged position.“I grew up watching lots of films from an early age. I identified with such young women as Sandrine Bonnaires in Maurice Pialat’s A nos amours and Charlotte Gainsbourg in An Impudent Girl [L'Effrontée] by Claude Miller. She has been likened to youthful Gainsbourg but tries to avoid any such comparisons.

Suzanne Lindon in Spring Blossom: 'With acting I feel free to express myself and where I most feel at ease'
Suzanne Lindon in Spring Blossom: 'With acting I feel free to express myself and where I most feel at ease' Photo: UniFrance
“I am convinced that even if I had grown up outside this milieu I would still have been passionate about cinema. I used to see my parents going off to work and to act, and it would have been unthinkable not have been influenced by all that. Having a cinema culture gave me a curiosity and a desire to discovers films. I don’t think it have me the impetus to act or direct. That came from within me … and the seed must have been implanted early on because I cannot remember ever having wanted to do anything else. I remember being rather shy and timorous about telling my family that I had written the film.”

Initially she was driven by a desire to act. “That was what I most wanted to do. With acting I feel free to express myself and where I most feel at ease. But coming from a family of actors I had to have a certain legitimacy. The way I felt I could achieve that was to write the role for myself and then to direct it. I was so keen to get it made that I didn’t have any particular problems during the filming although there were some. It would be arrogant to suggest otherwise. The most difficult moments came before the shoot, making sure I had everything together. It was tough to find the budget. To find the means to finance a film wasn’t easy for a young girl who had never directed before, been to film school or taken any acting lessons.

“You could say I almost grew up through the character. I had written the role drawing on my experiences and how I felt as an adolescent. With a first film you are always drawing on your own feelings whether you’re writing, acting, or directing. The interesting aspect for me was to add something new to all that and mix in with the fiction. I wanted to leave myself behind and talk about other issues.”

Arnaud Valois and Suzanne Lindon in Spring Blossom. Lindon: 'With a first film you are always drawing on your own feelings whether you’re writing, acting, or directing'
Arnaud Valois and Suzanne Lindon in Spring Blossom. Lindon: 'With a first film you are always drawing on your own feelings whether you’re writing, acting, or directing' Photo: UniFrance
She took a deliberate decision to keep the relationship she describes as platonic. “The girl is almost in love with the idea of being in love. I wanted to confront two people of different ages who were at a crossroads in their lives and didn’t know where they were going. I am not that keen on traditional love stories in the cinema because they always seem less intense on screen than in real life. These feelings are often deep inside the individuals. I wanted their relationship to be respectful and reserved. In fact most of my relationships at that age were platonic,” she said.

Lindon never considered asked her famous parents to participate in the film which might have made financing easier. She felt it important to launch herself independently. “I wanted to make it on my own terms … to stand on my two feet and to be recognised in my own right. Families in the cinema can work - but if I was going to do it it would have to be someone in my family who was not an actor or involved in the business. I would love to work with my grandmother or my aunt who have nothing to do with cinema. The intrigue there is to put someone like that with secrets who reveal themselves in front of the camera.”

She had no qualms despite her lack of experience about taking on the role of director. She did not even think about how she would film it until close to the start of the shoot. She explained: “My first thoughts were about how I would play the character. The script did not change that much … it was written as a kind of diary. There is not that much dialogue in the film: it is more about the situations, the postures and the settings. The direction simply followed the way it had been written. For instance the dance scene came in relatively late because I wanted to have something physical and sensual between them.”

Suzanne Lindon: 'I wanted to make it on my own terms … to stand on my two feet and to be recognised in my own right'
Suzanne Lindon: 'I wanted to make it on my own terms … to stand on my two feet and to be recognised in my own right' Photo: UniFrance
The feelings Lindon wanted to explore were “the awkwardness of falling in love and of being liked by your contemporaries. I wanted to show my character’s obsession for the man - she is the one who drives the relationship much more than him. In that way she is quite like me … I can become quite obsessional. When I find a boy I like then I absolutely let him know my feelings. Otherwise my adolescence was less problematic than the character in the film: I always felt quite relaxed in my skin. There are qualities I admire in my character … she is quite calm and measured and I am not sure I would have felt the same.”

For the moment Lindon has kept a level head. The Cannes selection, she concedes, was “one of the best days of my life”. She recognises, however, the dangers of being swept away by all the attention. “I was very flattered that a film that was so personal to me was so well received by the festival programmers. From a selfish point of view last year has been great.”

Spring Blossom has yet to be released in France and will come out later in the year in the UK through Curzon Artificial Eye. “I want the film to come out and be shown in cinemas. A release online is rather a non-event. I need to see a film in the dark, in a cinema and share it with an audience. That’s an entirely different experience.”

She hasn’t yet been able to move on to a new project. “I am bit superstitious. I need the film to come out first before I can let go. I have a few ideas whirling around my head, but I won’t commit to anything concrete until the film is actually released.”

Spring Blossom has its UK premiere as the closing film in the online Glasgow Film Festival with rental screenings available from 7 March to 10 March, more details at the official site.

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