In Which We Speak With The Voice Of Eric Rohmer

Eric Rohmer Says

In French there is a word moraliste that I don’t think has any equivalent in English. It doesn’t really have much connection with the world “moral,” a moraliste is someone who is interested in the description of what goes on inside man. He’s concerned with states of mind and feelings. For example, in the eighteenth century Pascal was a moraliste and you could also call Stendhal a moraliste because he describes what people feel and think. Morality is a very personal matter. But they try to justify everything in their behavior and that fits the word moral in its narrowest sense. But “moral” can also mean that they are people who like to bring their motives, their reasons for actions, into the open, they try to analyze, and they are not people who act without thinking what they were doing. What matters is what they think about their behavior, rather than the behavior itself.

A person’s charm comes across on television almost exclusively in close-up and even then it is helped by the voice, which does come across well. But the way people stand and walk and move, the whole physical dimension… all that is lost.

I’m looking for what is natural, but everyone has their conception of what is natural. I’m very particular about this point. There are actors who seem to me to speak correctly, and those who sound false. Of course, these notions are rather subjective. I’m not really drawn to non-professionals, I think actors speak more correctly than non-actors. There is a certain false theatrical quality into which the actors can be drawn and which I avoided.

Water is the first element. The idea of tears and rain. The lake comes later; it is slightly superfluous, but I’m very fond of water. I like water to look at, and to touch. I am not very fond of the arid Mediterranean landscape. The country I like best is the temperate zone, in central France. The cherry trees, the fruit and flowers: they’re all things I find enormously pleasing.

Yesterday I saw Stroheim’s Merry Widow again; a marvellous film, by the way. I hadn’t seen it for a long time, and I was struck by the sheer frenzy of the costumes and the sets. I don’t like artifice. I prefer nature.

There are people, like Resnais, who like to talk with someone. For me, my interlocutors are my guinea pigs. It has even happened that my actors have served as my guinea pigs, not for the film in which they played, but for the next film. No, I don’t need collaboration. Not at all. I work all alone. I speak to no one. Only when I have finished do I have someone read it.

The demagogues’ problem is that they want to impose culture, because that implies that there is a correct culture, and one that is wrong. While in fact there are different cultures for different audiences.

I’ve always been rather shocked by the resemblance between actors in the cinema. People that directors are experts in physiognomy, but I’m not really, and in lots of films I muddle up characters. Some directors favor a certain physical type, especially a certain female type, in their films. Often different women in a film resemble each other. In contrast, I always sought out strong oppositions, with the men too. I don’t want to find a unity of tone with my actors. I put actors together who should be difficult to use at the same time because of differences in their style.

My heroine returns to a place she has left because she felt uncomfortable there and she didn’t like it, and at the same time it had to be happy, it had to somehow express the interior happiness of someone returning to a place even if they don’t like it. I could have shown it softened by light, but that would have been cheating.

– Eric Rohmer


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