Furia, debut feature by 20-year-old Alexandre Aja
 "In the kind of films I like, the audience is caught up in a whirlwind"
 At the tender age of 20, Alexandre Aja has just finished directing his first feature film,
 Furia. This "showbiz brat" (son of Alexandre Arcady) was born to shoot, so to speak: his
 short film Over the Rainbow was selected for the 1997 Cannes Festival and toured
 festivals throughout the world. Now Furia, his debut feature, is already in the cutting
 room. Simultaneously, Alexandre Aja is studying for a philosophy degree at the

 Unifrance: Why did you choose a science fiction story for your debut feature? As a
 genre, fantasy films are not very common in French cinema....

 Alexandre Aja: I see Furia as a psychological film, even though it takes place in a
 science fiction setting. Itís about the apocalypse, the hell experienced by each of the
 characters, the fury of the world that surrounds us. I love fantasy and sci-fi. I think theyíre
 an excellent way of expressing yourself. Right now, as it happens, Iím writing a story
 about the Minotaur legend. Iím drawn to fantasy; it swims against the tide of "reality
 films" you see everywhere in France these days. In my opinion, choosing overly realistic
 subjects that donít make people dream amounts to clipping your wings. To make the
 audience think, you have do the exact opposite: show them something different. In the
 kind of films I like, the audience is caught up in a whirlwind that totally lifts them out of
 their day-to-day lives. Theyíre films that make you feel things: when you come out of the
 movie, you want to talk about it. And strangely enough, you can actually identify with
 what you see in it more than in films that just set out to show something.

 Unifrance : How did you pick your subject?

 Alexandre Aja : While I was shooting my short, I came across a three-page story
 called "Graffiti" by Julio Cortazar, a great Argentinian writer. This story, from which Furia
 is loosely adapted, was about the love between two young people who live under a
 fictional dictatorial regime and meet at night, when they go out to paint graffiti. I was
 hooked on this powerful love story, the rifts it expresses, these characters who were the
 same age as me and had the same dream and the desire, like me, to get something

 Unifrance : Youíre tackling the feature after only one short. Other young
 directors often spend more time "cutting their teeth." You seem to have wanted
 to speed things up...

 A.Aja : I filmed my short together with my best friend, Grégory Levasseur. Weíve known
 each other since our first year in high school. We discovered that we both wanted to
 make movies, so we wrote the short together. I was seventeen when I landed the CNC
 grant; It was a point of honor for me to do the film without my fatherís help. The success
 of Over the Rainbow took us totally by surprise. It traveled all over the world with
 Unifrance, it got into the official selection at Cannes, and during the Festival we were
 asked if we wanted to do a feature. So we buckled down to write the script.

 Unifrance : How do you work?

 A.Aja : At first itís the story that drives me to write. For a long time I work on the plot,
 the treatment and the narrative. Then, once that is done, I start writing the dialogue.
 Grégory and I always write together: we talk about it, we jot down a few lines and then
 take it from there. Another important thing for me is a simple rule: why are we making
 this film? With Furia, I am interested in the deep story: itís about breaking free, fighting
 against repression, finding love and fighting for it, before you go as far as killing in order
 to love. Before the shoot, I work with each actor. I try to dissect each character.
 Afterward, I try to bring the actors to where I want to go. They too bring me something
 extra, which gives the characters a kind of magic. The hard work is done in
 pre-production; everyone does their homework. The shoot itself is really only

 Unifrance : Emancipation, the search for love: you seem to be very concerned by
 the themes you deal with...

 A.Aja : I try to put myself in the charactersí shoes; of course, identification plays a part.

 Unifrance : How did you choose your actors, Stanislas Merhar and Marion

 A.Aja : While I was writing the screenplay, I started to think about a twenty-year-old
 actor who could play the male character. I couldnít really find the profile: I liked Stanislas
 Merhar, but I pictured the character as more Latin. And then he was the first to discover
 the screenplay, which we had written quietly on our own. When he read it, he told me, "I
 love it, I want to do it." Plus, he has that withdrawn side, with all that poetry... After Iíd
 met him, I knew it had to be him. The next month, he got the César Award and told
 "Libération" that he wanted to do my film: it was excellent! As for Marion Cotillard, she
 has been in several made-for-TV movies, in which sheís sensational. All of these actors
 have the quality of being able to really disappear behind their characters and actually
 become the people in the story. Next, the script won the Best Screenplay Award at the
 Paris Festival. France Télévision coproduced us, Canal Plus came in, and everything
 took off really fast, as it did with the short. We were up and running and the gods were
 with us. Weíd filmed the short in one week; we shot the feature in only six. It was tough,
 we had no money, no time... Every minute counted. It was very hard, intense work. At
 the end of it all, Iím very satisfied. I hope to be able to release the film in June.

 Unifrance: For your first film, you were lucky enough to work with some seasoned

 A.Aja : Thatís right. It brought me into contact with a lot of good people. I asked Gerry
 Fisher to be cinematographer. I have a huge admiration for him. Heís been in the
 business for fifty years! Heís worked in Hollywood, he was a camera operator on The
 Bridge on the River Kwai and director of photography on all of Joseph Loseyís films, not
 to mention Highlander. The music brought me into contact with another great guy: Iíd
 loved Queenís original soundtrack for Highlander and especially the work of Brian May,
 the legendary guitarist, who is also a composer. He agreed to write some fantastic
 music for my film.

 Unifrance : How do you see French cinema?

 A.Aja : I donít feel particularly involved in French cinema: Iím interested in cinema in
 general. There are a lot of things I like in French cinema, and others I donít like at all.
 Thereís a movement I donít subscribe to because it contributes nothing: these people
 who show life the way it is, and launch into dissertations about love affairs theyíve had or
 would like to have. I guess if it makes them happy, fine. My generation is a generation of
 wimps. Maybe itís because previous generations had something to say, but these days
 we lack imagination. I find that a dimension of life is lacking, there is a lack of great
 themes, the desire to provide a mythical dimension that goes beyond everyday love
 storiesÖ French cinema is lacking in what we find in the cinema of directors like Oliver
 Stone. My cult films arenít French, theyíre American. Apocalypse Now , The Shining,
 Taxi Driver , and Touch of Evil are the films I consider the most perfect and
 accomplished. I love directors like Coppola, Scorsese, and Brian De Palma, but also
 Sergio Leone, Kusturica, Polanski, CronenbergÖ

 Unifrance : Do you have more projects in the works?

 A.Aja : Iíd like to go on making films that are quite big, not easy to put together, but
 some of them could be in English... Ten years from now, Iíd like to have achieved some
 of the dreams I have now. I hope Iíll have been able to make more films ... but who
 knows? Maybe Iíll still be a philosophy student!


 In a land devastated by a recent war, a society where freedom is a thing of the past and
 people who write on walls are arrested, tortured and killed, Theo, age 20, ventures out
 into the streets each night to paint graffiti. One night he meets Elia, a girl who paints,
 like him, to escape from this world of repression. Their wall art embraces them in a
strange and passionate love affair.

Director: Alexandre Aja
Technical adviser: Alexandre Arcady
Executive producer: Robert Benmussa
Screenplay: Gregory Levasseur
DP: Gerry Fisher
Editing: Yves Deschamps, Agathe-Charbonnel
Sound: Dominique Levert
          Interview by Christine Gendre and Magali Montet

source: Unifrance