Interview: film director Alain Guiraudie discusses Stranger by the Lake
The film is a provocative tale of love, passion and treachery set against a lakeside gay cruising area
His name may not be as familiar as his two openly gay French director colleagues François Ozon and André Téchiné, but Alain Guiraudie is emerging from the shadows thanks to Stranger by the Lake. His provocative tale of love, passion and treachery set against a lakeside gay cruising area was screened as part of Un Certain Regard at Cannes last year, winning him the Best Director award as well as the Queer Palm Award. The film has garnered nominations for no less than eight Césars (the French Oscars). Guiraudie, one of French cinema’s most original if under-appreciated voices, lives and tends to work close to his home in the country near Toulouse.
Your previous films such as The King of Escape and No Rest for the Brave have created fictitious worlds, but here you wanted to make something much more personal. Why?
What I decided to do was to talk about something familiar to me. So the story was about homosexuality. In my previous films the worlds that I created were pure invention. This time I wanted to base it on something I really knew and make a film that was about love, desire, and passion. I really wanted to explore this idea of a passion where the other person really gets under your skin.
Were the characters based on people you had known?
The main character, Franck (played by Pierre Deladonchamps) is inspired by someone I know very well. I also think I put a lot of myself into it. Henri, the lonely guy who sits and watches (Patrick d’Assumҫao), was also based on someone in real life, but I fleshed him out by giving him a broader background of despair. Michel (Christophe Paou) is a product of my imagination. He is a cross between a god of the lake and an ultra-liberal modern lover and serial cruiser and looks just a bit like Tom Selleck.
You are a fan of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Did you have the feel of his films in mind when preparing Stranger by the Lake?
Before I started work I re-read Jean Genet's Querelle and also re-watched the film that Fassbinder made of the novel. It was more to make sure that I wasn't treading on their toes. But if you want a very distant influence it would be Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter, and an atmosphere of brooding I wanted to create.
What’s on the horizon?
It's a film about a dairy taken over by a co-operative of farm workers and smallholders in the French countryside: I'd quite like it to be in the Lozère. And against this revolutionary background, there's a love story between two men.
Stranger by the Lake is on limited release from Fri 21 Feb.