In the course of these two interviews, one filmed in her home in Yvelines, the other in the former Hôtel des Roches Noires in Trouville, Marguerite Duras looks back on the importance of place in her writing, especially in her films. She describes the crucial presence of women in these places, the same women who move from books to films.
In the first interview, Duras talks of this house in Neauphle-le-Château, “the place in the world she has lived the longest”; she recalls the female characters in her work and their own relationships with the house; she talks of the garden, the forest, of witches and music, Goya and Bach. The second interview begins as a photo album. She talks about Indochina where she was born and grew up, about the house in “The Sea Wall”, the bane of her mother’s life. She talks about her fascination with Anne-Marie Stretter, a character from her novel “The Vice-Consul”, played by Delphine Seyrig in “India Song”. “For several years, my films and books have been love affairs with her”.
“I could talk about this house and garden for hours.” Anyone who’s watched “Nathalie Granger” will remember the house in Neauphle-le-Château, not as a backdrop but as a place that genuinely inhabits the film in the same way as its characters inhabit the house. In Marguerite Duras’ films, these characters are all women and their names stay with us for a long time – Lol V. Stein, Anne-Marie Stretter, Isabelle Granger… “All the women in my books have lived in this house. All of them. Only women inhabit a place, men don’t”.
Michelle Porte becomes an attentive accomplice to the words of Duras, and the film’s substance flows naturally into what Duras’ films are made of. It’s disconcerting to realise the extent to which her presence, her voice and her words blur into her writing and films; she inhabits the film to such a point that she becomes one with it, filling the entire space. This is accentuated by the fact that the interviews are held in the very places where Duras wrote and filmed, so that it becomes a kind of “behind the scenes” of a continual creative process.
“One always thinks one should start off with a story to make a film. It’s not true. With “Nathalie Granger”, I started off with the house […] and then the story came to live there, you see, but the house was already the movie”.
Programmer of Cinéma Le Bourguet in Forcalquier