In Nuit #1, the feature-length debut of French-Canadian auteurist Anne Emond, Clara and Nikolai, two characters on the verge of separate nervous breakdowns, meet for a hookup, only to get waylaid by philosophical conversation. It’s a modern spin on the familiar My Night at Maud’s template, in the talky, static style of New Wave filmmakers like Eric Rohmer (whom Emond cites as an influence) and his Moral tales. The morality implicit in Nuit, however, isn’t quite so obvious. I spoke with Emond and Catherine de Lean, the star of the film, about condoms, porn, and sexual realism in the film.
The relationship between the two characters in the film seemed like a kind of intervention for both of them. Even the format of the film was set up like AA. I wondered what their relationship is going to change about both of those people after having met each other. Did you have that in mind when thinking about the characters?
DE LEAN: For me, Clara, the woman, is on the verge of committing suicide. She’s really going to do it in the next week. And this night when they meet really changes her life because she’s not going to make it, she’s not going to do it because she was able to open herself to someone. When I read the script I really hated Nikolai, and I like that it’s not romantic because she opens herself up almost by accident. She was not on the verge to do that, she was just listening to him and she’s really closed and then, we don’t know why, but it happens and I like that it’s an accident. It’s not like they like each other–he’s not good company, you know? Maybe it’s easier to open yourself up to someone that you don’t care about and that you almost hate than to someone that you really care about, I don’t know. But I really liked that.
EMOND: Like you said, it’s not at all the beginning of a love story. For me, they will never see each other again probably. They have a lot in common in a way, maybe too much in common, they are so alone and despairing and everything. For me, Nikolai is in a dangerous place. He’s so lost and he has no money and he’s not on the good side and it’s kind of frightening. I’m worried about this character. In fact, he’s inspired by friends of mine and I’m worried about those friends. What I love is that Nikolai also changed during this night because he didn’t find the love of his life or anything but he could take care of someone else other than himself. Because he’s also a selfish guy, he’s not able to take care of himself. But for two minutes he could take Clara in his arms and I’m sure he’s a better human being after this night.
What I really liked that I don’t really see a lot is how, sexually, he was a much more caring person than he was just normally.
EMOND: Yeah, and when she’s about to go away he doesn’t want her to go, he wakes up and takes her back. It’s funny, because a lot of men have told me, ‘Wow, he acts like a woman a little bit.’ And it’s true in a way, and it’s like movie magic, I could write this character because I wish men were like that a little bit sometimes. But it’s not true that guys just want sex and then nothing. It’s not true, it’s an image, it’s a dream. Guys don’t just want sex, they also want people and relationships and they want love.
Yeah. I feel like most of the time guys want more than girls want. I feel like girls are a little more self-sufficient in that way and guys are trying to get something.
EMOND: I think all human beings want other human beings. That’s my feeling. We just don’t want to be alone and we want real communication.
DE LEAN: Because we’re used to seeing how movies affect our lives and then you watch these movies and you see two people having sex for the first time and they have this big orgasm and the girl is having so much pleasure and screaming and it’s really stupid because it never happens like that in real life. And then it affects us when we’re having sex because we have those images in our minds and then the real thing that’s happening is really disturbing. It interferes with reality. What I really liked about this first scene is that it’s not bad sex, but it’s not Hollywood sex and people having so much pleasure. I wanted to be a part of this because I wanted to show this and say, ‘Well, maybe it’s more like this in real life.’
EMOND: They have to stop to take the condom, she goes to the bathroom.
DE LEAN: Yeah, it’s really not romantic.
I feel like in movies they do this and in porn they do this: they cut the body into sections. It’s the face, the genitals, the legs. It’s never full. You have to guess at what’s going on. But this preserved the intimacy which I like.
EMOND: Yeah, it drives me crazy. Some would say, ‘Why do you show all this sex? Why do you show naked people? It’s porn.’ But no, it’s the opposite of porn. It’s real bodies, real people. For me, it’s not shocking at all. If you want to be shocked, go on the Internet and there are terrible things. For me, this is just nice and natural. Maybe it’s a little strange because you watch it with people in the theater and maybe you’re just a little bit shy to watch it in front of other people. But for me, it’s natural, not porn.