Albert Dupontel, standing in front of an audience who have just watched his newest film, can be described as two things. Modest certainly, shaking his head at compliments given by the man introducing him. Also unassumingly funny, taking his jacket off mid-way through the talk with the unabashed confession ‘sorry, I’m sweating a lot’. It was of course only the second time 9 Month Stretch had screened in the UK, so if he was a little nervous it was understandable. Not that he showed much sign of any jitters.
Dupontel interestingly classed 9 Month Stretch as a ‘film drama – it’s not a comedy’. The first draft was very sad, and gradually through re-writes it gained a humorous edge. Making it funny however was no laughing matter. In the case of writing humour, ‘it’s not funny trying to be funny’. He also thought of the judge, the most dangerous character, because of her tendency to see herself ‘above everything, including emotions’. She’s in complete denial, whereas the ‘criminal stays close to humanity’.
One of the most interesting audience queries was about the matter of the violence. Asked about the scenes (the main one including some possessed behaviour from various kitchen implements) and what he was trying to say with them, Dupontel merely replied, ‘well nothing’. He went on, ‘it’s completely silly […] just like a cartoon […] that’s it, nothing more’. He went on to explain that the most grisly images did stem from the mind of a man who is so desperate for answers, that he begins creating ridiculous scenarios in order to prove his innocence.
Careful to differentiate between inspiration and influence, Dupontel named his biggest influences as Monty Python and the work of director Terry Gilliam, mentioning Brazil in particular. Inspiration is a more personal process. In terms of the plotline for 9 Month Stretch, ‘my nightmare was to be convicted for something I hadn’t done’, which is of course the horror faced by the criminal Dupontel plays. He described finding the inspiration as ‘watching my own fear’.
With regards to taking on the role of both director and actor, Dupontel split his time on set into two different experiences. When asked how he handled both jobs he laughingly replied, ‘being a megalomaniac in a way’. Acting he sees as the more ‘immature’ side of the coin, where he could have some fun, miss lines and getting to know the other cast members. Directing on the other hand is the ‘mature’ role, something he feels ‘is my way’. There are definite benefits to acting though, which is getting one actor for free. ‘Not a joke!’ he confirmed.
Along with the questions, the positive reviews came rolling in. Young or old, French-speaker or subtitle reader, it’s clear that 9 Month Stretch is a winner with the Oxford crowd.
PHOTO/ Midi Libre