Unlike most 19-year-olds, Adèle Exarchopoulos has a Palme d'Or. With the making and release of Blue Is The Warmest Color, as well as the skirmishes that have broken out in its wake — between director Abdellatif Kechiche and co-star Léa Seydoux, but also the press, the director of the French government's arts administration and funding, and occasionally even Exarchopoulos herself — it's hard to imagine a more intense entry into the world of Art Cinema.
But the film is a fascinating and sometimes frustrating observation of a life in progress, and Exarchopoulos is never less than captivating in it. The Scene spoke with her briefly following the film's press screening last month at the 2013 New York Film Festival.
So how much improvisation went into creating the character of Adèle?
We (Léa and I) had a big part of improvisation, but Adèle was always there. ... We had the freedom of the space — for example, we would have a scene where I had to call my mother, and the camera would go out and follow me. We also had the freedom of the time — the camera could roll for 40 minutes (at a time).
That seems intense.
Sometimes it's exhausting, but it's ... enriching. [aside] I hope I am not inventing words. ... So we had the freedom of improvisation, but there was always a base, a text, or a situation — even when it is just the body language, we have the situation in our mind, and we just have to let it go.
Since the film is subtitled Chapters 1 and 2 (the film's French title is La Vie d'Adèle — Chapitres 1 + 2), is this a part you'd like to come back to?
Everyone asks, "For you, what is the end?" And I really don't know. I love the fact that no one really knows what happens next and I love that she can still exist in people's imagination and spirit. But if we found the next chapter of her life, for sure.
This was a demanding role for you. Was there ever a point at which it seemed to be too much?
During the casting, I knew I wanted this part because I love his (Kechiche's) cinema, the trends in his cinema: the long scenes of food, the fact that they give justice to women — and also the modesty of men. And in France, we know that he gives justice to actresses, too. I love when someone asks me to give everything, when it is in this same sense.
So the tumultuous experiences, both during the shoot and after, were worth it?
When you have to abandon yourself, I think it's human to ask some questions, personal questions. But I've never had one regret.