‘It’s like discovering a new world when you work with a new person’

/Interview by Natalia Dukhovnikova/

Sarah Jacquier is a director from Paris. She is fascinated by images, colors, and lighting effects. And that’s what Sarah tries to reveal in her projects. Very focused on symbolism, her film «Waldskin — The Shore» restores the tenuous space that connects the world of dreams to reality. We talked with Sarah and found out what is the true meaning of her work.

Sarah Jacquier

What came up first: video idea or the song?

I heard the song first and then just started to have some visions coming in my mind. And step by step I put them together. It was just visions and feelings and then I started to get more precise. I just assembled them together and then it became a story.

How did you decide to make a video for this band Waldskin?

They were looking for someone to make their music videos. I sent them my idea. They had quite a lot of people but they really liked my script. So we agreed to film it. We really did exactly what I wrote. They just let me do everything and be full of creativity. And it was great.

Waldskin band

And how was the filming process going? Did you have any problems?

It was a very long day. Because we had a small budget, we decided to shoot everything in a day. So we started very early and finished really late. The whole crew worked super hard. It was winter. We were in a forest and it was so cold. We had to walk for long distances, for example, from the truck to the location, and bring all the gear through the mud in the forest. It was pretty intense and hectic. We shot in a small calm village near Paris so it was also like a very special ambiance because there are not too many people. It was very atmospheric. The whole place was for us. It felt very immersive to the place.

Actually the crew was amazing so everything went very smoothly. We didn’t have any technical problems either.

Caption from «Waldskin — The Shore»

One of the main characters seems to be that cute dog. Whose it was? And why did you decide to put it in your film?

It is my friend’s dog. He is so funny. We wanted him to be a bit serious but not to be so funny and playful. But he is just the sweetest dog in the world so he was always smiling. He was so happy to be on set, running everywhere. And we were trying to make a scene with emotions when he had to look at the lake but he was just jumping and kissing everyone so it was very hard to put him in a character. And talking about why I decided to film him, well the song felt very organic to me and it is kind of connected to animality. It’s a lot about symbolism and I wanted people to understand the examples of Greek history. The dog is mostly an animal part of the woman while she is going down the road from civilization. Meeting a dog is like a breaking point when she starts to go deeper into wildness and further from society. Besides, in Greek mythology a dog is an animal near the gateway to death, the access to which is through a lake.

What does your main character, the lady, find at the end of her moving?

This woman is going to the edge of life. She is also contemplating the idea of death. But we don’t really have to understand everything in her behavior. Sometimes if you have a breakdown in your life, it can look very dramatic but it’s a revolution anyway. And maybe sometimes we should discover such kinds of places. It’s craziness but at the same time it’s another state of consciousness when she starts to see vision which is important for her. Breaking from society is a good thing for her that lets her come back to reality somehow.

Caption from «Waldskin — The Shore»

What symbols are presented in your film?

The water – it’s a symbol of death. As it was in Greek mythology, it’s the same nowadays. This is about immigration and how in Europe we let people die in water. Water and death are connected, that’s what I wanted to tell. The light represents death too, it’s on an opposite side of the lake.

Do you want the viewers to understand your symbols?

Sometimes a person can’t get what he sees but he feels something and I think that’s  the most important thing in symbols. Personally, I really like to watch videos and don’t understand everything but feel something about them. So with my film I was thinking, anyway although different people have different symbolic things, but they all have primary symbols about which we all have the same feelings. For example, darkness means a dangerous time and a dog is the best animal friend for a human. Dogs are our connection with the rest of the animal world to which we are kind of disconnected now. And the same about the guy carrying a rock. Even if you don’t know Sisyphe, you see someone doing the same thing for hours and you understand that he is doing helpless work that doesn’t make sense. If people want, they can go deeper into things but there is no need to do that, already to feel something about what you see, is a lot.

Why did you decide to make a part with this man, carrying a heavy rock, in your film?

For me this scene really represents another side of the same coin, separated on a man and a woman, a day and a night. The man is going deeper and deeper into the system that we created. He works harder and harder but it’s all useless. My character symbolizes people who are working nonstop and living not the future but the great present. Our society doesn’t think about the future. We are building things not for the future but for a very short period of time. We are accumulating wealth but we are destroying the future wealthness. On the opposite side, this woman is losing her connection with civilization and trying to escape the system but it’s also impossible to do. We can’t live without others. We have two options: to live in this system and follow its rules or to break them. But actually we don’t have any opinion yet to have a sustainable future together and that’s very scary.

Caption from «Waldskin — The Shore»

Then what side do you choose?

Realistically, I want to be in the middle because sometimes when you are doing filmmaking you feel like a man with a heavy rock. We are not saving anyone and most of the time we are not really helping humanity. We just create cool visuals and symbols and of course it’s important for mental health but if you think about the pyramid of needs, this work is very useless. We create things for pleasure and diversion. But if I had a choice of these two sides, I would choose the woman’s one, I like forests and freedom.

And have you been yourself in a situation of being in a system’s slavery?

When I was younger, I used to work on a factory. I was doing the same thing again and again there and it’s then when I understood how crazy the system is. We organized nature the way we wanted and created all these endless mass production processes. And it feels so disconnected to nature and life. Working on a factory makes you feel that society is not designed for humans anymore. We create stuff that is not good for us. But sometimes I feel the same about cinematography. People put so much of themselves into it but it’s only a virtual world that doesn’t belong to human. All those pixels and screens are not something we can grab and hold. We are creating a reality that we are excluded of because in the very beginning of us we are animals. And this reality exists only in people’s minds. But of course this world of imaginary and emotions is great and we should find a balance in it. But today we got lost in it, we spent too much time in front of screens. We are not robots and should remember how slower nature is.

What type of cinematography attracts you mostly?

At different times I have various favorite types of movies. I’d like to have a new wave of movies like Jorodowsky’s ones. I like more symbolic movies, not just storytellingly based but symbolic based. For example, Jodorowsky is one of those people in whose movies I don’t understand everything. It’s full of symbolism that I don’t know but it does something to my brains. It’s very deep and I get something from it.

David Lynch is the same. I don’t understand anything but it’s definitely something inside of my head after watching. And for me it’s very important to watch movies like that because they don’t follow the traditional storytelling rules. I think it’s a potential for spiritual movies which are not really uncovered yet. I like dream movies and everything that breaks the life we experience as humans.

And I also like movies with strong female characters when women are heros or very tough characters lead by action, when they are not on the second word.

What genre of movies do you like creating?

When I create things, I’m very drawn to dark stories. I don’t know, maybe that’s because I always try to be a very happy and enjoyable person for other people so when I put something out by myself, there is only the dark ambience remaining. That’s what naturally comes out.

What is your favorite part of the filmmaking process?

I love to write scripts and I think it’s my favorite part. Well, when we write a script, we don’t know yet if we are going to get the project. It’s stressful but when you start to shoot, it’s such a relief. Then you understand that there’s no way out, you are already doing that even not knowing what will happen. And another thing I like about shooting is that it’s a teamwork and it’s amazing. The project is not yours anymore, it belongs to other people too. And everyone brings a lot of themselves and that’s what makes the project beautiful at the end. Eventually these people become your project. It’s like discovering a new world when you work with a new person. And about editing, I think it’s better to hire a special person for that task.

Sarah Jacquier during filmmaking process

How did your career as a director begin?

I feel like I’ve already made several careers. Because I started working in a pretty different field, I was doing a lot of reports for cultural tv shows and museums. Everything was based on the culture of some places. I’m so passionate about it, it was really amazing. I worked a lot in the Arab Institute in Paris. That was so inspiring and helped me realize how close we are, our cultures. And after that I moved to Australia and worked there as an editor and started to work on documentaries. It has been for a year and a half since I’ve started to write scripts connected not to reality, more about fashion and music. I did some music videos for several people. It’s been very recently that I started to do what you see now and it feels as a completely different work.

Do you find art a useful and meaningful activity for society?

I think it’s good that we are creating movies, showing them to people and trying to help them understand everything and themselves better. Storytelling is the first thing humans do. But sometimes I do feel that I’m not helping those who are right now on the streets, lonely and cold. All I’m doing is working in small boxes. There are more bigger priorities in life but we still need things like movies. It’s essential.

What is your dream film you would like to create one day?

I already have an idea of this movie. It will describe what it really means to be a human, this intelligent animal that still has to obey nature rules and his animal instincts. Women have to admit what is happening to their bodies during the whole life and so men do. And this is not something we decide or choose in our life. It’s a destiny that nature put on us and we are its slaves.