In Interview: Joachim Lafosse, Director of Our Children

by Mairéad Roche on 08/05/2013

joachim lafosse

Joachim Lafosse’s latest work, Our Children (À perdre la raison), is released in UK cinemas on 10th May. Starring critically acclaimed actress Émilie Dequenne, along with Tahar Rahim and Niels Asterup, the film is based on a real-life case involving a young mother who murdered her four children.

New Empress sat down for a chat with director Lafosse recently in central London to discuss his film and the challenge in avoiding melodramatic clichés and tackling the horrific material on non-judgemental terms.

New Empress: Why did you want to tell this particular story?

Lafosse: Because I think that it is important today to continue to say that it is not easy to be a woman with a lot of children, even if we live in a progressive society. You know when you read the women’s magazines they write that it is easy to be a woman with a lot of children, to be the best dressed, to work, and in fact all the time I think it would be difficult to be a mother with four children and to try to do this job. When I heard [about] this case in Belgium, because it is based on a true story, I heard some people speak about ‘The Monster’ and for me you don’t have a monster in this case. You have a woman who loses reason because she lives in a situation where there is a lot of control and the subject is not the killing of the children. The subject for me is the control.

It is interesting how your film begins at first to appear to be about the men but ultimately, the film is about Murielle, the woman in the story.

Yes, I discovered with this movie after the end of the shooting and the editing I did make a sort of feminist movie but without having had the intention of making a feminist movie. Maybe it was my mother who educated me too much and that is the result.

Was it always the intention to edit the film in such a way that the tragic ending of the film is shown at the beginning?

When I decided to begin with the end of the movie, to do a big tragedy, you have to think [about it] . All the big tragedies begin, for me, with a passion of love and after you have to tell the end at the beginning because if you don’t do that you work with suspense and it’s not possible to work with suspense with a story like that. For me that’s disgusting. But if you give the end at the beginning in fact your job as a spectator is to think how is it possible to arrive there. And I prefer the question ‘How is it possible?’ than the question ‘What’s happened?’ For me, with this sort of subject, the question ‘What’s happened?’ is stupid. You have other films to play with that [question] but not with this one. We succeeded with the screenwriters to keep a little bit of suspense because often the spectators say ‘We were waiting for what happened.’

You use a lot of close-ups in Our Children. Why did you decide to shoot the film in this style?

We discussed a lot with the DOP (Director of Photography) and we know that it is the story of a woman who loses the possibility to have her own private space. You don’t have in this house the possibility to be alone and to propose to the audience the feeling of this situation, we decided to often use close-ups and deep focus. And you have the feeling all of the time of someone who is watching someone watch someone else in this house. At the end of the movie we begin using wide shots to propose that this woman is alone. It is better to use wide shots.

The story is told in episodes, with the birth of each child, for example. Why did you decide to tell the story in this way?

It was very important to work a lot with episodes because the danger with the script is it is boring to see three or four births. We knew with the scriptwriters we have to work well with the episodes and to repeat the situation but not really the same. For example, first you see she is happy, then you see she begins to be tired. At the second you see that André (Niels Asterup) very proud.

The casting of Émilie Dequenne is particularly a great choice for the role of Murielle. Why did you decide to cast her in the part?

Because in Belgium and in France she’s a famous actress but for the audience she is not a star. She keeps something natural. You don’t see ‘star’ when you see the movie and the problem with other actresses when they begin to become famous, often you see a ‘star’ in the cinema. You see that she’s more made up than the others. Émilie accepted to play [the role] without make-up and after to put Émilie in the couple with Tahar Rahim, the actor from A Prophet, I think that it’s a good idea because you know about this couple, they have a story before this movie and I hope that this proposition is interesting for the audience.

image of Joachim Lafosse by ©Anne Van Aerschot

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