The Black Nights Film Festival’s diverse programme included among other great movies a unique and exciting gem called All the Gods in the Sky by Quarxx. In the following interview, the French director and multimedia artist Quarxx discusses his feature film debut in a little more detail.
Synopsis: Simon, a 30-year-old man, works at a factory and lives confined on a decrepit farm alone with his younger sister, Estelle, who is severely handicapped since a childhood game that took a disastrous turn. Despite his deep remorse and the violence of the world that surrounds him, Simon desperately hopes to save his sister by liberating her from the weight of the world. What if their salvation was coming from “them”?
You have said that the fundamental subject of your movie All the Gods in the Sky is remorse. Since you are an artist, which are the other subjects that are most interesting for you in art, and why did you feel that this is the topic that needs to be presented in a form of film?
The film is definitely about remorse but not only. As I wanted the narrative structure of the film to be a reflexion of the state of mind of the main character, I didn’t want to have a linear story with one single subject but different layers that define the psychological unbalance of Simon. As the film is a blend of genres (drama, sci-fi, horror, comedy), the sublayers of the plot deal with other subjects such as schizophrenia, loneliness and differences to the norm.
Those are the kind of topics that interest me at the moment. Nothing lasts forever and I like to evolve but for now, I feel that exploring the darker (and the brighter) side of the human spirit is a very interesting artistic challenge and it makes great stories!
First of all, you wrote it as a feature film script, but then it came out as a short film A Nearly Perfect Blue Sky and only a few years later, the full-length movie All the Gods in the Sky was born. Are there any kind of major differences between the short and the full-length movie, or are they basically just two versions of the same movie?
It is really two versions of the same movie. A Nearly Perfect Blue Sky is just a darker concentrated version of All the Gods in the Sky as it is shorter. It doesn’t include the emotional part that the feature-length contains. It has also a few other twists.
While you were making this movie, were there any situations where you had to change something that was written in the scenario or improvise quickly because you couldn’t follow the script for some reason?
No, I worked a lot in pre-production in order to avoid all the problems that we were facing when shooting the short. I had a very precise idea of what I wanted and how the film should be that in my mind there was no place for improvisation.
Fortunately, production went very smoothly and unlike the short, we had no major problems.
All the Gods in the Sky is quite a genre-bender and features elements from different genres. For example, in the programme of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, it was called a fantasy drama which is a pretty good definition. But parallels have been drawn also with French New Extremity movement. Are you aware of this movement and how do you feel about that comparison?
Yes, I was talking about it previously, I didn’t want to be restricted nor confined in what people consider as a genre. For me, there are no boundaries between those so-called genres and I often like to cross the line between them. I think ‘fantasy drama’ is a quite good definition.
Regarding the French New Extremity, of course I’m well aware of that movement. Of course I am a huge admirer of Gaspard Noé’s work. Marina de Van’s In My Skin was also a major blow to me. I also like the work of Pascal Laugier, Philippe Grandrieux and many others, so it’s very flattering to me to be compared to them but I don’t really feel I’m being a part of this movement but maybe it’s not for me to say.
Given that All the Gods in the Sky is dealing with rather dark subjects, did you feel that you need to censor yourself at some point or pull back somehow while you were writing the script?
I didn’t feel at all I had to pull back in any way. First of all, because I never wanted to push the limits, to be voyeuristic or being shocking for the sake of being shocking. I just wanted to tell the story I had in mind. And second of all, I had some very supportive producers in the person of Vincent Brançon from TBC and François Cognard from TOBINA FILM that understood where I wanted to go and why I was going there.
The film is set in an idyllic rural area. Except the fact that it’s just charming and down to earth, did you decide to use such setting due to the fact that it allows showing the progressive isolation of the characters more easily, or was there any other reason for preferring the countryside?
You are right when saying that a countryside environment allows more of an isolation feeling than an urban one. Since the beginning I wanted to focus on the aesthetic aspect of the film, I also wanted to put my characters in a rough environment for both those reasons I thought a rural area was appealing.
One of the subjects that stuck with me while watching the movie was offering physical intimacy to someone who is not able to express their wishes. This is played out very realistically but at the same time, it’s more like a nightmare than satisfaction. How did you decide to present that issue in this way, any inspiration from real life?
I wanted to show that Simon is taking care of his sister but just the wrong way. What he thinks is beneficial for her, turns out to be a nightmarish experience. The scene is intense, crude and sad and by adding long moments of silence I wanted to emphasize the loneliness of both characters facing something neither of them wants.
Have you received any feedback to the film that has really surprised you or given you a great deal of thought?
I am always surprised and very pleased by the critics that are written on the film. So far it has been only very positive. Even though I know the film is dividing and not for all audiences all the feedbacks are on the green!
Does the film contain any direct or indirect references to some of your role models, favourites or influences?
No. I really didn’t want to make a reference movie. I wanted to create and develop a unique universe that is not the product of my own influences.
Is there something else you would like to say?
It’s been great presenting my film in Estonia during the Black Nights Film Fest, hope to be back soon!
Questions by Helina Koldek.