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Christophe Offenstein: Lonely Together


(Votes count 368)

(Rating average 3,04)

Christophe Offenstein is one of the great professionals of french cinema who have turned this country in the most poweful in europe. Guillaume canet's trusted cinematographer, debuts now as a director with en solitaire, a modern sea odissey full of emotion and beauty which we have enjoyed before its commercial release in Rellumes.
How did you decide to start directing?
I've always been very interested about acting. As cinematographer I've always been very aware of the importance of actors, and I have a good report with them. I think actors are who tell the story and that images should be at their service. Obviously that is not so in all kinds of films, but yes in those who deal with storytelling. From the complicity with actors I reached the decision of wanting to tell a story with my own cast. In order to do so, I had to become a director, of course.

It looks as if shooting En solitaire was no walk in the park …

It actually was very complex from a technical point of view. The producers and I made the decision from the very beginning that the film could only be done shooting in the high seas. Well, we checked with the actors, of course. Actually, François Cluzet was the first of the three to jump aboard, literally. We spent 43 days in the sea, in conditions that were really dangerous at some points, with up to 6 meter high waves. While shooting the scene with the small Canadian, the waves were four meters high. It could only be done because everybody put all their passion in the project. There never was a bad word. Everybody shared the same commitment and energy. Only that allowed us to reach the truth. There was a lot of comraderie, but otherwise the shooting would have turned into a nightmare.

The story itself is quite simple, just like a fable or a tale.

I wanted it to be a very simple story. I wanted to create a popular tale for all ages, something that could reach everyone. It's not an elitist movie. I think the only way for us to compete with TV and bring people back to the theatres is reaching as wide an audience as possible. That's why I wanted to shoot an adventure film, simple and straightforward. Then everyone can reach his or her own conclusions. You can find there a reflection upon political, human and social problems, upon life itself. And this is done by means of an escapist story that is also used to create a real character, showing the difference between his everyday life and his adventure alone.

Actually he is only relatively alone, as he is always connected thanks to technology…

This is one of the paradoxes of communication nowadays. The sailor is in fact alone against adversity, against the decisions he has to make. The new media do not actually mean care or complicity. They increase the feeling of loneliness. When he uses them, the main character ends up talking about banalities, silly things. Sailors told us that when they communicate with the outside world their feeling of isolation increased. They felt even upset because of these talks. There's certainly irony in the title, because the character is never really en solitaire. But the decisions he takes he must take alone: alone in front of the human problem he faces.

And the best bit is that the film never gives in to clichés or melodrama.

We try to be as realistic as possible. We wanted to show tense and dangerous moments but avoiding always been too sensationalist. We've tried to follow the course of one of these sailing adventures, we mimicked the route of an actual sailor in competition. And we also tried to reinforce the characters' personality with dramatic elements, but without exaggeration. We show how adversity unites them and how a real friendship is born.

Will you keep on directing?

Certainly. It has been a very gratifying experience. I will obviously also keep on working as a cinematographer with directors like Canet and others. I think I can keep both things in parallel, because this is something you do out of passion. And I feel passion for driving a story to the point I think it should reach. Joining a crew around an idea until it becomes a reality.