Interview with François Ozon
What inspired you to tell the story of a young man's journey toward death?
It all started with an idea I had to do a trilogy about mourning. The trilogy began with Under the Sand, a "tearless melodrama" about coping with the death of a loved one. Time to Leave is about coping with one's own death. And the third installment, which I may make someday, will address the death of a child.
In Under the Sand, death is treated as an open question. In Time to Leave, denial is not an option. The film careens straight toward Romain's death...
In Under the Sand, Jean's death is not confirmed, so we can choose not to believe it, we can deny its existence. In Time to Leave death is a reality, a certitude. I didn't want to leave any room for ambiguity about Romain's chances for survival, there are none. That is why I chose terminal cancer. And the fact that the character is young makes his illness all the more cruel. There is no suspense or mystery about it. As opposed to Under the Sand, where we never see Jean drown and there is no cadaver. With Time to Leave on the other hand, I wanted to see the body dying, I wanted to accompany Romain on his journey toward death and explore the different phases he goes through, from anger to denial... to acceptance.
One might have imagined that Romain's illness would be AIDS rather than cancer…
I needed a disease with no possible remission, and fortunately today it is possible to live with AIDS. Anyway, I don't feel capable of doing a film about AIDS yet. I'm sure I will someday, once I've gained some perspective on my own experiences and what I've observed around me. Time to Leave is nevertheless marked by the anxiety that my generation has experienced with regard to AIDS. Our sexual awakening came hand in hand with an acute awareness of illness and death.
Romain does not adopt the attitude we might have expected from him. He is not swept up with a desire to live out his last months in the fast lane...
Right, as opposed to Les Nuits Fauves (Savage Nights), where the condemned hero explodes with vitality and desire. Personally, I am more moved by Hervé Guibert's approach to illness and death, in his writing but also in his beautiful film La pudeur ou l’impudeur (Modesty and Shame).
For my film, I had no desire to present a character doing extraordinary things. I wanted to show the concrete reality of the situation: how do you live when you know you are going to die? How do you feel, what choices do you make? For example, just because he's got a noose around his neck doesn't mean Romain will make peace with his family. He’s more interested in making peace with himself. Romain is generally detaching himself from others. He is deliberately unpleasant to his boyfriend Sasha, insulting him and provoking a separation in order to help him move on, to symbolically mourn the end of their relationship, even if this means Sasha is likely to suffer guilt later. Romain's behavior is a double-edged sword. Like Marie in Under the Sand, he's not a hero, he's just a human being trying to do the best he can in a terrible situation.
Why this refusal to make the characters heroic?
Maybe to demystify the romantic notion of death as sanctifier. If Romain does attain a certain form of heroism, it happens indirectly, on a very personal level, concerning only his own trace. He is more interested in what he is going to transmit than in making peace with others. Romain is a relatively egocentric, cruel character. He decides not to tell his loved ones about his condition, thus leaving them unprepared, which means his death will cause them that much more suffering. But after all, why shouldn't Romain have the right to choose how he will die? He makes a conscious decision to embrace his solitude and answer only to himself. He does confide in his grandmother, who is close to death herself and thus someone he can easily relate to. For me, the scene between Romain and his grandmother is the heart of the film.
Facing death is like seeing yourself as a child...
It is often said that when people grow old they become children again.
Naturally, I couldn't help thinking of Bergman's Wild Strawberries, however I chose to show simple moments, nothing extraordinary or significant. Just childhood images that come in flashes. I wanted moments, expressions, very few words, an atmosphere, some sensations. Perhaps the childhood images that haunt Romain are helping him accept the child within him, so he can let go, hand it over.
Do you understand Romain's decision not to do chemotherapy?
It is clear to me that Romain has no chance for survival. In an earlier version of the screenplay, the doctor explains to Romain in no uncertain terms that he is condemned to die and advises him to make the most of his last months. He doesn't even suggest a treatment. But when I asked a reputed cancer specialist to read the scene, he told me that from an ethical point of view, a doctor has no right to say such a thing. He must always give the patient some hope, even if deep down he knows there is none. I rewrote the scene with this in mind, so it would be credible. But I had no interest in showing Romain doing research on his illness and gradually coming to the conclusion that he has no chance of survival. It's a hard, cold fact that is set out explicitly at the beginning of the film, and I did not want to spend any more time on it.
Why is Romain a photographer?
At first, Romain’s photography is superficial. He works in fashion, his job is about capturing ephemeral images. But photography takes on a deeper meaning for Romain when he learns he is going to die. Suddenly, it has another dimension. Now his profession seems like it was meant to be, not just a random choice.
Like being a cinephile, being a photographer can be somewhat morbid. Making, developing, storing and collecting images are all ways of fighting against time, trying to keep it at bay.
Time to Leave is a rather minimalist film. Tell us about the editing process.
The editing process was long and difficult. The first version of the screenplay was raw and barebones, but it frightened my producers, and I realized that in order to convince our investors, I'd have to fill out the screenplay. So I developed certain scenes and characters, and then filmed this new version. But looking at the final film today, I can see it actually resembles the original screenplay. In the editing room, our work mainly consisted of editing out all the extra stuff, letting go of any and all scenes that detracted from, or watered down, the power of the character's journey. Gradually I realized that the more we focused on Romain, the more the film would work and the less we would need those auxiliary scenes. Like in Under the Sand, where I followed the character closely, never losing sight of her. Except that film was made without backing, on a tiny budget. I had to get to the nitty-gritty right away, I had to film "lean" from the outset. I didn't have those extras scenes to work with.
Do you think this difficult editing process was necessary, or is it a sign of something dysfunctional about the movie business?
I think it's just that I have the luxury today of being able to film "fat" and then edit "lean". I shoot quickly, so I'm taking the risk of acting according to my instinct, moving in several directions at once and not necessarily being aware of all the stakes involved. With Under the Sand, I shot over two separate periods, so I had an opportunity to see that Charlotte Rampling was strong enough to carry the story. With Time to Leave, we were barreling forward full steam ahead with an uninterrupted shooting schedule. This was the first time I'd ever worked with Melvil Poupaud, and I was apprehensive about taking on a male character, I was afraid he wouldn't inspire enough audience identification. Filming more scenes served to reassure me, then the real writing of the film took place in the editing room.
You are usually more inclined to film women.
Melodramas about men are extremely rare, and more often than not they are children or old men. The emotions and interiority of melodramas are generally carried by women. For this film, I wanted to try a masculine melodrama, I wanted to see if this young man's story could solicit tears, which meant I would need to eroticize the actor. It is important for the audience to "fall in love" with Romain, so they can empathize with him and accept his journey. Perhaps this is why I chose Jeanne Lapoirie as director of photography. I wanted a woman's view of Melvil, with lighting that would emphasize his beauty.
Was Melvil Poupaud an obvious choice for you?
I've always liked Melvil's rather distant presence on screen, especially in Rohmer's Conte d'Eté (A Summer's Tale). He is the only male lead in the 4 Seasons series, and Rohmer filmed him with the same grace and eroticism as he filmed the young women.
I had auditioned Melvil for several of my earlier films, but it was when he invited me to a screening of his video shorts that something really clicked. I was moved by his work, it reminded me of the Super-8 films I made as a teenager. And I loved the fact that he has been filming himself since childhood, he's got this natural rapport with the camera.
I felt this hands-on approach to cinema was something we had in common. And indeed, he rapidly understood and accepted my way of making films. He was involved in the project early on, and has followed all the stages closely, from writing to editing. I find I am increasingly drawn to actors who really invest themselves in their projects. We don't make films alone, and I need their help, I rely on them to incarnate the characters and help me discover what I want to say, what sensations I want to transmit. I want to work with them, not against them.
What about Jeanne Moreau?
I always dreamed of doing a film with Jeanne Moreau, and she's the French actress missing from 8 Women, though her presence is felt in Emmanuelle Béart's maid costume (a reference to Bunuel's Diary of a Chambermaid). Jeanne is another actor who is very close to her directors. Like Melvil, she was involved early on, during the preparation stages. She likes to enter the rhythm of a film as it is being created. She is a very generous actor and needs to be enormously involved. I think she has a fascination with directing, and a great deal of respect for it.
She really fleshed out her character, she gave her a past. She'd give me her opinions and ideas, she'd tell me about books she loved. Working with her was a wonderful experience. The affection and complicity we had is reflected in the film, in the relationship between Romain and his grandmother.
And Daniel Duval in the role of Romain's father?
I've always loved his powerful presence on screen. I think it's regrettable he tends to be typecast as a bad guy. I wanted him to play a well-established man, comfortably middle class, intellectual. I had him grow a beard, I wanted to transform him a little. I needed Romain’s rather absent father to be handsome and charismatic, and at the same time deeply marked by life. His face speaks volumes. So does Jeanne Moreau's. The people in Romain's life have very few scenes, so they must exist in the limited space of time they are on screen. This is also true for Marie Rivière who, like Melvil, comes from Rohmer's family of actors.
And the desire to work with Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi again?
We became close on 5X2, and she amicably followed the screenwriting process for Time to Leave. I had her in mind when I wrote the Jany character, but didn't tell her. When she read the screenplay, she immediately liked Jany. She was moved by her simplicity, her naivety, her earthiness. Jany reminded Valeria of Shirley MacLaine in Some Came Running.
Why did you choose German actor Christian Sengevold to play Romain's lover Sasha?
Gay couples are still relatively rare on screen and people can be easily put off by them. If the actor is too handsome, they say it's a cliché. But if he's ugly, they say it's not credible...
I wanted Romain's lover to have a strangeness about him, an unusual beauty that echoes Romain's interest in photography, his taste for people who are different, physically intriguing. I saw Christian in a play in Germany and I liked his presence, the texture of his skin, his childlike, pre-Raphaelite quality. And the fact that he's a foreigner adds a certain naivety to his character. He has no idea how much Romain is suffering.
How did you choose the music?
I gravitated towards very pure music with religious undertones: Arvo, Part, Silvestrov. In the beginning there isn't much music, just a little, to enhance the childhood moments. But music gradually seeps into the film as Romain reconciles with the world around him. There is something necessarily sacred about Romain's journey. He's in a church when he reminisces about his sexual identity. It seemed to me that Romain should confront his feelings about spirituality, the afterlife, all the metaphysical questions that invariably arise in such a situation.
This is the first time you've used CinemaScope…
It may seem strange to use CinemaScope for such an intimate subject, but it's perfect for filming the horizon, horizontal positions, death. It forced me to frame my shots differently, tell the story differently. Often with CinemaScope, you have to shoot either very close, or very wide. Medium shots don't work too well. And there is very little depth of field. While I was playing around with focus, I discovered I could create dramatic intensity in unexpected ways. Like in the scene in the park with the sister on the phone. It allowed me to get closer than ever to the actors. I could really study their faces, their eyes took on greater importance.
Romain opens himself up to the world in a rather abstract fashion. Not by breaking his solitude and reaching out to any one person, but rather by deciding to become a part of the world around him, like on the beach at the end...
I wanted Romain to be completely anonymous at the end. When he finds himself in the middle of the beach, surrounded by bodies who are full of life and insouciance, there is a visual contrast that I was especially interested in capturing. Lying on the beach myself, I've often pondered all the bodies lying around me. "What if somebody here doesn't get up? What if he isn't sleeping, or getting a tan, what if he's dead?" Before I started writing, I had this image in my head of a body all alone at the end of the day, after everyone else has gone home, with the tide rising. Someone who has been forgotten on the beach. I could almost say that this image is what inspired me to make the film. I didn't know exactly what it meant, I just knew it would suggest a certain acceptance of things. Romain does not create a mise-en-scene around his death, he abandons himself to it.
The beach is a recurring symbol in your films…
Beaches are timeless spaces, they provide abstraction and purity. I've evoked these things in my other films, but I wanted to come back to the sunset idea, which some people found ironic in 5X2. It wasn't ironic for me, but I understand how people might take it that way. For the sunset scene in Time to Leave, I didn't want there to be any ambiguity.
Interview with Melvil Poupaud
How did you and François Ozon meet?
François asked me to do some screen tests for Water Drops on Burning Rocks, but I turned him down. I've never liked those tests, especially when you don't know the director and haven't read the screenplay. At the time, I assumed he was probably angry with me. But he contacted me again for 5X2. I was too young for the role, but we hit it off and it gave us an opportunity to talk about the old screen test thing. I felt a connection with him, so I started to take a look at his films. I like the unusual position he occupies in French cinema: he shoots frequently and his style is always changing, but it remains personal. We saw each other again at an exposition where I was showing my videos. Then one day, he said he wanted to make a film with me. He didn't have a script yet but wanted to see me. We spent some time together, then he went away to write and came back with the screenplay.
What was your reaction to the screenplay?
I was moved. I really related to the character. I immediately understood where he was coming from, in his relationships with others, with his parents, for example. Romain's need to feel close to his father is similar to something I went through myself when I had my daughter. The scene in the car, for example, really hit home with me when I read it. I identified with Romain, particularly because ever since I was a child I’ve thought a lot about death, and I've always felt that the way we relate to death is a very private, personal affair. Romain refuses to let his death spill over into the lives of others. He prefers to go through it on his own. He keeps it to himself, like a secret.
And then there are Romain's visions of himself as a child. In my own videos, I often use images I filmed of myself when I was a child, I bring them back into the present. More anecdotally, shooting on a beach in Brittany and having Marie Rivière playing my mother reinforced my impression that this role was tailor-made for me. I immediately called François to tell him I would be very happy to play Romain.
Didn't it make you nervous that the film is entirely centered on the character of Romain, and thus rests on your shoulders?
Yes it did, but more than that, I felt proud and enthusiastic. I really wanted this role. It came at a perfect time, only recently have I begun to feel mature enough as an actor to step up to the next level.
François has made quite a few films, and I think they are all important, perhaps this one in particular, as the main character is so close to him. When I saw Swimming Pool, it seemed to me that he had already put a great deal of himself into the Charlotte Rampling character. And now, with Time to Leave, the fact that the character is a young man of his own age who lives, like he does, in Paris... It was courageous of him to put so much of himself into Romain. And as an actor, this is what I enjoy most, playing a character who is a reflection of his director.
Romain wants to leave a trace behind. Through his photography, for example…
I'm not so sure. Look at how he approaches his profession. He doesn't think of himself as an artist. He's a fashion photographer who doesn't really seem to care much about his job, he's not a megalomaniac. Romain doesn't see photography as an artistic endeavor. His images are of nothing at all. I never imagined that Romain wanted to leave anything in particular behind through his profession.
What about the filial trace that the baby represents?
I didn't see it that way either. I don't think Romain is hell-bent on leaving his trace. I think as he reaches the end of his journey toward death, Romain decides that the meaning of life might be to perpetuate it. Not necessarily with an eye to reproducing oneself, but rather with an eye to simply passing life on. In my opinion, Romain is not having the baby in order to leave something of himself behind, but rather to become part of a cycle. To me, this is the most luminous aspect of the screenplay.
Romain is a man who is learning to accept death…
Yes. Romain accepts that he must abandon everything, and go out alone. He is but a body gradually shutting down, a particle. Of course it's tragic, but he has managed to accept the tragedy. And he dies with a smile on his face.
As he moves toward acceptance, Romain revisits his childhood...
Yes. At the very end he makes peace with himself. He becomes whole. This is what the vision on the beach means to me. During the entire film, Romain has been trying to reappropriate part of his childhood. He sees that all the good, sweet things he experienced as a child were only interrupted by the harshness of life, conflicts with others and the cynicism acquired with age. And he is not responsible for those things. On the beach, he finally finds the little boy he's been looking for, the one you can't help but love, and he slips away with this peaceful image of himself. In a sense, he has forgiven himself.
What was it like going through the physical transformations necessary for the role?
I began preparing well in advance. François wanted me to be more muscular at the start of filming. He knew that what he was asking of me physically would help keep me focused on the role. I worked with a personal trainer. I went to the gym every day for three months. This kind of concentration puts you in prime condition to enter a role. Also, gaining weight before we began shooting made it easier for me to lose weight during the film. And when you are constantly hungry because of the draconian diet they've put you on, strange ideas float around in your head. You become obsessed with food, and that puts you in a weird place with relation to the world around you. On the set, I was barely allowed to eat anything. Consequently I didn't dine with the rest of the crew, and that isolation brought me closer to the character.
Does François Ozon have a particular style of directing actors?
Yes, he doesn't listen to himself talk, he's super active. He doesn't dwell on the characters' psychological profiles. His indications are very concrete. However, he doesn't hesitate to tell you exactly what he thinks, right away, directly. Whether you are a technician or an actor. This spontaneity gave me confidence. He never lets anything slip through his fingers. Even though he is perpetually active and keeps things moving on the set, he'll continue doing takes until he's got at least two that he considers perfect. We also rehearsed quite extensively before shooting, which boosted my confidence level as well. And I was involved in the auditions, reading lines with the other actors, which gave me a chance to become familiar with the text and with my partners. The physical preparation, the rehearsals and the close, friendly relationship I had with François... all of these things meant that at the start of the shoot, I was already in the film, I was prepared. While we were filming, François occasionally asked me to do things that weren't in the script. I don't usually care for that, but in this case I felt comfortable and secure. I felt empowered, I was Romain.
What was it like working with Jeanne Moreau?
She is impressive. Even if she weren't Jeanne Moreau, she'd be an exceptional person. So when she starts talking about Welles, Truffaut, Fassbinder... François and I asked her millions of questions, and she would answer very simply, very openly. We only had a few days of shooting with her, but there was a warm rapport right away. Without going so far as to say we were like family, I felt very comfortable asking her questions, and benefiting from her vast experience. But it was clear she was interested, above all, in François.
I think she was surprised by how demanding he was, in the positive sense. It had been a long time since anyone had asked so much from her, especially someone so young. He wasn't at all shy about having her do another take if he felt it was necessary.
Romain has cancer, but we feel the specter of AIDS nevertheless...
In the film, illness is more of a concept than the object of a realistic study. Time to Leave is not a film about disease, it's about death: how do we deal with the ultimate anguish? Once death has entered Romain's life, it takes its own sweet time. Romain's every move is dictated by death. In a way, death is what drives him. By the end of the film, he has succeeded in seeing death as a form of liberation, and thus he has resolved the question in his own way. I’ve noticed that by playing Romain, I seem to have adopted his way of thinking.
What's your take on the whole experience today?
Right away I felt that taking an important role in an important film with an important director would bring me to another level personally and professionally. I'd always hoped that someday I would have the opportunity to play such a wonderful role. Now that I’ve done it, and with the strength I've gained from the experience, perhaps I feel more serene. It's funny, since I did Time to Leave, my own films have focused a lot on transformation and resurrection.
Interview with Jeanne Moreau
How did you come to be involved with Time to Leave?
I always see François' films right when they come out, and a mutual friend introduced us, Jean-Claude Moireau, who is François' stills photographer and also wrote my biography.
François and I would occasionally talk on the phone, and I felt like I knew him, I felt like he was a brother. Well, a little brother. He felt the same thing. He'd say, "One day, we must do a film together." Then one day, he called me about Time to Leave. He told me what the film's theme was and I said, "I hope it's not the role of a grandmother." "Yes, it is." "Well, all right, but only for you." The screenplay wasn't all that important to me, because to my mind François is an exceptional person and an exceptional director - the two go hand in hand. He is a realisateur, not a metteur-en-scene.
What's the distinction?
A metteur-en-scène is someone who puts things in place, organizes. A réalisateur is someone who turns his imagination into something real. This film is a work of fiction, but all fiction becomes autobiographical when the author has true talent. When Cézanne says, "This is my apple", you'd better believe it's Cézanne's apple. Like all great films, Time to Leave is a confession. As I was watching it, sometimes François' face would appear like magic over Melvil's when he was in extreme close-up. It's a fantastic thing to take the risk of getting so close to your desire, expressing your obsession so absolutely. I think François is abandoning himself more in this film than he has in previous films. To me, Time to Leave is a series of confessions about family relationships, the refusal to compromise, the refusal to bend to conventional ideas about how we can prevent our loved ones from suffering... In order to give love and receive love, you have to be in touch with pain, you have to be capable of provoking it and feeling it. When Romain leaves his grandmother, who represents love to him, it's like he's running away from their closeness, their potential osmosis.
What about the encounter with the couple at the truck stop?
It's a chance encounter that can happen anywhere, when you're minding your business, drinking your coffee. It's making a baby without love, without commitment. It's giving without love. The scene where Romain and the couple part ways after the signing of the will is beautiful. After this gift, this gesture, this intimacy, they learn Romain is condemned to die, and the husband, trying so earnestly to ease everyone's discomfort, awkwardly wishes him "good luck".
For me, the film is about refusing to be surrounded by others while you're negotiating the ultimate pain. To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude. This has been present in François' previous work, but it is particularly powerful in this film.
What was it like on the set?
I was not the least bit surprised by how precise and demanding François is. At the same time, he gives you a great deal of freedom. It is impossible not to be generous with someone like him. You can't say after two takes, "No, that's enough now, I'm done." François never hesitates to do another take if he hasn't gotten what he wants from you, or if you haven't yet given him that unexpected something that will inspire him to take the scene further. I was entirely at his service. You must be prepared to enter François' universe. But going there is a wonderful experience that leaves an indelible mark.
What did you do to get into character?
I didn't prepare or premeditate anything. As a matter of principle, I always come to a film like a blank slate, I don't learn my lines in advance. With this approach, I feel free, and clean. I gradually work myself into a frenzy as the shoot approaches, while we're choosing the costumes or working with the make-up artist. I'm not so much interested in my character as the film itself.
Many people associate stage fright with a fear of looking ridiculous, making a bad impression. For me, it's like a kind of fever. When I'm acting, I'm two beings. There's the one monitoring the distance between myself and the camera, making sure I hit my marks... And then there is the one driven by this inner fire, this delicious fear. It's this subconscious part of me that knows just how far to go, and then the other one says, "But is the fire really hot enough?" And suddenly, everything bursts into flames.
During the scene where Romain says goodbye to Laura, I remembering saying to François, "No, I can't do it." And very calmly, he said to me, "Yes, you can. We'll do it again." And he was right. There are certain times when the emotion needs to come from the truest possible place, not be provoked by memories or by a director who is dragging you through the mud, screaming in front of the crew that your son has died or some bullshit like that. As soon as François set up the camera, it felt right. It all made sense: I could see where he wanted to go, what he wanted to see.
And working with Melvil Poupaud?
He's shy, but he knew that we had something to share, that I wasn't there to judge him or keep him at arm's length. I can be intimidating, but not within the intimate confines of a film shoot.
Do you think this film took you to places you'd never been before?
Absolutely. And that has always been my reason to live. I don't like going where I've already been. Life is a myriad of territories to discover. I don't want to waste my time with what I already know. The situation that Laura finds herself in was unknown to me. I've never had anyone who knew they were going to die come and confide in me like that. I've seen people die very young, I've seen people get killed, but never this.
How do you bring a character to life in so few scenes?
We had shot more scenes, but François cut them in the editing room, and it's perfect that way. Characters who are on screen from start to finish are not necessarily the ones who have the greatest impact. It's the same way in life. I can meet someone briefly in a café or at the airport and they'll stick in my mind, whereas some others with whom I've spent a great deal of time don't even leave a trace.
To give a character life in a short space of time, it helps if you arrive on screen with a past. Even when I was young, I had the ability to do this. So now that time has actually passed... My face has changed with the years and has enough history in it to give audiences something to work with.
Certain details flesh out the Laura character, making her more than just a grandmother, she's also a very sensuous woman. For example, the fact that she sleeps in the nude...
François knew I slept naked. I had told him I need to be nude in order to sleep. Like a baby. I suppose that's where he got the idea. François used a few things he heard me say when we would get together. The vitamins, for example. He had noticed them in my kitchen and asked me what they were.
Romain says something rather cruel to Laura. When she asks him why he has chosen to confide in her, he says: "Because you're like me, you'll be dying soon."
Laura takes it in, then this bond between them makes her smile. The fact that she says to him, "Tonight, I'd like to slip away with you" reveals that she is quite familiar with the idea of death, she's comfortable with it, though she's not encouraging it. All those vitamins aren't to keep death at bay, they're to keep deterioration at bay. She says it herself: "I want to die in perfect health."
Did you think about Under the Sand, which was also about mourning?
No, it's not the same thing. Under the Sand is about obsession, the obsessive desire to bring back the person who is absent, for that matter the film could have been called The Absent One. I find that François' films are all very different from each other, even though there is a common thread running through them. François occupies a very special place in French cinema. He's growing and evolving beautifully. He's been making films for quite a while now. It's a dangerous game, and he uses his reputation, his success and his financial security wisely. He's honest. He's true to himself.
The film also tells us that knowing how to die means revisiting childhood…
I'm not sure Romain dies in the end... It's symbolic. For me, knowing how to die is knowing how to live. What is death anyway? It's the outcome of life. We live in a time where we want to keep the two separate: you're alive one minute and then, oh horror, you're dead! But Romain is not dead: he's passing, dissolving, and I say this without any religious sentiment whatsoever. It's just as idiotic to say there is no life after death as it is to say there is one. Death is an absolute mystery. We are all vulnerable to it, it's what makes life interesting and suspenseful. Life is extremely difficult, painful. People are always talking about happiness, but happiness - in French "bonheur", like "bonne heure" (literally the "good hour") - boils down to chance. What matters are the joys - knowing how to feel cold, heat, shadows, light... Each person will interpret Time to Leave in their own way. Some will be frightened, some will reject it and others will discover things they never thought about before. I think this film is about more than death. There is a real calmness to it, a few tears, but no sentimentality.