Cannes Meet The Debutants: Acclaimed Australian novelist Julia Leigh makes her debut with Competition title Sleeping Beauty.
Her first feature is an erotic drama centering around a girl called Lucy (played by Emily Browning) who allows herself to be drugged and used by wealthy men as an overnight bed buddy.
Lucy is reckless with her life. Are you commenting on her generation or individuals from any generation?
Lucy’s perverse provocation to the world is, “My cheek is turned, try me.” She does have a recklessness of sorts. She makes her submissiveness more than mere submissiveness: it is a radical way of being. It is not up to me to comment on the rest of the question.
You chose to hold the camera still, to shoot principally in wide shot and to use long takes. Why?
The camera does move — it is not locked off — but the movement is slow and steady and, hopefully, the feel of the camera is of being a tender witness. Lucy is being observed in her sleep by the men who visit her in the sleeping chamber. The style allows the audience to use their imagination as they watch and to witness her to the point of complicity.
In what ways did being a novelist help you make this film once you’d written the screenplay?
Both a novelist and a film-maker do similar things: they build complex characters and worlds, and work with the flow of time. The processes are very different once you go from page to realisation, but you are still making thousands and thousands of decisions while you’re going from something ephemeral to… [establishing] a tone, an atmosphere, tension.
What advice would you give to anyone making a film for the first time?
I think it’s important to always hold in mind what you initially set out to achieve, no matter what happens,
and to behave in a way that earns people’s respect.
What do you hope to get out of Cannes, both for you and the film?
Cannes has for so long shaped my love of cinema and introduced me to so many films that I have loved. In the same way, I hope the festival will introduce this film to many people. I’m especially delighted for Emily [Browning] that the film has been selected. For me personally, I am excited but I will be a stranger in unknown territory.
What is next for you?
I have a couple of film projects that I have developed which I’m considering, and I will continue to write novels.