The Polish filmmaker discussed his new film Based On A True Story, modern technology and “hangers-on”
Roman Polanski addressed questions on cinema’s future, technology’s role in modern life and the hunger for truth at the Cannes press conference for Based On A True Story, which premieres out of competition at the festival tonight.
On whether audience desire to go see films in cinemas or even Cannes itself might eventually fall victim to the rise of streaming services such as Netflix, the 83-year-old Polish filmmaker said: “I don’t believe there is a basic threat to cinema because I think people go to the movies not because there is better sound or better projection or better seats than they have in their homes, they go to the cinema because they can participate in an experience with the audience around them.”
“This has been the way throughout humanity, whether it’s a Greek theatre or a Roman circus. People like experiencing things as spectacle together. It’s a very difference experience to see something like Borat alone or seeing it in the cinema with a laughing audience.”
Polanski, who was on stage with his latest film’s key creative talent including actresses Emmanuelle Seigner and Eva Green, was given the source material (Delphine de Vigan’s 2015 novel of the same name) by wife Seigner, and was attracted to its paranoid-thriller elements which reminded him of his own earlier films.
The film tells the story of a fragile author, also named Delphine (Seigner), who befriends an avid female fan (Eva Green), eventually allowing her to move into her Parisian apartment and take over her life.
“I’ve never made a film where the two main characters are women who oppose each other. It was quite fascinating,” said Polanski, who collaborated on the screenplay with Olivier Assayas.
Eva Green came to mind to play the mysterious fan (known as ‘L’ or ‘Her’ in the film) who inveigles her way into Delphine’s life before Polanski and Assayas had written the script.
“We were exchanging emails early on and I really hoped she would like the script. I watched many of her movies, including Sin City. I loved that movie and I loved her character - the humour and the seduction combine together to create an incredible character.”
Said Green: “Roman is one of the greatest directors on Earth, it’s very difficult to turn him down.”
“My character is pretty strange, that’s what I liked about her. She’s a bit crazy, a bit dangerous. You keep wondering whether she really does exist or not. It’s a huge challenge for an actress to lend substance to a character like this.”
In the film, Green’s character takes her anger out on a laptop, a cellphone and a food processor, smashing all three to smithereens, prompting a question about whether Polanski disapproves of modern technology or engages in social media platforms like Facebook.
“Facebook - no. I never had a Facebook account and I hope I will stay away from Facebook.”
“Regarding gadgets, I like them but they are disappearing from our lives because of this.” The director reached into his pocket and pulled out a large mobile device. “It’s become only one and the producers of gadgets are closing their businesses one after the other. I was very sad to learn that Go-Pro is going to close. My gadget can’t mix fruit but it can do many other things.”
Polanski further addressed how technology has changed modern life in answer to a question about distinguishing between fact and fiction in the modern world.
“We have never been so surrounded by information, by reality, by pictures of life around you. What is new is that those pictures that could have served before as a reference are becoming false again. You cannot any more rely on photography as a document of the truth. You can cheat within minutes and send it to an unlimited number of people.”
“What is the true story nowadays, when you can change the destiny of a nation or the world by one simple gesture which is amplified millions of times around the globe?” he added. “There is now some appetite for truth, how to assure people that something is true when we daily hear that the information that we believed in yesterday is totally false today.”
Asked whether he has had personal experience of anyone like Green’s ‘Elle’ in his own life, Polanski said: “Yes, I have had people who I felt were not characters that should take an important place in my life but somehow they got closer and closer and then became what you call in English ‘hangers-on’. But I was always conscious quite quickly of it and managed to keep a certain distance.”