From novel to screenplay
It was the structure of the novel that initially caught my attention. It is made up of individual narratives by different characters. Tales told in the first person, more like confessions than dramatic monologues. This design is not very cinematographic, it is true, but it left me enough room to construct a scenario. The film could be born without being the copy of the novel. I also drew inspiration from two other short stories in the same collection, “La Maîtresse du Colonel” and “L’Après-Midi d’un Faune.”
The idea of maintaining the monologues was clear from the start. It gives each woman the opportunity to talk about her relation to men in very direct terms, and in her own words. When Brenda tells us about her first intimate encounter with Legba, we sense how hard it is for her to do this, to find and pronounce certain words. But we also hear the pleasure she experiences when she succeeds. A pleasure that sends her back in time (and us as well) to the pleasure she felt on this afternoon that was so important for her. It is more unsettling to hear her talk about it than it is to watch the images of it.
The literary aspect of these confessions interested me as well. It goes “against the grain” of the rest of the film, which I wanted very raw, stripped of all the prettiness that the paradisiacal setting, the torrid atmosphere, and even the cast could easily generate. Language is an important element in the film. The different levels of language, the blend of languages, are indications of this “otherness” that the film observes, clues to deciphering the power wielded by some over others. The outline of the dialogues and the type of language used are often more significant than the dialogues themselves.
The desire of women is not often talked about in cinema, especially if it concerns women over forty. Here, not only do we talk about it, we listen to the women themselves talk about it. Through these monologues, in confidence made to the camera (to the spectator, an investigator?), the women’s personalities become clearly defined. It was a question of efficiency too. Instead of presenting the characters, we discover them as the film develops, based on what they wish to say about themselves. This is the first time that the main characters in one of my films are women. Thinking from a feminine point of view, writing dialogue from a feminine point of view, was a real pleasure.