Official selection Berlin 2001 In competition Anaïs is twelve and bears the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her body is both the citadel for her pain and a fortress. Huddled up safely or forgotten by others, she is an observer. It's summertime, by the sea, family holidays. Holiday love affairs. This is the apprenticeship of first love. Anaïs experiences it by proxy. She watches her older sister, Elena, whom she both loves and hates. Elena is fifteen and devilishly beautiful. Neither more futile, nor more stupid than her younger sister, she cannot understand that she is merely an object of desire. And, as such, she can only be taken. Or had. 

Images du film



Interview Anais Reboux concernant A MA SOEUR-612

I met Catherine Breillat while she was casting the film. In the end, there were three of us left and […]

Interview de Roxane Mesquida concernant A MA SOEUR!-613

The screenplay for ” A ma sœur ! ” made a very strong impression on me. I read it during […]

Interview de Libero-614

When Catherine Breillat asked me to be in the film, I had just about given up acting. I had seen […]

Biographie de Arsinee Khanjian-615

Actress and muse of the director Atom Egoyan in Next of kin, Exotica… or more recently Felicia’s Journey (part of […]

interview de Arisnee Khanjian pour le film A ma soeur-616

I first met Catherine Breillat in Toronto, when we had a long chat. I had seen a number of her […]

interview de romain Goupil-617

I knew the world of Catherine Breillat well and we had already met. When she called me, I immediately gave […]

Catherine Breillat's interview about the film A MA SOEUR !

Where do the subject and characters of "A ma sœur" come from ? For some years, I had had a […]

Interview Anais Reboux concernant A MA SOEUR-612

I met Catherine Breillat while she was casting the film. In the end, there were three of us left and Catherine had us read the screenplay in its entirety. Even if I found a few elements of myself in it, the character wasn't really me. Anaïs is a little girl who doesn't really want to live because her life is rather sinister. I think that she's jealous of her sister, even if, deep down, she is more intelligent and more mature than Elena. She clearly understands what is happening to her sister who is fooled by the boy. She is in the position of an observer, which helps her understand more quickly. But she needs to have her life transformed. I think that what happens in the film will, in spite of everything, bring her out of her shell.

During the shoot, everyone was very kind to me. They always tried to be close to me, to reassure me.

It was a wonderful experience, I got on well with the other actors and Roxane and I have become friends. I don't know if I'll make other films, I don't plan to force things. I'm still considering it.

The hardest part for me was the scene when I get slapped. I had to start crying and I couldn't do it! In the end, I called my mother, who pretended that my little dog had run off. I knew it wasn't true but I acted as if it was and it worked.


Interview de Roxane Mesquida concernant A MA SOEUR!-613

The screenplay for " A ma sœur ! " made a very strong impression on me. I read it during a free period at school and I was very unsettled by the story. I walked around school after in a very odd state... I could tell that there was something very interesting to perform in it. I had seen " Romance " and I felt that the film never became vulgar and, on the contrary, managed to show something very pure. " A ma sœur ! " is a lot

" softer " even if there are some fairly crude moments. My meeting with Catherine Breillat went very well, we immediately got on very well. On the set, she managed to inspire us to reveal surprising emotions. She would incite the actors to continually go further and we were overjoyed by that. Anaïs and I also had a great deal of complicity, which helped us a lot. As for the character of Elena, I must say that the part wasn't an easy one. She could come across as being a superficial and naïve girl who gets fooled by a boy. She had to be given a certain depth. There were also some difficult things to perform that I had never done for a film. For the long love scene, Catherine took her time to make me comfortable. And, in the end, I have wonderful memories of the scene, my best day of shooting.

Interview de Libero-614

When Catherine Breillat asked me to be in the film, I had just about given up acting. I had seen " Romance ", which had caused quite a stir in Italy, " Tapage nocturne " and " 36 fillette ". On reading the screenplay for " A ma sœur ! ", I felt that it was the best screenplay I had ever read. I immediately told Catherine who didn't believe me! I came to France and I took intensive French lessons for a month to be able to say my lines properly.

The character of Fernando embodies the cruelty of romantic relationships when they're not equitable. He's a Casanova on holiday, seeking above all an experience of physical love and is of course incapable of keeping the promises he makes. But, as an actor, I couldn't judge this character without risking losing him. I had to understand him differently than from a moral angle, as if, deep down, he represented the cruelty of nature within the context of a holiday affair.

The work with Catherine and the whole crew went well and I soon felt part of the family. The nude scenes were no problem for me. The film deals with intimate, highly private moments but I wasn't worried because I knew I wasn't in a porn film. My personal relationship with Catherine was very good and there were a lot of experienced people on the crew. All this made the shoot a fascinating and very pleasant experience.


Biographie de Arsinee Khanjian-615

Actress and muse of the director Atom Egoyan in Next of kin, Exotica… or more recently Felicia's Journey (part of the 1999 Cannes Official Selection), Arsinée Khanjian has also worked with Olivier Assayas in Irma Vep and Fin août, début septembre, and appeared in Michael Hanecke's film Code inconnu selected in competition for the 2000 Cannes Festival.

She also performs on stage in Europe and Canada.


interview de Arisnee Khanjian pour le film A ma soeur-616

I first met Catherine Breillat in Toronto, when we had a long chat. I had seen a number of her films and I liked the way in which she tackled the prickly subject of sexuality without taboos or anxiety. When she called me a few months later, I had just seen " Romance " which had finally been released in Canada, amid all kinds of rumours. All the same, the film went way beyond the sensationalism that people tried to confine it to and it contained an approach to sex that was done with intelligence and original, well-thought-out ideas. When she asked me to be in " A ma sœur ! ", I wasn't at all scared because I had no ethical problems with her style of cinema.

Catherine didn't give me any indications about my character outside the frame of the film. It was only during the scenes and after shooting, that I realised who my character was. She's a woman who submits to the pressures of a self-centred husband, and she is very vulnerable, probably too vulnerable to have any authority over her daughters. During the long drive back, on the motorway, we realise that she is totally helpless, that she's incapable of acting in a responsible manner. This refusal to understand her daughter could even mean that she was subjected to similar pressures in her youth.

On the set, Catherine concentrates on the essentials and doesn't attempt to go into detail. She truly works with her actors; she doesn't retreat behind the camera but remains physically very close to us. She is very attentive because she is looking for something precise without really knowing what it is yet. She asked us to do some difficult things, such as the slap scene that we had to redo many times. Or perform in swimsuits at very low temperatures! But we were all ready to do it for the film. Catherine demands a great deal of truth from her actors. She makes no compromises because she knows that compromises are always visible on the screen.


interview de romain Goupil-617

I knew the world of Catherine Breillat well and we had already met. When she called me, I immediately gave my agreement before reading the screenplay, without trying to figure out what she had in mind in choosing me for the part. I told her that if she chose me as an actor, she did so at her own risk! This indifferent father, concerned by his own affairs, is a fairly unsympathetic character. I would make fun of Catherine, saying that she had only chosen me because Rocco Siffredi had disappointed her! (laughter)

On the set, I tried to be at her complete disposal, to be totally available by forgetting that I too am a director. Even so, I was fairly worried about my own acting skills. Catherine is very demanding in her work, she is looking for something very precise which isn't always easy to express but she searches continually. She cannot always provide the explanation, you simply have to move through the scene for things to become clear little by little.

I learnt a great deal about an actor's work by finding myself on the other side of the camera, waiting for the least gesture or look from the directors. Moreover, the actors soon form a family. Here, totally naturally, the family of the film formed off camera too. But the film also awoke the fragility within us all. That's why we were very close on the set.


Catherine Breillat's interview about the film A MA SOEUR !

Where do the subject and characters of "A ma sœur" come from ?

For some years, I had had a news item in mind. What had struck me as much as the crime itself was the way in which the press had related it. They were clearly attempting to give it a moral meaning to understand and accept it. I felt that such stories should be told differently. Then, one day, by a hotel swimming pool, I observed the following scene: a chubby adolescent girl was moving back and forth across the pool, talking to herself as if speaking words of love to imaginary boys. Her family and her older sister were there too. I started imaging a little girl like her in my news item. Strangely, I had never made a film dealing with the bond that can exist between two sisters, something that I myself have known through my own sister. I wanted to explore the total complicity that can co-exist alongside genuine ferocity. It became the fundamental subject of the film. The two sisters share their lives; the rest of the world barely exists and doesn't enter into their relationship. The holiday affair is an obstacle to this demanding relationship that they have.

In this film, you have also attempted to tell a story of the "first time". How does A ma sœur ! fit in with your reflection on sexuality and its apprenticeship ?

The film also deals with the betrayal of romantic seduction. Elena is more romantic than her sister. She is seeking romantic love, which is normal at her age. Moreover, while Anaïs pretends not to be jealous, she'd nonetheless like to be in her shoes. There again, I don't think there's an apprenticeship. Experience proves that we make the same mistakes time and again, even if we occasionally do it with full knowledge of the facts. Elena doesn't believe what the boy tells her simply because she is fifteen and naïve but because all she can do is believe it! The words that Elena takes to be promises only have their truth at that moment, in order to serve the boy's opportunistic attitude. This doesn't necessarily mean that they are lies and that's why it's so easy to believe them. He himself is sincere, even if his behaviour disproves what he says.

Isn't it hard to make young actors perform situations that they are likely to experience in real life? How to you manage to retain the fictional aspect ?

The film is inevitably affected by the human situations on the set. The most surprising thing is that Roxane and Anaïs really acted like sisters. The scene of their helpless laughter on the bed reflects what was really happening between them off camera: they truly had that kind of relationship without necessarily being sisters and despite their age difference. There again, films always generate odd behaviour… At first, I was worried that they wouldn't get on, that they would be jealous of each other. But I think that they developed this amazing complicity in order to find some protection for themselves in relation to the film. It was a little like a refuge for them. There again, if Anaïs had been left out of it more, her character would have been entirely different.

For some scenes, the shooting conditions weren't easy. For example, they had to perform in swimsuits when the temperature was 4 degrees, bathe in very cold water: things that you can only do for a film! But, in my opinion, that's peculiar to the cinema: you do things for a film that you'd never do in real life. And, even though this is painful and hard at times, I believe it is also exalting. Moreover, I have noticed that when an actor is confronted with something difficult to do, it's the thing he does with the most ease! That's what's so exciting in this business.

As Elena discovers the male body, Anaïs withdraws into herself, into her plumpness, in a form of self eroticism…

Yes, because deep down, Anaïs is convinced that she is the better of the two. There's always a rivalry between sisters and Anaïs fights back with the weapons at her disposal. But, deep down, she exists more than her sister does. Elena's personality has already been slightly distorted by the idea of being a young girl of her age and her time. Because of her desire to please, she isn't completely herself. She is beautiful, she is loved, she is fulfilled: but, deep down, this psychological comfort prevents her from finding herself. She simply has to conform to the norm that she corresponds to.

Anaïs resists better. She absorbs the world while her sister, on the contrary, is absorbed. Moreover, Anaïs is very comfortable with her body, feels at ease. Hers is not an autistic, self-destructive form of obesity but an obesity that is made to conquer the world. I find her body very beautiful; it's a baby's body yet, at the same time, it is very erotic. The problem was that her body had changed between casting and the end of the shoot. I didn't want her to be too developed with too much of a bosom: but, in the end, when I saw her in her swimsuit, I realised that she truly had a "forbidden body", a blend of a little girl's body and, at the same time, an incredible sexual opulence.

At some points in the film, the two sisters seem to act like a single character...

I viewed them as a "soul with two bodies". This is the syndrome of sisters who have trouble finding their own identity. The one feels what the other does. In a way, she lives it just as much and it becomes part of her experience. They are not separated, even if the older sister tries to break away; she is always dependent on the way the other sees her. It's a "fusional" and almost "confusional" relationship: moreover, in the real world, adults often mix up the first names of brothers and sisters. It's a cursed love because one takes the place of the other, as when the mother slaps Anaïs instead of Elena.

Moreover, the worlds of the parents and the children never communicate.

For these two sisters, their father is their first disappointing male. He can only take care of his daughters on a material level. He has no opinion of them, he doesn't even try to understand them and yet he believes that he takes care of them. No communication is possible with his children, or with his wife. For him, only the image counts, the signs of happiness: the house, the holidays, the family. The parents simply follow an idea of what they believe their duty to be. Although the mother may punish the girls by interrupting their holiday, she doesn't know how to react, deep down. On a sexual level, I believe that one can't wield any authority and that it's stupid to make guilt so important. Moreover, the parents probably didn't behave any better in their youth and even in their adulthood they have perhaps been just as irresponsible. I liked the idea that the film should descend towards crime and horror even, because of this error of judgement.

Were the songs that Anaïs sings written for the film ?

No, they're songs that I wrote as an adolescent. I originally wanted her to sing a song by Laura Betti. As a girl, I had been marked by her extremely provocative positions as an actress and a singer. I didn't find the song I wanted but I came across the INA interview that you see in the film. So, I thought that Anaïs could sing the crow song that I had written when I was twelve or thirteen. It had been inspired by François Villon's La ballade des pendus which has something very childlike and naïve in its darkness, while remaining a outstanding piece of work.

I also needed a dash of tragedy. Originally, we were going to shoot in Sicily. The scene on the beach took place on Etna. The volcano provided a magical, dark, shadowy element. But the wild coastline that we shot on doesn't leave such an intense impression as a volcano. I felt that these songs would bring in a tragic and sombre note through their obsession with death that I believe is inherent in adolescence. Anaïs is also trying to attract attention, for example, in the scene on the beach when Elena is behind a dune with the boy. At that point, Anaïs broods in a very romantic way; she has the attitude of a pre-suicidal child who says, "I may be dying because no one pays any attention to me." This romanticising of death is, I think, a certain idea of life. The idea you have during adolescence. Deep down, it's a matter of destroying the child within you. The problem is that you can easily destroy the child within you without necessarily becoming an adult! (laughter)

Despite the subject matter, the film, although fairly explicit, is less "detailed" than Romance.

The truth doesn't necessarily lie in what you see. The image is a false witness. It's always the meaning and impression given off by the whole film that makes you believe in what you see and feel that it's important. Moreover, I didn't want to cut myself off from a younger audience. The film's crudity is very relative and I believe that it can even be instructive in some ways. There's also a lightness, a "sitcom" aspect that I was aiming for. Indeed, the dialogue is transparent and very easy to understand. The whole romantic dialogue is a sitcom dialogue. Moreover, when you're in love, you always speak a little like this and the only difference is that you believe it and that what you say involves you body and soul. But there's also a comic effect, such as when they kiss while talking about what their fathers do. When you're young, you always ask this kind of question when in fact you mean something else. This also exists in adult relationships, even if it remains outrageously adolescent in the film. Girls who set off looking for boys like that exist. And often these adolescents don't even realise that they're seducing each other when they meet and that's what's funny!

The film abandons the portrait of adolescence to move towards the crime. How did you get the idea of this long sequence of the motorway journey ?

I have always been fascinated by these car journeys, on the road to the holidays, with the children in the back, lugged around like bodies who don't have their word to say, with the parents smoking in the front. The scenery interested me too but only to the extent that it reflects a state of mind. This motorway is approached with anxiety and there is even a sort of "horizontal vertigo". I wanted to describe this hallucinogenic and possibly psychotic aspect of the road and, at the same time, its hostility. The inside of a car is a confined world where people are close and, at the same, a long distance from each other. The girls weep and the mother, in the front, wants to see nothing, hear nothing and simply grips her wheel. She is entirely caught up in driving and cannot communicate. She doesn't even give the impression of driving; she is "driven" by the road.

Did you have a vision of the film's whole structure from the outset ?

No, I needed to combine my sources of inspiration. But, in general, I discover my film in making it. That's why I find it very hard to talk about the film's screenplay before shooting. I refuse to bring to life just what I have written. If everything has been expressed, there's no need to film it. The screenplay simply contains markers: I don't understand what I want to say until I finish the film. That's why I cannot censor myself. I'm afraid before shooting the scenes but I have to push that danger aside and ignore this fear, even if it is genuine. The fear of failure simply leads to failure. You think that you can cling to experience and skill but these are things that can play tricks on you. A film must be fuelled by desire. One must not lose sight of the fact that there's something mysterious about film creation: you go from a craftsman-like technique - the camera, the set, the lights - and at times end up with something magical. Fundamentally, a film set is a sacred place where you enter into a relationship with something very metaphysical. Silence and concentration attain almost religious levels. A director isn't someone who gives orders but who puts people under the influence. But there's no method to it, there are no rules: you don't know how you do it, you even wonder what immaterial power makes you the filmmaker. This mystery is what amazes me the most.