Dir: Yolande Zauberman
90 min., 35mm, 1:1.37, Color, WP
Produktion: Madar Productions. Buch: Yolande Zauberman, Noëmie Lvovsky. Kamera: Denis Lenoir. Ton: Jean-Pierre Duret. Schnitt: François Gédigier. Musik: Philippe Cohen-Solal. Ausstattung: Olivier Radot. Kostüme: Pierre-Yves Gayraud. Produzent: Alain Massiot.
Darsteller: Elodie Bouchez (Lola), Béatrice Dalle (Saïda), Roschdy Zem (Emir), Richard Courcet (Ismaël), Gérald Thomassin (Paul), Luc Lavandier (Pierre), Alex Descas (Mambo), Julie Bataille (Johanna).
Uraufführung: 16.2.1997, Internationales Forum des Jungen Films.
Weltvertrieb: Flach Pyramide International, 5, rue Richepanse 75008 Paris. Tel.: (33-1) 42 96 02 20, Fax: (33-1) 40 20 05 51.
Sun 16.02. 14:00 Kino 7 im Zoo Palast Sun 16.02. 22:15 Delphi Mon 17.02. 23:15 Arsenal Tue 18.02. 22:30 Akademie der Künste
Emir, a former boxer, can't love anybody. His brother would like him to get back into the ring to earn money and pay back debts. The dancer Saïda loves Emir but this love is curtailed by their drug habits. Lola moves in on all these relationships, and when she meets Emir she also finds love. He gives up drugs for her, returns to the ring and learns to love again. This film must be perceived like a dream.
Question: What is touching about CLUBBED TO DEATH is the protagonists' sensuality, their closeness, their relationships, their loneliness. Like Lola's dress which clings very tightly to her body, bringing her physically closer to others but also signalling isolation, even despair: she never takes off this dress.
Yolande Zauberman: This dress is evidence of a lived life, of spontaneity without premeditation, the entire film yearns for this. CLUBBED TO DEATH is not based on the actor's ability to appropriate the protagonist's psychology. Instead materiality makes him/her come alive, for example as manifested in the choice of costumes. We had decided to make a historical film, a costume film, but set it in contemporary times. We had to get rid of naturalism and any indication of fashion - no one in the film wears their own clothing, not even the extras. We wanted to make sure everyone would plunge into an epoch, an environment at the same time modern and deeply archaic.
Question: Lola's black dress is like a second skin, the actors seem to personify the world of the film. In other words, there is no difference between their emotional life and their physical existence, their very presence makes up the story of the film.
Y.Z.: In many scenes they had to work in a dancing crowd indifferent to our cameras. Acting in the midst of people meant that the actors shared their space. Even Lola's and Emir's encounter was filmed amongst people, a difficult scene. They speak from the off. There is no sound editing.
Question: I have the impression that the protagonists existed long before the film was made, that it isn't just the narrative bringing them to life. They have a pre-film existence and their lives extend into the past.
Y.Z.: Perhaps because we didn't try to construct real persons. We only tried to present emotions. The actors didn't know the psychological identity of their protagonists very well, but they knew their feelings. Otherwise the film wouldn't have worked, because they impersonated characters about whom we find out very little, i.e. people who are ,all emotions'. In this sense they are not well-adjusted human beings, they are outsiders. I wanted the actors to portray their roles and yet remain true to themselves. What you see is a kind of synthesis.
Question: The film's music imparts a sense of transparency of locations, of people, of emotions. There is an openness but also a subtext of danger.
Y.Z.: We didn't try to justify or explain the presence of music. Music is at the centre of the film. Just like the decor and lighting, the music also tells a narrative not explicitly told in the film, yet constituting the film, holding it together, reflecting it. Everything tells a story, but there is no story which summarizes it all. We were driven by a certain desire. All of the film's central issues are determined by it. And the music always gave us new energy. Even when we shot scenes without music we always turned on the music really loud during our shooting breaks in order to lose ourselves in it. The music made us more introverted than ever. Nobody seemed to know exactly what was happening, and yet, everyone understood. There was no overdose of play or apathy, it was something very sensual which people understood implicitly. We looked for movements which the body itself produces. I looked for people who reacted instinctively and who moved with their whole body. The film's protagonists have lost their language, but they lost a language which was not right for them anyhow. There is not much dialogue in the film, and yet, it is not autistic. The protagonists communicate with their body. One feels that they have a much greater and more comprehensive life within themselves, their collapse would have consequences which would extend far beyond themselves. (...)
Question: When Lola finds out that Emir takes drugs, that drugs are between them, she rejects him and doesn't try to understand what she cannot understand. Is it her child-like idealism which makes her react in such a way?
Y.Z.: She can't bear to be an accomplice in his self-destruction because she rejects this aspect of his life. People often react like this in their relationship with drug addicts. Lola wants her life to be like her dream, a somewhat childish dream. She also feels a sense of deficiency, but she wants that deficiency to be the source of her dreams. For her, a drug cannot get rid of deficiencies, or compensate for them. She is not a moralist, she is a person full of vitality. It is out of this feeling of vitality that she is drawn to people who have a similar deficiency. This deficiency is defined not only as ,lack' but also as a bridge to the world, a longing for the world, for dreams, for gentleness. For a long time I asked myself ,why I am telling a story about people who take drugs?' What right do I have to do this, since I myself don't go in for such risks? Then I understood that drug addicts, who have become ill due to something ,all too human', helped me discover the cry of pain which lies behind the drug and which the drug silences. This cry of pain is at the centre of all life, it makes us human. If we want to remain human we mustn't suppress this cry of pain. I have always searched for the elusive in the human spirit, that which survives the destruction of a human being through the forces of life or history. It preserves life itself. CLUBBED TO DEATH is situated outside of any historical context. I didn't feel like doing something sociological about the suburbs or about the toughness of life there. That's why it is very important to me to deal with people who really have a body, as if the body were the single, elusive element out of which one can construct something like a narrative.
Question: There is a lot of tenderness in the film, but also the toughness of life, two aspects of life inseparable from each other. It is impossible to say which is the stronger element of the two, each fighting for dominance, and yet, they are ,blood-related.'
Y.Z.: The film says: it is difficult to be a human being, but these people have preserved the ability to feel joy in a world where there isn't really any room left for joy. Each one tries to live as simply as possible. Implicitly I ask myself and the actors: how can one live? The story of the two brothers is about the sacrifices one makes in order to be a human being. Lola's narrative is about keeping dreams alive in order to achieve things that seemed impossible. Saïda's story is about humanity, a deep humanity against her own will- how far can you go in love if one hasn't learned to love? In the course of time I realized that everyone was asking this question: How can one live? How can one experience joy? How can one enjoy life? These questions allow people to understand the film. Perhaps accidentally, the film captures the mood of today, something which people share. Accidentally, because even the sound track of the film on which Philippe Cohen Zolal worked for one whole year wasn't planned as an act of seduction. The sound track simply became the inner voice of the film. We hadn't realized that sound, the music would capture people's hearts, that is, people who search and look in a similar direction, without taking the detour via a narrative. It would be great to have achieved this.
Yolande Zauberman's second feature and her first are like night and day. Many will remember her remarkable, black-and-white Yiddish film, Moi Ivan, toi Abraham, which recreated life in a Jewish shtetl in Poland in the thirties. Set within the banlieues, Paris' impoverished suburbs that house immigrants, drug dealers and thieves, CLUBBED TO DEATH is of a completely different temper: rough, freewheeling, liberating, spontaneous.
Shot in colour, almost entirely with a hand-held camera, the film views its alien world through the eyes of a young 20-year old. One night Lola falls asleep on the bus going home from her job. She wakes up at the end of the line in the strange outskirts of her city. With no more buses due until the next morning, she wanders into a huge, wild nightclub. Techno music shatters the air, sweaty bodies sway, and the beautifully exotic Saïda presides over the local ,floor' show. A stranger pops Lola a pill, and the next thing she knows she's in the arms of a sultry French Arab.
This is the start of a strange, Miller-like adventure for Lola. Fascinated by the energy and otherness of the cavernous club, she returns in search of Emir. Emir, boyfriend of the decadent Saïda, finds himself attracted to ,petite' Lola - but his world is very different from hers, as she gradually discovers.
Narrative, however, is never really at the centre of Zauberman's work. It's more an excuse to probe the forbidden territories where most of us never dare to venture. She casts a surreal veil over the film, accentuating the underground landscape into which Lola has stumbled. Zauberman's cast is exemplary, especially Béatrice Dalle as the mesmerizing and dazzling Saïda. A kind of modern ,Alice in Wonderland', CLUBBED TO DEATH reaffirms the promise of this talented French filmmaker.
(Piers Handling, Toronto Film Festival catalogue)
Yolande came to me in August last year. She knew what kind of music she liked but none of the examples of ,techno' music she had heard gave her the emotion she felt in the clubs or at rave parties. I let her listen to examples of what I consider true techno music, techno with some ,soul', a little bit more melody or voice than usual. At first I was only supposed to do the club scenes, but then the work extended to about a year and a half.
Very gradually the music became one of the actors in the film. I found Yolande to be very open to my work. I had already had experience working with French filmmakers, but they remained quite passive in their choices, looking at old-fashioned music culture, always wanting references. Yolande didn't want to refer to anything, she just wanted the emotions created by music, she had great curiosity. I heard Robdy's piece CLUBBED TO DEATH which is a mix of classical music and electronic ,groove' in a club in London almost a year before I met Yolande. DJ James Lavell (he launched the ,trip hop') was just mixing music and played CLUBBED TO DEATH. I was fascinated by this music. When I played it during the filming, the crew was just as fascinated and gradually the song became the emblematic music for the film, it was finally even given the same title. (...)
There is enormous creativity in the techno movement, new recordings are made all the time, all over the world. (...) Since the music is primarily instrumental it is well received all over the world, there are no national boundaries. You practically hear the same music in London, New York, Tokyo, Paris and Beijing. Everyone communicates via music, that's the positive aspect of a cultural interchange. It is appropriate for the film because its exact location is unclear and the music suggests any number of geographical locations. (...)
Yolande Zauberman was born in Paris, France. She studied art history and economics, and made two documentaries before turning to features in 1993.
1987: Classified People. 1989: Caste criminelle. 1993: Moi Ivan, Toi Abraham. 1996: CLUBBED TO DEATH.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.