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Nora (Emmanuelle Devos) is a single mother struggling to rise above tragic circumstances—a late husband, a failed second marriage and a lover's suicide—through her successful career. Ismaël (Mathieu Amalric), her ex-husband, is a neurotic musician who descends into a comic nightmare when he is mistakenly committed to a mental hospital. He faces off against the steely clinic psychiatrist (Catherine Deneuve), but his eccentric antics earn a ten-day stay that may leave him worse off than when he entered. On discovering that her father is terminally ill and fearing for the future of her young son, Nora tracks down Ismaël to enlist his help. Directed and co-written by Arnaud Desplechin (Esther Kahn).
 

 Kings and Queen

When I started to write Kings and Queen I couldn’t stop thinking about those women destined for tragedy I had discovered as a child in Hitchcock movies. I recalled Rebecca and Marnie, of course, and above all Ingrid Bergman in Notorious and Under Capricorn. Women tormented by problems who manage to overcome them on their own. Like sinister fairy tales. How giddy it made me feel to discover those grand and mysterious heroines! Those were the first female movie characters I came to love.

A woman, alone, finds herself by chance in something resembling a Hawthorne story: a strange town, ghosts from the past, and then…misfortune…. Her name is Nora.

She needed a companion to accompany her on her solitary, tragic journey: a comic figure by the name of Ismaël Vuillard. A Shakespearean comedy or a throwback to a Frank Tashlin flick? We gave him every fault known to man, and with each passing day he became more delightful.

During shooting we simply threw caution to the wind, both in terms of melancholy and humor. Enough of timid movies! We were to film fiery scenes every single day. Both ludicrously comical and violently tragic.

The face, the skin, of Emmanuelle Devos illuminated our plans. I stood in trepidation of her fragility, her softness, her inner need for peace, and of the nightmares she was to face.

And then there’s Mathieu Amalric’s "Ismaël"— everything we forbid ourselves from doing, being.

A two-part film. Or rather, two films glued together. A woman who lives in her memories, and a man who goes from one absurd adventure to another. Nora, so bright and free, becomes entrapped by what happens to her. Ismaël, who feels imprisoned, marches unwittingly towards freedom.

During filming I dreamed that these two films of opposing genre would be able to join to help a fatherless son, Elias. And that’s what happened, like the sun between the clouds. A minor miracle.

A woman’s destiny in an hour and five minutes. Another hour for the labors of Hercules. And ten minutes to save a child. We charge as fast as possible along all the fairy tales from which our lives are woven.