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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Who You Think I Am

by writer/director Safy Nebbou

Don't give up desire.

When I read Camille Laurens’ novel, Who You Think I Am, I thought of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, in which each character tells his own version of the story. I thought of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, in which James Stewart is in love with the image of an invented woman. I thought of Marivaux’s The False Confidences, and Choderlos de Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons....

And I dreamed of a dizzying film with multiple points of entry and voices, where reality and lies come together, told as a story within a story about identity.

With the help of virtual tools, it is easy today to invent a new life for oneself: the one we would like to live... Indeed, social networks now offer infinite possibilities to foster many forms of dangerous liaisons!

It is not uncommon to make a film in reaction to the previous one. My previous film, In the Siberian Forests speaks of disconnection: a man settles in a cabin deep in Siberia to escape the noise of the world. Who You Think I Am is about hyper-connectivity, presenting several cinematic challenges which I was very excited to tackle. It’s a devastating story that blends truth with fiction, dream with reality, all the way to madness and confinement. Isn’t the movie theatre the ordinary place where spectators can momentarily mistake virtual images for reality?

I was also very keen to work on a female character, specifically the representation of the so-called “mature” woman, condemned by society to give up desire.

Claire is complex and paradoxical, the type of character I’m particularly fond of. She is the victim of a man, but also of society.

Claire’s tragic dimension is of course suffused by a self-destructive guilt. But she overcomes her humiliation by refusing to give up desire. In my film, I wanted to go even further. What if Claire eventually became the young woman she had created on Facebook? Not a double, not someone else, but a person who allows Claire to remain seductive, attractive, alive, and makes her forget the woman no one turns around to look at any more, the one who is going to fade out....

Claire's psychosis is her fight against the passage of time, exhuming Claire while refusing reality. That’s where I think the subject of the film takes on a universal and timeless dimension. It may sound a bit “primitive,” but I believe that the fear of death, which I’ve been tormented by since I was born, was the engine of this film, and has always been behind my love of filmmaking. Like the character in my film, I invent stories that never end.

I always had Juliette Binoche in mind for this production. I could not imagine who else could convey so much sincerity, truth and intimacy in a character that’s supposed to represent “all” women. She said yes immediately after reading the screenplay. Our collaboration has turned into a delicate friendship, which gives my sixth film a very special flavor, which surpasses fiction.

I always feel a special excitement when I’m about to release a film in the United States. It’s a bit like showing your movie to an older brother, I’m afraid to disappoint him, I want him to love it, and be proud of me.

I hope you will enjoy my film as much as I had the pleasure of making it.

Posted September 1, 2021

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