Making its world premiere in the Generation Kplus program at the Berlin Film Festival on Feb. 19, “L’Amour du monde” (“Longing for the World”) is the feature debut from filmmaker Jenna Hasse.
Latido Films manage international sales and will be looking to add to their haul from the previous two years at Berlinale, having won with Fred Baillif’s “The Fam,” in 2021 and with Clare Weiskopf & and Nicolas van Hamelryck’s “Alis,” in 2022.
Produced by Langfilm (“The Mountain,” “Alpine Fire,” a classic Swiss production house, the film has secured distribution with Mindjazz Pictures in Germany giving it momentum coming into its festival bow.
“L’Amour” turns on Margaux, 14, who during a summer by Lake Geneva, befriends Juliette, 7, and local fisherman Joel.
Juliette is a mischievous girl from the foster home Margaux is working at for the summer. Local fisherman Joel is the third piece to an unlikely trio forming. Each has a longing for life being more than where they find themselves, and all for very different reasons. Margaux, played here by Clarissa Moussa, is experiencing the rush of feelings the teenage years can bring, along with a relationship with her father strained by his emotional absence.
Esin Demircan makes her acting debut as Juliette, bringing a natural impishness to every scene she’s in. And Joel longs to be back in Indonesia, as far away from where he finds himself as possible.
Oscar Alonso, Latido head of acquisitions & festivals says: “It is delicate, truthful and offers magnificent performances from its young cast which perfectly blend with those from the adults. We cannot wait for the international market to discover a talent like Jenna Hasse, who can echo Celine Sciamma’s first works but with a voice of her own,”
Shot dreamily on location in Lake Geneva, and with a melodic, rhythmic, and clipped guitar soundtrack from Cedric Blaser, the film plays with the truth that can sit behind this beauty.
Variety spoke with Hasse ahead of the film’s world premiere.
The film opens with a quote, from Ramuz of “how do we manage to live like this and be satisfied with so little, how could we live so small when everything is so big and there is so much.” How important is his work for this project and more generally for you?
It gives me the starting point to why this film, at the beginning… After some time, I just said to myself, I want to get inspired by this book [of Ramuz] but put it in the present day. So I keep some of the topics that traverse the book and I get inspired by three characters that are outcasts in this 1920s village; Louis-Joël the unappreciated traveler, Juliette the neglected child of a large family with whom nobody wants to play, and Margaux, the youth Thérèse who escape from the village after discovering images of the world in cinema. I read a lot of other books from Ramuz, and he inspired me a lot even in his life the way he grew up in Switzerland, but then he moved to Paris.
The character of Margaux is one you’ve visited previously in your shorts; showing her as a small girl, a young woman, and now as a fourteen year old in this story. What inspires you to keep exploring this character?
I think it’s an alter ego for me inspired by a lot of women around me, especially my family, my sister. And also it’s a character that is observing a lot and it gives me the possibility to describe certain things. I was quite inspired when I wrote the film not only of the book of course, but going places to do documentary research. The process of the film is of course to write the story but it’s to then try to take an essence of this research to the shoot and on to the editing, to take the essence of when I meet these people for real. Margaux represents a character that can act as a testimony of all the observations I’ve made in the process of creating the film.
Why were you drawn to showing Margaux at this age?
In the film she’s experiencing many things for the first time, for example her desire for Joel, and she’s crushed by this feeling. It’s a real desire, but it’s also mixed. … She is also a character who is somewhat passive at the beginning of this film. Joel and Juliette are more active. It is perhaps easier to be in empathy with Juliette, with Margo she watches the world. It’s more common in novels to have those kinds of characters that come across some scene or some places, and [as a reader] observing the world through their eyes. The world discovers them in a way.
How was the transition from directing shorts to making this, your feature debut?
It was hard to get finance. It took a long time. But when we started to prepare and all the crew came I really felt that feeling of building something with a lot of people. You had the set decoration coming and then the costume and it was incredible. I was amazed because before on the shorts I was doing so many things myself for the shoot, but now I got to work with all these talented people. Much of the crew were women in their 30’s and it was also their first feature. So everybody was really excited, and when you dream about this film for years and then the set is built, it all suddenly appears.
There is a moment in the film where Margaux watches the 1932 film “L’Atlantide.” What makes this so evocative for Margaux?
Brigitte Helm the star of “L’Atlantide” – who played the robot in “Metropolis” also – when I saw how her body was so strong and even though it’s a sound film, you still have the old movement of the silent era. It’s about the body, about how her eyes look, and this was really important….I’m fascinated by the body and the expression of this in cinema. And you have this in the film from Pabst. It was a synthesis of a lot of things, of a strong woman, expressions of silent cinema. Of female strength and also a lot of desire in the scene, humour also. It worked for the character of Margaux to see this film in this story.
The season of summer, and the location of Switzerland, though beautiful, is still somewhat restricting to Joel, Juliette, and Margaux; it’s an interesting juxtaposition…
This feeling was well described in the book. I was not born in Switzerland, but I grew up there and the landscape is amazing but you are surrounded by mountains, so you have mixed emotions. It’s in a way, really sublime, and in a way, it’s closed off. And with the season of summer, you can see more of the body being closer to the character. It’s a season where you can lay down and think and let your thoughts go. They [the characters] should be happy but actually they can’t be. With everything looking so beautiful you can explore violence in less obvious direct ways. I’m not interested in telling things directly at all.