To read also our review of the film.
For his first feature-length film, following two shorts, the director Naël Marandin has chosen to set his camera in the streets of Belleville within prostitution chinese. But not going to make a movie ON this universe but well WITH, it makes THE WALKER a work delicate and intelligent. A fiction first of all, in which he can tell the story of Lin, his “whore”. Except that beware, no question of limiting the character to this function. Lin is first and foremost a woman like any other. During an interview, which has been granted, Naël Marandin insists, and explains his intentions…
THE WALKER follows the daily life of a chinese woman, a prostitute in Belleville. The basis of this, you know it well since you have long worked for an association of Doctors of the World who comes in to help these women. How did you decided to link the movie to this reality ?
Even if it is my first feature film, I started to make films before you know about it. So my desire first it is the cinema. And it is this that is THE WALKER for me. Something born out of this desire to make a film. What I could discover after, this universe and these women, this was not to make a film but because it was something that interests me.
And you have made the choice to stay in the fiction and not the documentary, although you are very close to this reality.
First of all, I want to tell a story. And in this story there is a prostitute. But the one thing that mattered to me was not to lock up my character, Lin, in this figure. This is a woman who has had a life before and who has a life next to it. It turns out that at one time in her life, she is a prostitute, but it does not define it. The fiction is thus the place where I have the freedom to show this, with its capacity for emotion, empathy, romance. More than the documentary I think.
More than the issue of prostitution, what is it that has driven you to this film ?
I’m always interested in what plays out in the desire. The feeling of love, power relations, economic and social… All these grey areas of the attraction. And in a sense, the reality that I encountered on the field with the Lotus Bus, Médecins du Monde, is coming to meet my questions as a filmmaker.
This is particularly notable in the film is that while realistic, it does not seek to overwhelm the viewer.
Exactly. I wanted to show the reality. But, to my mind, the most interesting part of this story, this is not to say ” look how difficult this life, look at the humiliation “. It is used to show the different aspects and the complexity of life. Admittedly this film is about a chinese woman who is a prostitute, but I think it says more about French society.
You do not switch not as much violence, although it is not shown to the utmost.
Yes because violence is present in the lives of these women. There have been four women killed between 2008 and today. Regular women get beat up. In any case I do not deny or minimize the violence. But these are bursts of violence that does not sum up the life of these women. Also, I find that the bursts of violence, by their spectacular nature, have in the end something blinding about what is the reality in everyday life. What interests me is the violence that is fresh this day. Because behind the outbreak of violence, we condemn the one who commits it. While the daily life and situations of precariousness, the fragility of these women, calls into question the company directly.
Before THE WALKER you have to make two short films. One on a woman immigrant, the other a woman who sells her body. This first feature is a little the meeting of the two.
A little. The first follows a chinese woman who arrives in Paris and not speaking French. She is a bit lost and is picked up by a security guard. But again, this is the report of the body that interests me. Their desire mutual allows them to communicate, to go beyond the language. I was looking for to film the meeting of desire and interest. Of course there has to be a meeting point between these two films, but for example I write a new scenario, and there is no chinese in it.
But there are still with a woman ?
Ah yes, one more. (laughter) No, but what I mean is that the story is radically different but the issues are the same.
“I didn’t want to treat these women as exotic objects, but above all to show what we had in common.”
Talk to us about the situation of Lin. She lives in a kind of “comforts”.
Already there are a lot of different situations for these women. Lin, who lives and works with an old gentleman, it is not the most common situation, but there is in a. If I chose it is that politically it brings me something. Because it integrates in our society. I avoid the label ” brothel world “. I want to show that another reality exists.
And it goes by the apartment ?
This apartment has a symbolic dimension for me. For him, Lin is witnessing a great wealth but does not have access to. It is the same as for foreign nationals who come to France. They hope to have access to more wealth. And they see this wealth every day, on the people, in shop windows, in the pubs, but do not have access to.
You go beyond speaking in the film’s exploitation of chinese by other chinese.
In a sense yes. But you should know that China is seventeen times the size of France. So already say “the chinese” it is a simplification. To the extent that this phenomenon is not specific to chinese. In all the waves of migration, the last arrived are operated by those that were already there. So it is rather a remark on the phenomenon of migration say.
Your experience of China has she influenced your approach ?
I went to China to 19 with the idea of going in the place the more different the better, fed by the travelling writers that I had read in adolescence. And I was very disappointed. Not by what I’ve experienced, but because I did not do the experience of the difference, but rather of what we had in common. Behind the language and cultural barrier, I found similarities with this community. It is for this reason that I did not want to treat these women as exotic objects, but above all to show what we had in common. In the end we are defined by our relationships with people, by our aspiration to happiness, by the necessity of working, by the difficulty of making choices. All that we share as much.
What carries the film is the empathy of the spectator to the character of Lin. An empathy that increases as.
Lin, I’ve always imagined them as a small soldier. The title, The Walker, comes from there. It falls, it collects, it rises. Before the film she has already seen things. So when a little bit of hope arrives, it does’t wrap. She has the experience of life. It is akin to what I was saying, that being a prostitute does not define it. It is a woman like the others, with an interest in and ability to handle sometimes, to see its own interests and to make the switch first. My sense is that it is the proper of each one, to varying degrees of course. But it is this which gives it its humanity.
This is not what defines it. It is for this reason that the issue is never discussed with his daughter ?
For me, Cherry, his daughter, knows without knowing. In the same way that one knows of the family secrets without being revealed. It has consciousness and it’s influence elsewhere. When she says to Daniel : “a woman can always manage to have the money “, it has no consciousness of what she said, the implication behind this sentence. But she says because she is in this situation.
You have toured a lot in the street and Belleville. Has there been incidents or remarks ? In particular with the prostitutes of the neighborhood.
There was a real willingness to turn in the street, without blocking the passage. Already for the economic aspect. But also because the dynamics and energy of this area could not be re-create. It is a way to show himself humble in the face of the world also. You can put in there but you can’t reproduce it.
For incidents, yes there were. Not with women prostitutes. They, rather, they were amused to see us. Not with the police, either, which has made the representation to us at the scene of the police raid. Moreover, this was a kind of truce between the police and prostitutes the time of a decision. But with the passers-by, yes, in a certain way. Of people went to help the girls when they begin to hit a pickpocket, thinking that they really were molested. There are men who went to ask the actress how it was. Or again, there was an old lady who came to give him a Bible and a locket of the Virgin, telling her that God could help him out of his life of depravity. And yet it was not discreet to turn ! But all that, we let him do. It had to be repeated. But in the end, it was a constraint to be beneficial.
Remarks collected by Pierre Siclier
AGREE ? NOT AGREE ?
• Original title : The Walker
+ Interview Naël Marandin
• Achievement : Naël Marandin
• Scenario : Naël Marandin, Marion Doussot
• Main players : Qiu Lan, Yannick Choirat, Louise Chen
• Country of origin : France
• Released : February 3, 2016
• Duration : 1h20min
• Distributor : Rezo Films
• Synopsis : Lin Aiyu, underground, chinese, prostitute on the streets of Belleville. She lives with her teenage daughter, to which she hides her activity. Their life switches when one evening, an unknown, injured, gets brutally home. Sometimes captor, now prisoner, the man emerges as a threat and an opportunity…