Hélène Louvart, director of photography of “La Chimère”: “Alice Rohrwacher likes to mix different ways of filming”

Hélène Louvart, director of photography of “La Chimère”: “Alice Rohrwacher likes to mix different ways of filming”

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The news puts Hélène Louvart, the director of photography and faithful collaborator of Alice Rohrwacher, in the spotlight, as La Chimère , the fourth feature film by the Italian director, a rural and Fellinian tale about looters, is released in theaters of Etruscan tombs, in competition in Cannes. At the same time, the Center Pompidou, in Paris, is organizing a retrospective of the work of the filmmaker until January 1 , 2024, Hélène Louvart having signed the image of Corpo celeste (2011), Les Merveilles (2015), Heureux comme Lazzaro (2018), The Chimera (2023), etc.

Born in 1964 in Pontarlier (Doubs), trained at the Louis-Lumière school, Hélène Louvart has worked on around fifty feature films (Sandrine Veysset, Jacques Doillon, Claire Denis, Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval, Agnès Varda, Wim Wenders , Virginie Despentes, Christophe Honoré, Danielle Arbid, Marc Recha…), while continuing to accompany first “features” – such as Disco Boy (2023) , by Giacomo Abbruzzese, which earned the cinematographer the Bear of money for his artistic contribution.

You have worked with Alice Rohrwacher since her first feature film, “Corpo celeste”. How did you meet her?

Alice had seen my work on Pablo Agüero’s film, Salamandra (2010)   : she had the impression of seeing a light that did not look like a cinema light. I went to see her in Italy, I felt that she had something very strong, and that she was looking for someone to translate her ideas. I helped her without stopping her from following her aesthetic choices.

“The Chimera” begins with a black image, before a burst of light and the appearance of a female face; “Les Merveilles” opened at night, on a field lit by headlights… What does it say, and how would you describe the light in Alice Rohrwacher’s films?

Alice likes to start her films as she opens a first page. For the first shot of La Chimère , I put the shutter on the camera, then I took it off to get this effect – we didn’t do that in post-production. Alice’s real pleasure is shooting on super-16 film: there is this organic and lively side, with faults and qualities, which totally corresponds to what she is looking for. Then, she likes to mix different ways of filming.

Corpo celeste was more of a shoulder- mounted film, but for Les Merveilles , we mixed the shoulder for subjectivity and the fixed camera for the objectivity of the gaze. Happy how Lazzaro induced movements in space, dives into different points of view, the character of Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) being able to be seen as a saint. For La Chimère , we tried to find a slightly different language to film Etruscan works underground. We wanted to convey this quest of grave robbers, this presence of souls, and the 35 millimeter film allowed us to be in total darkness, to light the works with candles. We couldn’t do better than revealing Etruscan works in 35 millimeters, in Alice’s universe. And we kept the super-16 for the rest, filmed in the open air.

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