Interview with an angel

A conversation with Elodie Bouchez of 'Dreamlife.'

SIMPLE IN ITS OUTLINES but entrancing in its emotional richness, The Dreamlife of Angels follows two young women as their friendship first develops, then disintegrates. Isa (Elodie Bouchez), a sociable but rootless young woman, takes a dead-end job in a clothing factory, where she meets Marie (Natacha R駮ier), a less communicative co-worker. Isa wins Marie over with her openness and lack of guile. When Isa gets fired, the two become roommates, quickly developing a rapport that brings out the best in both of them. The former owner of their apartment died in a recent car accident; her daughter, who was riding with her, remains in the hospital in a coma. Isa discovers the girl's diary, reads it, and decides to continue it. She visits the unconscious girl, claiming to be a relative, and writes about both the girl's condition and her own experiences. Meanwhile, Marie has become obsessively involved with a manipulative club owner in a relationship that will swiftly threaten the friendship she has with Isa. The performances are raw and immediate; rarely have the nuances of a friendship been given such vitality and depth.

The Dreamlife of Angels

directed by Erick Zonca

starring Elodie Bouchez, Natacha R駮ier

opens April 23 at Broadway Market

Bouchez, who plays Isa, first met the director, Erick Zonca, at a film festival where she presented him with an award for one of his short films. When Zonca came on stage, he said, "Elodie Bouchez doesn't know it yet, but I've written my first feature film for her." In a recent interview, Bouchez revealed she was underwhelmed.

SW: What initially drew you to The Dreamlife of Angels?

Bouchez: Nothing.

SW: Nothing?

Bouchez: I wasn't sure that I wanted to make that movie because I didn't like Isa's part. She wasn't interesting at all in the script. Marie was really intense, because she's this kind of depressive, extreme emotional character, but Isa was just the good friend, the good girlfriend. And I don't like shooting a movie for [the sake of] shooting a movie, so I spoke about that to Zonca, but he didn't want to change anything. He was expecting a lot of things from me. [As an actor] you must be able to bring things to the script, but you need a base, you need some texture. On that movie I found the texture, but sometimes you don't find it, and that's a disaster. Isa could have been boring.

SW: If you were so ambivalent about the script, how did the director convince you to do it?

Bouchez: I don't know, I don't know at what point I—I loved his short movies. I don't know, once you make a decision, it's yes or no.

SW: You have to trust some kind of instinct.

Bouchez: Exactly.

SW: How is the film doing in France?

Bouchez: A big success . . . the movie is a big adventure for us because at first there was Cannes—

SW: Where you both won acting awards.

Bouchez: Yes, and we just won Cesars [French Oscars] as well.

SW: Dreamlife made me question the stability of how people define themselves—so much of who we are depends on our relationships with others, and when those people fall out of our lives, our sense of self can be painfully disrupted.

Bouchez: Yeah . . . but in fact, Marie stays in her bubble, and even if she's got somebody in front of her—Isa, who is so open and is trying to give her so much—she stays closed. Marie doesn't want any help from Isa, so maybe that's why at the end it's so traumatic.

SW: But while Isa does seem independent, open, and generous, she doesn't have a lot of strong connections with other people—at least not that we see.

Bouchez: Yes, but the point is that those two girls, they could be the same, they both come from the same roots, they come from the same social class, they had problems with their parents, both of them, but that's really two different ways: to live and be happy or to be sad. It's really two examples. Isa, she also is disappointed and as desperate as Marie in some ways. But she decided to fight.

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