Polisse Film Interview
Polisse Film Interview
Renowned in France for her acting skills on television and in films such as Leon and The Fifth Element, Maiwenn Le Besco, also known as simply Maiwenn, has recently made the move to direct her own features. Her third film Polisse centres around a group of police officers going about their daily job on the Child Protection Unit. Here she talks to View’s Matthew Turner about directing and acting in the film, researching the ideas for the plot, and how she feels police officers are always on the brink of break down.
Where did the idea come from?

Maiwenn

I discovered a documentary on TV about the CPU, the Child Protection Unit, and I made an internship and I decided to write about it.
Can you explain a little more about the internship? How similar was it to the role you take in the film?

Maiwenn

It was quite different, in the sense of I was different from my character in the movie. I was so curious, so involved and I was not afraid about anything. I was at ease. I was comfortable, I wasn't scared of being there or asking questions. All I tried was to be very small and discreet, so I kind of didn't dress in a flashy, ultra-feminine way, I didn't put make-up on, I didn't get my hair done, I kind of toned down things, although not to the point of putting glasses on to look more serious [like my character], but just generally being more low-key.
So the stories that are told in the film, are they all from reality, from things you saw or things you heard?

Maiwenn

Mm-hm. Some cases I saw them, some cases I heard about, some cases I read the deposition, some cases I saw the video, some of them were stories that policemen told me about.
The style of the film reminded me very much of the French TV series Spiral. [Engrenages] Had you seen that at all?

Maiwenn

No. I hadn't seen that series, actually.
What was the script like? Was there a lot of improvisation? Was there a lot of workshopping beforehand? How did the script evolve?

Maiwenn

I wrote the script with my co-writer, Emmanuelle Bercot and on the shooting sometimes the actors would improvise in the group scenes, because I felt like the scenes looked better – when people wait their turn to give their line then it doesn't ring true. So here if we're talking and one of them overlaps, to recreate that, it's very important for every character not to be waiting.
So, typically, how much rehearsal would you do for each scene?

Maiwenn

Never. Never rehearsal.
So you'd tell each actor ...

Maiwenn

I said to the actor, 'The secret is in the way you listen to your partner.' That's all. The face that you're making now, because you're listening to me, I could have a camera on you and the shot is going to be good, because I feel that you really listen to me, you know? But if you know what I'm going to say, your face is going to change and it's going to look fake. So the only thing I repeated and repeated and repeated, I said, 'Please, listen to your partner.' And sometimes I could say a secret to an actor, into his ears, to destabilise his partner, so suddenly there is a dynamic coming up and then the scene has something that looks like magic, but it's not something that I always had to do.
On a similar note, for me, perhaps the most upsetting scene was the scene with the little boy crying. Did you make that little boy cry? And how?

Maiwenn

Well, he cried – it's not fake tears. But he knew we were making a movie, he knew it was fake, everything. And on the morning when he arrived, I said, 'It's going to be a tough day, every job deserves a present or a salary. And because it's going to be tough for you, you have to do it as a job, I'd like to give you a present after the day.' And he said, 'I'd like to have a remote-control helicopter.'
So that's how you get an extraordinary child performance? You offer them a remote-control helicopter?

Maiwenn

Yeah. But when we made the shot, he was so personally involved – I mean, his tears were not fake – he forgot that it was only a movie. We made only one take and when I checked the shot in the monitor, he was around me in the corridor and he heard his crying and he started crying again, because he couldn't deal with the emotion. And I said, 'No, it's okay, it's finished, I just want to check.'
Related Links

Most Read Today

Content updated: 17/10/2018 16:48

Latest Features

Take a stand at the Human Rights Film Festival.
The best films to watch for the 2014 Christmas season
Director Richard Ayoade and actor Jesse Eisenberg talk about creating their doppleganger comedy horror
The writer and co-star of The Stag talks about filming his all male comedy in rural Ireland

Film of the Week

Foxcatcher (15)

Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum star in this real life inspired story of Olympic talent, fierce competition and murder.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films