INTERVIEW: Xavier Dolan for MOMMY

We catch up with the writer and director about his latest film.

Xavier Dolan’s compelling MOMMY is released in Irish cinemas this week, and tells the story of widow Diana ‘Die’ (Anne Dorval), who is trying her best to make it on her own, but when her violent and unpredictable son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) is thrown out of a care facility, Die struggles to bring him up alone.
We caught up with Xavier Dolan, the writer and director of MOMMY, at the Cannes press conference, to find out more…

This is your second film that deals with mothers, do you think your relationship with your mother informs your work?
Xavier Dolan: My relationship with my mother inspired me in my first film, which was autobiographical. Subsequently I think the figure of the Mother inspired me. In this case, we have the mother/son relationship, and the mother is the central figure of the film. This has nothing to do with my life, or my mother. My mother is totally different from Diane. I don’t know why this is a recurring theme, why this is such fertile ground that inspires me. I grew up in a single parent home, and I saw my mother fighting for certain things, and abdicating on other scores and that made me want, through cinema, to take revenge, in a sense.

Why did you decide to shoot the film in 1:1 ratio?
XD: At the time of COLLEGE BOY, my cinematographer André Turpin told me that he always wanted to shoot a film this way, and we decided to do it. I realised that it enhanced the characters because I realised that the spectator was looking solely at the centre, that the spectator’s look was imprisoned. The spectator’s look cannot help but look straight into the eyes of the characters, and for reasons that I’m not going to explain, there were all sorts of possibilities, thanks to this restriction.

Can you talk about how you chose the music for the film?
XD: Music, to me, is the soul of a movie, and it is inevitable that there would be music in my movies. For me, in MOMMY, it was more about music playing in the film, than music playing on the film. All of the songs that we can hear are actually from a mixtape that the father made for Die and Steve before he passed. The use of music in MOMMY is featured on radios, in cars and in bars; that was the way for me to incorporate music into the film. I wanted it to be incorporated into the lives of the characters; it’s not about what fits best, some of them don’t fit best and some choices may feel wrong to some, but to me it felt like we were spanning a range from the 90s to the early 2000s.

This is your fifth film since 2009, where do you find the energy to work so hard?
XD: I don’t know; it’s my passion. It’s not a duty for me; it’s not like a work. I don’t feel I need to make a film every year, I don’t think it’s an absolute requirement; it’s just my mode of expression. I think a set creates a huge adrenalin rush; it’s like a hard drug. You need more of it all the time, and I need a lot. I need to express myself. I feel the need to create. The aim is not to make a statement; I don’t want to work at a frenetic pace. What I try to do is to tell a tale I really want to tell. We never know how much time we have on earth; I know I’m young, but I don’t know how much time I’ll have to create. I keep saying to myself that I’d like to do this here and now.

MOMMY is released in Irish cinemas on March 20th, 2015

Words: Brogen Hayes