CULTURE

The woman next door as Medea

Francois Truffaut gave her her first major role and the title that has followed her ever since: Fanny Ardant, «The Woman Next Door.» More than two decades later, Truffaut’s muse and companion has enriched her curriculum vitae with many films (credits include about 50 movies), important collaborations (with Claude Lelouche, Costa-Gavras, Ettore Scola, Michelangelo Antonioni, Patrice Leconte, Francois Ozon and Franco Zeffirelli, among others) and frequent stage work. Her natural finesse and sensibility secured her presence in the cinema, together with the fragile – though not weak – side of her character, which continues to bet on risky choices that were potentially subversive for her status, such as her role in «Pedale Douce.» Whether she’s interpreting a contemporary romantic heroine who crushes and gets crushed by passion («The Woman Next Door»), a vain countess in the court of Versailles («Ridicule») or Maria Callas («Callas Forever»), her aim is to get rid of the clean, comme il faut surface and explore the «dark areas.» The Greek public will get a chance to appreciate this affable yet also mysterious actress early next month. Ardant is scheduled to appear at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall on December 4 and the Athens Concert Hall on December 5 to interpret what she refers to as a «monologue embraced by notes.» Euripides’ «Medea» and Racine’s «Phédre» (inspired by Euripides’ «Hippolytus») will be interpreted by Ardant, who will be accompanied by two prominent soloists: pianist Imogen Cooper and cellist Sonia Weider Atherton. Just before her debut appearance on a stage in Greece, Ardant spoke to Kathimerini. You are recognized as an international star. Which do you consider the pivotal moments of your career? My career began in the theater in a rather dark way… for a certain amount of time without any success. That is when I learned to stand on my own two feet even when they are throwing stones at me. During the course of your career you have interpreted a plethora of different roles. Which one was a pleasant surprise? I’ll answer your question in the present tense: I’m really excited by the role of Medea. What did you gain from the various directors you have worked with so far? I consider myself very lucky in this respect. I have collaborated with very great artists, people passionate about their work who had the power to lift me up above the earth, make me feel one meter above the ground. Though you have interpreted a variety of characters, almost all of them have one point in common – they are bourgeois women. Are you attracted by the opposite? Very much so… provided that I fall in love with the part. I’m able to play anything, even something that might not be appreciated by the rest of the world. Honestly, I could play a part that everyone disliked if I felt close to it. When I read a part, I’m like a dog sniffing. I use my feelings, my instinct, above all, as opposed to logic; I feel, I listen to the character. When I turn down a part, most of the time it has nothing to do with that particular role – whether it’s good or bad. I simply can’t «conquer» it. My choices are always based on the relationship I develop with the part, on whether I can distill its essence, not whether or not it’s a beautiful text. Medea and Phaedra: Two archetypal women, two contrasting or complementary characters? Certainly characters which complement one another. This becomes obvious from the way in which they face their errors. They share a common guilt, a peculiar sense of innocence. Two disposable victims, ready for the ultimate sacrifice. One commits suicide while the other kills what grew inside her. Two women who are deeply in love, two personalities facing something higher than life. Racine and Euripides: Two playwrights who became sources for the art of theater. Were these choices based on personal need or were they a way to return to the classics? Racine was inspired by Greek tragedy to tell the story of Phaedra. It’s like a continuation, an intellectual reincarnation. Greeks were pioneers in narrating a story, in imposing characters that you might hate in the beginning and then learn to love. It’s the quality we meet again in Shakespeare. It’s not about the good or the bad guys. Take for instance the Trojan War: How can it be that we suddenly dislike Achilles and adore Hector? No human being is only demon or saint. No human being is one-dimensional. It’s complex and made up of many different «coexistences.» Do you feel that a return to the classics might be a way out for contemporary theater? Not necessarily. In my view, what is really essential is to choose and present values. There are important roles and texts out there today, though, I’m afraid they cannot be heard. Lately we have been seeing more and more great actors leaning toward monologues. How do you explain this? Perhaps it all began with Jean-Louis Trintignan, who created an entirely new kind of performance and developed an audience for it too. Other actors, including Andre Dussolier and Fabrice Lucchini, the latter from the younger generation, have also worked on this genre. It might also be due to the fact that in an era when television reigns supreme, the immense power of the medium itself might be generating this kind of resistance. A form of resistance that becomes some kind of desire to let ourselves go and take pleasure in a word. On the other hand, there are actors who fall in love with words, who, at the age of 15 recite pieces standing on their bed. Why shouldn’t they have the right to express this love in public? Would you care to make a short comment on the following directors: Lelouche, Truffaut, Antonioni, Leconte, Ozon? Love and passion?