"The origin of The Dreamlife of Angels was my meeting with a girl who was the inspiration for the character of Isa. I was casting my second short film, ETERNELLES, one of the candidates was a young girl with a rudsack and she showed me a strange sort of book she'' put together which was in fact her diary. She gave out an impression of serenity, grace and absolute confidence in life. She told me how, like Isa in the film, she wandered from place to place, living from day to day, at the hazard of happenings and encounters. Like Isa she had sometimes worked in factories, just going her own way. I kept in contact with her and followed her journeys. In fact she came on to the set and when she saw the film she told me that she recognized herself in the character of Isa.
As for Marie, I was also inspired by a woman I know who is very dear to me. At the time we met, she was in total rebellion against society and she felt the same powerless fury as Marie does in the film.
I constructed the story around these two encounters with two different women. It took me two years to write and to reduce an initial project of four hours to what the film has become today. My approach to writing is primarily visual. My scripts always start at an imaginary point. Any didactic approach is totally foreign to me. I never start with a theme or a theoretical point of view but let myself follow my imagination. The introduction of sense and coherency come after an initially unstructured approach to the work.
As was the case for RIVES, ETERNELLES and SEULE, my three short films, the main thing I wanted to make felt was emotion. I have absolutely no interest in formulating truths about the world or society. My vision is not in the documentary tradition. What matters to me is encounters with human beings.
My experience as an actor has helped me understand the mirror effect between a director and an actor. Directing actors is an agonizing experience for me yet at the same time it's what I like best. If I believe what my actresses say then they don't feel that they received any direction from me. I certainly feel that they seized their characters and captured them perfectly.
It was obvious while I was writing the script that Elodie Bouchez was Isa. She has the innocence and the grace of her character.
The others convinced me during the screen tests. To start with I had a completely different idea about the character of Marie. For example, in my mind she was a brunette. Then following a number of tests I found that Natacha Régnier, with her blond hair and her posture and way of moving, opened up other perspectives on this violent and extreme character personified by Marie.
Grégoire Colin was evidently Chriss, a sort of wild animal, instinctive and dangerous, exactly what I was looking for in this role. I greatly appreciated that he never tried to draw any sympathy to his character.
I was especially touched by the genuine tenderness that emanates from Patrick Mercado, who plays the part of Charly. Also he writes thrillers and that was a definite additional advantage.
Jo Prestia, Fredo, had little acting experience but his method of acting immediately reassured me. Incidentally, Jo is a former world champion of Thai boxing. Like Fredo, in the film he was also once a bouncer at a night club in Lille.
For me these two were the ideal choices to play characters who initially appear to be two big thugs but who in fact really understand and know the world in which they live.
I'd never been to Lille but I'd placed the action of my script in the north. It's an almost universal subject and could have been situated elsewhere. I shot the film almost chronologically in February and March.François Marquis of Bagheera Productions have followed and supported me since the beginning of my career. He produced my three short films and with THE DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS he has had his first taste of producing a feature film. We work very closely together. He's a person who takes risks with his productions and has a really profound and genuine wish to make films.