Director and screenwriter Francois Ozon’s Le Refuge stars Isabelle Carré as a pregnant young recovering heroin addict. The film was based on a preoccupation of Ozon’s to deal with and to document pregnancy and to analyse its power within a discussion of life and death. Le Refuge is an intense and eye opening film, with Ozon’s signature style littered throughout the film. National treasure Carré has her work cut out playing the role of Mousse in her first collaboration with Ozon. Mousse is a heroin addict who has just lost the love of her life to an overdose, discovering that she is pregnant and rejected by her partner’s wealthy family, she retreats to a countryside hideaway to come to terms with her grief and to acknowledge the life growing inside of her. Herself pregnant, Carré took on the gruelling task of filming throughout the latter part of her term, Ozon’s vision was to explore the nature of pregnancy and an actress faking it just wouldn’t cut the mustard. Alongside the pregnant Carré, Ozon cast Louis Ronan Choisy as Paul, a musician who had never acted before. This natural element to the casting of the film adds an intensity and a realism to the work.
Dazed caught up with Isabelle as the film goes on general DVD release to hear about her experiences onset and her relationship with the esteemed director. Ozon wrote the script around Carré, having already cast her. Her decision to work with the Director on the project throughout her pregnancy was something she states not to have been ready for, however upon speaking with Ozon he reassured her to such a level and made her believe in his vision for the story.
Isabelle describes the film as, at its heart, essentially a love story, the story of an improbable love that develops between a recovering, pregnant heroin addict and the homosexual brother of her dead boyfriend. The innocent purity of the brother, Paul, brings a calm and an acceptance to the grieving Mousse, and highlights the wonderful lack of judgement throughout the story. When outlined the story is one we would expect to provoke feelings of blame and intolerance; a pregnant heroin addict isolated in the countryside drinking and behaving recklessly whilst carrying a child and entering into a bizarre and intense relationship with a young gay man. It is a journey to avoiding the pitfalls of social stereotyping and is typical of Ozon’s knack of turning characters upside down and forcing his audience to open their minds.
The majority of the filming took place during the seventh month of Carré’s pregnancy, a physically gruelling task, but one that she has no regrets about. Dazed asked whether it was emotionally challenging to be depicted onscreen in a state that we are not used to being granted access to. Carré states that, although initially hesitant, the idea of depicting maternity and pregnancy fascinated her. Actresses are ordinarily forced to hide their bodies during the final months of pregnancy, avoiding the public gaze and retreating from sight until their bumps have disappeared. Isabelle describes her excitement at the possibility of working up until the eighth month of her pregnancy, to live like the majority of (non-actor) women who are able to carry on working. Carré points out that her intention was not to create a documentary about her own pregnancy, but to be able to continue with her career whilst pregnant and to work on a project that was very far from her own situation.
Le Refuge is out on DVD now