The controversial director brings his vision to the big screen in his surreal and uncompromising debut feature
Romain Gavras exploded onto the word stage three years ago with his ultra-violent video for the Justice track ‘Stress’, in which a gang of black teens from Paris’s impoverished ban lieu smash the shit out of practically everything and everyone they come into contact with. He followed that up earlier this year with his equally celebrated and vilified video for MIA’s ‘Born Free’, in which he portrayed a private army rounding up redheads and brutally annihilating them with guns, bombs, tanks and bazookas (the seven-year-old who gets his brains casually blown out the side of his cranium is possibly one of the most shocking things ever committed to celluloid). This month, the uber-controversial enfant terrible releases his much-anticipated first feature Notre Jour Viendra (Our Day Will Come) in which two red-headed protagonists (Vincent Cassel and Olivier Barthelemy) try to set up a bizarre utopian community. Boasting a score by Ed Banger's SebastiAn it proves to be one of the unmissable films of the year – we dug around in the fashion cupboard for a stylish bullet-proof vest and went to find out more.
Dazed Digital: Obviously you are very well known for your controversial videos for MIA and Justice Why is that you tend not to explain the motivations behind your work?
Romain Gavras: If I give my opinion it just narrows down the scale of the meanings people can take from it. ‘Stress’ spread very quickly on the net and made the cover of Le Monde – what happened was that left-wing people were saying I was a racist bastard and right wing people were saying I was an anarchist bastard. I discovered that I really like this position to be in the middle. It is important to push those buttons, plus it is really fucking funny. I love reading things like ‘Romain Gavras’s mum should have aborted him!’ on the internet. It’s enjoyable to get strong reactions like that.
DD: Lots of people find the ultra-violent nature of your work disturbing...
Romain Gavras: It’s not the violence in it that disturbs people, it’s more that I’m not taking a moral stance and telling you what to think. That’s what disturbs them. It makes the viewer alone with his own thoughts. I think there are a lot of different ways in which the work they can be seen and that is what interests me.
DD: Have you applied the same kind of moral distance to your first full-length feature?
Romain Gavras: It’s the same in that it’s not a moral film and it’s not a demonstration of what I want to say. There is a surrealist vibe as well; it’s not a film with an obvious a plot. It’s about two ginger-haired people that go to another country to try and create a community that doesn’t exist. It’s an absurd quest that ends in total violence, because when you have an absurd quest, it can only end up in violence. I really can’t stand films that try to say something that is obvious. That is just boring. What happens when you make films in the way I do is that people see what they want to see in it, you know? I think we live in a world that is completely confused and crazy where there is no good or bad, and I want to show that confusion.
DD: So you are mirroring the self-destructive urge in the modern psyche?
Romain Gavras: Yeah, definitely. It’s like those kids in ‘Stress’ are the new punks, and its completely nihilistic stuff. They have no goal, its just pure destruction, you know?
DD: Where do you think that nihilistic violence comes from?
Romain Gavras: It’s because of the environment. I don’t think we are born violent, I think it’s just that you have to choose – on one side it’s the Yankees and on one side its terrorists, and right now it’s all about religion too, and once God is involved it goes to a totally psychotic level, you know? It’s like war on acid!Dazed Digital: Your first feature sounds a lot like the MIA video in that it centres around two ginger people. Why use that motif again?
Romain Gavras: It is like the MIA video in that sense, but I actually started shooting it before I made that video. It’s just about identity, basically. The vibe is that it’s not too explicative – it’s more like a romantic vision abut people going crazy over their identity and the despair of their impossible quest. To use ginger people is to use a visible minority that doesn’t exist in the sense that there is actually prejudice against them. That is why it is more universal and can touch everybody, because in the end, everybody can see themselves in it.