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About this film

I saw Félix Dufour-Laperrière’s Transatlantique for the first time almost two years ago. The beauty of several frames, the simplicity of the entire film, and, yes, the beauty in simplicity stunned me, and I’m very happy that tao films can finally show the film on its platform.

Transatlantique is a contradictory film. It takes us on a journey across the sea. We are in constant movement, and yet we don’t go anywhere. The director’s static camera throughout the film is keeping us locked in frames, which ask us to use our imagination. The camera captures the play of light-and-shadow, truthful to the origins of film, which some artists have described as a method to paint with light.

But Dufour-Laperrière goes even further in tickling our imagination: we’re journeying across the sea; we see beautiful images of it, the camera seemingly submerged in the moving waters, but why can we not hear it? The silence of the sea - a strong image throughout the film. Life happens on board the cargo ship we’re traveling on. In long, patient takes Félix Dufour-Laperrière captures not just life on a ship, but also how men of different cultures can live and enjoy their free time together without even speaking the same language. Take a journey with them, and enjoy the ride.

Nadin Mai (tao films)

Interview with the Director
Félix, I would like to know where your research for the film started. On the surface, the film depicts an ordinary life on, say, cargo ships. What was it that attracted you to this particular ship, to this particular crew?

The film was written, and quite precisely conceived, without knowing which ship we would be able to board on. I wrote down images, sensations, scenes and shots and adapted these desires with the daily reality of the shooting. But we basically found what we were looking for. Isn’t it always, at least partly, the case?

Where do the crew members come from? There seems to be a real culture on the ship actually.

The crew members were from various, and distant, regions of India and Sri Lanka. There is indeed a real culture on board but it is experienced by men who often don’t speak the same language.

There are several extreme close-ups of women. We can only see their faces which are surrounded by blackness, possibly by the blackness of the sea. They seem submerged. What is the role of these shots?

It is a remembrance of the film the sailors watch and at the same time a materialisation of the sailors desires and fears, an equivocal figure midway between a wife, a daughter and a siren.

How long was your journey on this ship? Have you filmed your entire film during that single journey?

We filmed all the material during a 30 days trip from Anvers to Vilnius and Montreal.

I see that more and more young filmmakers choose black-and-white for their films. You’re one of them. Transatlantique is beautiful in black-and-white and I couldn’t imagine it being in colour. Why have you chosen to keep the film in black-and-white?

To maintain a certain propension to abstraction within the seascapes and industrial spaces, for the quality of portraiture it permits and, quite frankly, just for the pleasure of shooting black and white super 16mm.

I noticed that you play quite a bit with absence. You use several empty frames, or suggest actions through shadow movements. Why is that?

It embodies, maybe, the ambiguous autonomy and fundamental alterity of the sea, of nature, always moving by itself, against which the human will is most often forceless.

Transatlantique reminds me of Denis Côté’s “Joy of Man’s Desiring” which was released in the same year like your film. There is a focus on people at work in both films. The daily routine is put into spotlight.

I never thought of it but I think you’re right. Both films shows attention to the concreteness of one’s labor. And I know very well Denis’ work.

Another interesting aesthetic of your film is the almost complete absence of the sound of the sea. This is perhaps what you would expect most from a film set on a ship which travels the sea. Why is there so little about the actual sea? We can see the sea several times in the film, but we cannot hear it.

The entire film is constructed as if the world emerges from the sailor prayer at the beginning. It takes one step aside reality. At the same time, I tried to offer the trip as an intimate journey, a documentary and a fictionalisation of the sailor’s interiority.

I found your sound design fascinating. How much of that was done in post-production?

Most of the sound work were sketched while editing the image and constructed and developed during the sound design sessions (Olivier Calvert was the sound designer). I kept little synchro sound from the shooting, once more to put the rendering of reality in tension.

There is very little dialogue in the film. But if people do say something, you do not translate it.

I’ve decided not to subtitle the dialogues for two reason. It would have implied a certain narrative that I didn’t wish to establish in the film. I also wanted to assume our subjectivities as filmmakers and render the experience we’ve had shooting and not understanding what was said.

Are you currently working on a new film?

Yes, a feature animated film that is in the middle of production. It is all drawn on paper and will be done at the end of this year. The French title is Ville Neuve.

Thank you very much for this interview, Félix.