DA­MIEN JA­LET

Numéro - - English Text - Luca Guadagnino’s Sus­pi­ria will be re­lea­sed in France on 14 No­vem­ber.

In­ter­view by Del­phine Roche, por­trait by Sté­phane Gal­lois In Luca Guadagnino’s Sus­pi­ria, dance plays a cen­tral role, with

cho­reo­gra­phy writ­ten and di­rec­ted by the Fran­co- Bel­gian Da­mien Ja­let, whose illus­trious ca­reer has span­ned eve­ry­thing from stage, to a fa­shion film with Nick Knight and Bern­hard Will­helm, to count­less col­la­bo­ra­tions with ar t ists, in­clu­ding An­to­ny Gorm­ley. From the out­set, Ja­let has ex­plo­red both in­ti­mate forms that are close to per­for­mance art, such as the trio Les Mé­du­sés, which he sho­wed in 2013 at the Louvre, and am­bi­tious sta­gings such as the Bo­lé­ro he wor­ked on at the Opé­ra de Pa­ris or the 2018 pro­duc­tion of Pel­léas et Mé­li­sande at the Ant­werp Ope­ra – both of which were co- pro­du­ced with the cho­reo­gra­pher Si­di Lar­bi Cher­kaoui and fea­tu­red stage sets by Ma­ri­na Abra­mo­vic. Ja­let tal­ked to Nu­mé­ro about the chal­lenges in­vol­ved with res­pect to the ma­king of Sus­pi­ria.

NU­MÉ­RO: How were you cho­sen to take par t in Sus­pi­ria? DA­MIEN JA­LET:

Luca was loo­king for a cho­reo­gra­pher, and so­me­bo­dy sho­wed him Les Mé­du­sés, the trio that I had crea­ted in 2013 at the Louvre. In the mu­seum’s Mar ly Court, my dan­cers per for­med among the dif ferent sculp­tures, some of which re­pre­sen­ted nymphs. They pro­gres­sed from one po­si­tion to ano­ther like sculp­tures that had come to life. I’d as­ked my dan­cers to watch the film Sus­pi­ria by Da­rio Ar­gen­to, be­cause I was ve­ry in­ter­es­ted in the link bet­ween dance and wit­ch­craft which is de­ve­lo­ped in the mo­vie. When Luca got in touch with me, he ex­plai­ned that he wan­ted dance, which i s se­con­da­ry in Ar­gen­to’s film, to be cen­tral and om­ni­present in his ver­sion of Sus­pi­ria. He trus­ted me and al­lo­wed me to de­ve­lop my ideas wi­thout too much com­pro­mise.

Does dance play a role in the nar­ra­tive struc­ture of the film?

Yes, it’s what moves the sto­ry along. That was pre­ci­se­ly the challenge: fin­ding a way to avoid the cho­reo­gra­phy’s being me­re­ly de­co­ra­tive and ins­tead gi­ving i t a rol e in the dra­ma­tur­gy.

How did you work with Luca and the ac­tresses star­ring in the film?

In the mo­vie, the dance com­pa­ny is led by Ma­dame Blanche, a cha­rac­ter played by Til­da Swin­ton and ins­pi­red by Pi­na Bausch, Ma­ry Wig­man and Isa­do­ra Dun­can. We spent a fair amount of time trying to work out what this com­pa­ny’s style would have been, be­cause in the sto­ry the com­pa­ny has been going since the 1940s, but the ac­tion is set in the 1970s. So the com­pa­ny is still prac­ti­sing a dance that was crea­ted 30 years ear­lier. My per­so­nal dance style was in­fluen­ced by the 1990s and 2000s. The ori­gi­nal film took place in a bal­let school, whe­reas here it was a ques­tion of a com­pa­ny that has de­ve­lo­ped its own unique lan­guage that is close to contem­po­ra­ry dance. A dance that is vis­ce­ral – at once pri­mal and so­phis­ti­ca­ted. Contra­ry to the aca­de­mic codes of bal­let, it has no­thing of the ethe­real about it and ex­presses en­or­mous vio­lence, be­cause in this film dance has the po­wer to kill. So it was a huge res­pon­si­bi­li­ty to make sure the dance was convin­cing from that point of view. I de­ci­ded to build on the trio I’d crea­ted for the Louvre, be­cause in it there was al­rea­dy this idea of cas­ting a spell or of being spell­bound. I de­ve­lo­ped a piece for 12 dan­cers, plus a 13th who joins the cen­tral per­for­mance.

You men­tio­ned Pi­na Bausch and the idea of wit­ch­craft and ma­gic. Does the film al­lude to the fact that cer t a in cho­reo­gra­phers, such as Bausch, were al­most like gu­rus to their dan­cers?

Ma­dame Blanche is a high­ly ma­gne­tic cha­rac­ter. Luca was al­so thin­king of wo­men ar­tists such as Gi­na Pane. Like Ma­ry Wig­man, Isa­do­ra Dun­can or Pi­na Bausch, these ve­ry po­wer ful wo­men, with their strong sense of in­tui­tion, exer­ci­sed a sort of ma­gne­tism, half way bet­ween art and a form of ma­gic. It was ve­ry ins­pi­ring be­cause I knew Pi­na – I was lu­cky enough to be in­vi­ted to her fes­ti­val, and got to see her re­hear­sing Le Sacre du prin­temps with her com­pa­ny. To play Ma­dame Blanche, Til­da Swin­ton wat­ched lots of vi­deos of cho­reo­gra­phers at work. The ma­gne­tism her cha­rac­ter exerts on her dan­cers is so strong that they can no lon­ger leave her. Ra­ther than a school lost in the middle of the fo­rest, as in Ar­gen­to’s ver­sion, Luca wan­ted the com­pa­ny to be lo­ca­ted in Ber­lin, a stone’s throw from the Wall. So there’s al­so a po­li­ti­cal link with Ul­rike Mein­hof of the Red Ar­my Fac­tion, ano­ther po­wer­ful wo­man. The film weaves a subtle connec­tion bet­ween these ins­pi­ra­tions and the idea of a se­cret so­cie­ty, a form of re­sis­tance which was crea­ted ar­tis­ti­cal ly be­fore straying in­to the su­per­na­tu­ral.

You re­gu­lar­ly work with ar tists, and with ano­ther cho­reo­gra­pher, Si­di Lar­bi Cher­kaoui. Is dance’s pro­pen­si ty to create links and connec­tions im­por­tant to you?

Yes, it’s pri­mor­dial. I see dance as a me­dium ca­pable of conver­sing with other me­diums, and the last 15 years of my ca­reer have on­ly been about that. I wor­ked with Hus­sein Cha­layan and with ar­tists. This is the first time I’ve wor­ked in ci­ne­ma. Wor­king on such an am­bi­tious, in­tense and dif­fi­cult-to- do film has been fa­bu­lous. I like the way Luca has de­ve­lo­ped a lan­guage which unites dif­ferent in­fluences. I’m ve­ry ex­ci­ted about this mo­vie, which fol­lows no for­mu­la and which pushes even fur­ther the theme ini­tial­ly de­ve­lo­ped by Da­rio Ar­gen­to.

“This is the first time I’ve wor­ked in ci­ne­ma. Wor­king on such an am­bi­tious, in­tense and

dif­fi­cult-to-do film has been fa­bu­lous.”

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