By the time we reach adulthood water makes up 55-60 percent of the human body depending on an individual’s gender. Water is an intrinsic part of our existence, representing the possibility of life both here on planet Earth and possibly in other parts of our perplexing, widely unexplored solar system. When presented in the form of an ocean in literature, water historically symbolizes the overcoming of treacherous obstacles or life events. It is because of this symbolic value that rising 37-year-old French film director Katell Quillévéré chose to use the presence of waves and the ocean to create the link between each singular story when directing her latest film, Heal The Living.
“Water is an element that has the power to give life as well as take it away,” says Quillévéré over the phone from her hotel – Le Parker Meridien in NYC. “It was important that the film begins in the sea because that is where all of humanity began.” Quillévéré was born in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire and studied filmmaking as well as philosophy in Paris. Her two previous feature films Love Like Poison (2010) and Suzanne (2013) have both been highly praised. Suzanne was nominated for five of the French national film César Awards, while Love Like Poison won the prestigious Jean Vigo Award which is an annual prize given to a young French director. Her third and upcoming feature film Heal The Living is based on Maylis de Kerangal’s 2014 internationally acclaimed novel Mend the Living and explores the deeply affecting study of human interconnectedness.
“I was really touched and affected by the reading of the book,” says Quillévéré. Part of the reason why the book resonated with her on an intimate level was its conjuring of her own personal memories of loss. “It’s powerful to see and read stories about individuals who can be really resilient in the way they rebuild themselves after the loss of someone, and the way that love keeps circulating, and the way life goes on in a more metaphysical way,” she explains.
Quillévéré tells us that before directing a film she has to really believe the emotional aspect of the story because the question of emotion in a film is extremely important to her. “People go to attraction parks to feel joy, to have fun, to laugh,” she said, “I go to the cinema to feelan emotional connection to the characters on the screen. I want to feel that the film is more alive than life itself.” Quillévéré shared with us that as a director she learns an enormous amount on each film she works on and while it is not a question of which film is more challenging than another, she did say that one of the more challenging aspects of directing Heal The Living was that the entire storyline is told within the span of 24 hours.
“I had to deal with directing a lot of very sensitive and tragic scenes and I wanted it to look exactly like reality,” she said, “In one of the first opening scenes, the parents learn their son is dead and they have to make a tough decision whether to give up his organs or not. I believe the more authentic you are on film the easier it is for magic to transpire on the screen.”
Like many of the characters in this film, Quillévéré is no stranger to grief or heartbreak. “I have dealt with death, with loss and pain and obstacles, but this is why I think this film is really beautiful,” she says, “because it deals with losing some the most important people in your life.”
According to Quillévéré the theme of human interconnectednessruns deep through both the film and our everyday lives. “Our desire to feel connected to one another is very real,” she said. “We are presently living in a really violent time and I’m proud to have made a film that shows people wanting to be linked together, with family, with community, with friends.”
Written by Eva Barragan
Photographed by Christaan Felber
Styled by Jimi Urquiaga