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The Berlinale Blog: “Sex scenes: It depends how it’s done”

INTERVIEW. Don't miss the real-time romance Paris 05:59, set to heat up the Berlinale at its world premiere on Feb 15, two guys meet at a sex club and have an unforgettable night.

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In the real-time romance Paris 05:59 (French title: Théo et Hugo dans le même bateau), set to heat up the Berlinale at its world premiere on February 15, two guys meet in a sex club and, following a series of discoveries in the pre-dawn hours, arrive at a less-than-expected place.

In the titular roles, Geoffrey Couët and François Nambot must sell the instant attraction, volcanic lust and burgeoning romance between their characters. We had the chance to talk to the hottest on-screen couple of this Berlinale about that experience.

And grab a copy of our February issue for an interview with the film’s directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau.

Your filmographies aren’t yet very long. Have you been working as professional actors long?

François Nambot: Well, for one thing we’re still pretty young! But it’s true we haven’t done much film or TV until now, so far mostly theater.

Geoffrey Couët: In my case I’ve more or less divided my time between theater and small parts in TV shows or movies these past couple of years.  

FN: We’ve been working as stage actors for about 10 years now, but this is the first major movie role for the both of us.

And how did you get cast?

GC: I saw the ad on Facebook, sent in my CV plus a little self-introduction video and was contacted to audition. 

FN: The same with me. In the ad they warned about nudity, so we knew what was required.

Was a long casting process?

GC: From the initial emails to meeting with the casting director and subsequently with the producers for more in-depth discussions, I would say it took altogether one month.

FN: It was all done pretty quickly because the production didn’t have a lot of money, so the casting, even the film shoot had to be quick.   

How long was the shoot?

GC: 15 days.

FN: Or rather 15 nights.  

Did you have any reservations about shooting the explicit opening scene?

FN: I think any performer would have reservations about filming sex scenes, but it all comes down to how it’s being done.

GC: We discussed extensively with Olivier [Ducastel] and Jacques [Martineau] about how exactly we’re going to film this or that, to be clear on what we’re doing and how it’s all still a performance. So yeah, we had reservations but we talked and made sure to do the scene in a way that felt interesting to the four of us. So it was a true collaboration, we built the scene together. I mean, of course when I first read the script, I thought to myself: “Oh my God.” But I read the rest of the story and fell in love with it, so I re-read the opening again, which I think was 12 pages long, and focused on what I’d have to do, act and feel in that scene. It was all very precisely described. Being naked is nothing special, what’s fascinating is what we get to work with as actors in those scenes.        

It is quite an unconventional way to open a movie.

GC: It does feel like the opposite of what we’re used to seeing in movies. Normally they begin with romance and at some point proceed to sex. We do it the other way around. So the question became: what happens after a first encounter that’s so… intense? 

What has been the biggest challenge during filming or was there any particularly memorable scene?

GC: What I loved most about this movie is that every night of the shoot, every page of the script presented its own challenge. It’s wonderful that we got so much to work with in so many different places. I found the whole process challenging, but that’s what I look for as an actor.

FN: There was a scene that wasn’t particularly challenging, but, as we were doing it, it surprised us all with its intensity. I’m talking about that scene in the hospital, which we shot near the end. The lady playing the doctor is not an actress, she’s a real doctor, so she actually knows all the medical terms. After the first take, we were so struck by the intensity of the scene because it felt so real.

GC: I remember each time we took a break, François and I would feel saddened by the situation and the prospect of acting it out again. It’s one of the most intense moments I experienced all year. It also had something to do with the fact that, by that point, we’d become very close to Olivier, Jacques and the whole team. We were all feeling and sharing these strong emotions in a cramped space.

What do you find most interesting about your character?

FN: My character Hugo is very talkative, which is fun to play. Also, I find it fascinating to get to know his secrets, his illness, all the drama that he hides within.  

GC: I find Théo interesting because he’s also quite secretive. Why doesn’t he talk much? I remember about two weeks into our discussions with Olivier and Jacques, I felt like I finally understood the way this character behaves – whether he’s just shy or is he trying to protect himself. He’s very different from me actually.

FN: [Geoffrey] is very talkative!

GC: There’s something mysterious about Théo and I really enjoyed discovering him.

FN: [Geoffrey] is not mysterious at all!

The scenes you shot along the canals were very romantic. Did it feel that way when you were shooting them?

FN: The canals are of course very romantic, very Parisian. But in that neighbourhood, there are a lot of strange, freaky people out at night, like junkies, who would approach us from time to time. That caused quite some trouble for our shoot.    

GC: They were kind of scary too.

FN: It’s funny to make a romantic movie in that kind of environment actually.

Which part of Paris was that? Is their journey geographically accurate at all?

GC: It was the 19th arrondissement, near Stalingrad.

FN: Their itinerary is, geographically speaking, realistic.

GC: When François and I were preparing for the movie, we would trace the events in the script while walking by the exact spots.

Did the final film differ from how you imagined it to be?

GC: For me it’s just like how I pictured it. The film that ends up on the screen stays true to the film that I read in the script and the one that we shot. It’s what we had in mind from the beginning. I think part of the reason is that François and I appear throughout the entire movie, so there’s not one scene where we didn’t know how it’s done.

FN: Well, the music we didn’t know in advance. But in terms of look and tone, it turned out just the way it’s always supposed to.

Have you been to the Berlinale?

FN: I have never been to Berlin! It will be my first time.  

GC: I’ve been to the city twice. Last year I was there for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And three years ago I was there with Kino Berlino, an association for people making short films. I was there for 10 days. I love the city so I’m excited to go again, and I’m excited about the Berlinale.  

Any expectations?

FN+GC: Parties!

Paris 05:59 | Berlinale premiere on Feb 15 at Kino International