‘Petite Maman’ director Céline Sciamma, on writing her fantasy fable a couple of mother-daughter bond


Céline Sciamma makes a haunting and hopeful fairytale for the ages, from the story of an eight year-old making her personal sense of the lack of her beloved granny. As her household strains beneath the unhappy process of clearing a home of generations of reminiscences, little Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) wanders into the woods and makes a brand new, although oddly acquainted, buddy in Marion (performed by Sanz’s real-life twin, Gabrielle). The cheeky lookalikes get alongside like a home on hearth, and their shared experiences of (very) related life moments units them up on a path to higher understanding of household, and the way to deal with the Large Issues that life throws at you. A beautiful movie made beneath the signal of Miyazaki, with a joyously chaotic pancake-making scene, in addition.  

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For some, Petite Maman could also be an unlikely follow-up to her momentous and horny Portrait Of A Woman on Fireplace,  however Sciamma writes tales of childhood and adolescence like few working immediately, as evident in Girlhood, Tomboy and her scripts for Being 17 and My LIfe As A Zucchini.  

I spoke to Sciamma over Zoom about her knack for writing from a youngsters’ perspective, and the way she got here on the easy sci-fi of her central conceit. 



Congratulations in your stunning movie. It warmed my little orphan coronary heart, I’ve to inform you.

Oh, thanks.


How lengthy has this movie been effervescent away inside you? And what made it the fitting time to make?

Effectively, that is a great query, as a result of it is a movie that is been that I have been constructing of for a really very long time. I had the thought after I was within the means of writing Portrait of A Woman on Fireplace. In order that was like finish of 2016 or 2017. On the time I used to be fighting writing the movie and this concept popped up into my thoughts and it felt actually engaging, actually easy. The script appeared to unravel actually simply in my thoughts, and it was such a distinction. I believed, ‘Oh, perhaps that is the movie I ought to do’. There was such promise in it. I do not know that making a movie is usually a secure area [laughs], however I felt like, ‘Oh, this shall be the place I land and I wish to present this story, however I can inform it any time’.

However then the pandemic began and all of a sudden there was a brand new rush, a brand new urgency to make the movie that I did not anticipate, as a result of I felt like that is an everlasting fairy story, I may inform it no matter I would like. However all of a sudden we have been hit with collective goodbyes. We could not do particular person goodbyes, we could not go to homes. We had youngsters going through loss of life and loss. The had felt intemporal, however all of a sudden it felt actually, actually wanted. In order that’s why I hurried up and determined to actually write it actually quick and shoot it fairly quick, in order that it will be out on this planet since you want it in a method?

“It is very easy to put in writing youngsters in the event you determine to take them severely.”


We positive do, thanks. And you realize, you have returned to that child’s eye view, that perspective of childhood, that you simply’ve accomplished earlier than. Does it come simply, writing that kid’s eye and voice?  Particularly, displaying how youngsters ask Large questions in such blunt methods…

Effectively, I simply attempt to construct child characters as giving them full vary and simply take them severely. I am fairly positive youngsters know they’re asking Large questions. They know the questions are huge and sure, they’re blunt however they’re additionally very cautious, in the way in which they ask them. It is actually not that onerous [to write that]. , I used to be pondering, in writing the movie, I wish to give everybody their (personal) child physique and child mind again as a result of nonetheless it is there. We’re the identical individual we have been then, and I wished to carry that continuity into it once more. That is how we heal ourselves as people relatively than say that childhood is the previous. It is like we are able to see the youngsters we have been; even with strangers, you realize? For me. childhood does not appear to be a misplaced territory. You should not must have hassle reimagining or resetting or redesigning. It is very easy to put in writing youngsters in the event you determine to take them severely, I believe.


And on the central conceit, there’s time journey form of , but it surely’s not sci-fi. There aren’t any devices, no Again To The Future-type enterprise. However do you see it as time journey? How do you describe it?

, at first I did not in any respect take into consideration the movie as time journey, past the excessive idea of a child hanging out along with her mom throughout just a few days, and they’re the identical age. I did not assume, ‘Oh, that is a time travelling movie’. However within the means of writing it. I used to be like, ‘Ooh, however that is a time travelling movie! Does that imply that I’ve to discover a time travelling machine? Does it imply that I’ve to set it in a selected time?‘ So I made a decision that sure, it was a time travelling movie, but it surely does not imply that these guidelines are preset. I imply they are, they’re solid and in addition generationally solid; I am 44, so I am a child from Again To The Future. So the time paradox penalties, I do know we all know all about even you realize Groundhog Day.

We all know all about harvesting excessive ideas across the state of affairs. So how would I harvest mine? Perhaps by placing away all this dramatic rigidity about going again, about what is the wind, air, what is going on to vary? And simply constructing a time machine to share the current time. In order that was my factor. It is a time machine that provides you some type of current with another person. And that is additionally why the movie is intemporal. I imply, I need a child from 2021 to assume ‘That is my childhood’ and a child from 1955 pondering ‘This is also my childhood’.


You actually do not date it in any method. It simply it’s. And I love the casting of the dual sisters. In all the perfect and worst methods, how did that may play out?!



I imply, that pancake scene appears to be like hectic! That may have been such enjoyable to shoot.

Oh, yeah.


It’s so splendidly heat and intimate… and chaotic.

Ha, the pancake scene is absolutely the scene they wrote, for positive. I imply, there was a recipe, the recipe for pancakes, but it surely’s an enormous second. And you realize, they actually they might do no matter they wished. And it is a second the place we entry their intimacy, they usually gave that to the movie. And I discover it actually, actually stunning.

And, you realize, that was the thought in casting sisters. It was additionally, giving them security as a result of, you realize, if you’re working with youngsters, you wish to get an actual secure area for them to work. And the truth that they might depend on one another and on the belief they’ve in one another, it means like they might depend on their intimacy to take the possibility of assembly once more on display. As a result of it is not about stealing their intimacy. That is all very wealthy and there’s no improv. They’ve traces, characters. So it is actually about this concept of giving them a secure area to really play, carry out characters.

Additionally, that was my private query after I was writing the movie: If I met my mom as a child would she be my sister?  Would we share the identical mom? And I made a decision to not ask that private query within the movie and simply embody it into this concept of casting. As a result of this concept of a kid assembly a dad or mum on the identical age, it is actually about bringing equality between the mom and the daughter. And the truth that they have been {performed by] sisters born on the identical day, made it , you realize, apparent for the viewers that they have been really assembly on the actual identical time of their life, the very same time of their lives. And that is, you realize, that is the fantastic thing about their duo and the proposal they have been actually one another within the eye and we’re all that.


In your movies we observe a selected slice of time. , you are not doing ‘cradle to grave’ biopics or something. We merely dive into every week, a month within the lifetime of characters. Is there something on this tendency to form of duck right into a second of time relatively than telling a broader story?

Hmm, nicely, I believe it is as a result of alternatives we have now in life. , I believe movies needs to be inspiring. They need to be inspiring about how can we really feel higher or be higher. And I believe the chance we have now, all of us have is all the time within the area of some days. There’s gasoline to remodel ourselves. There’s alternative to remodel ourselves in all places. And I discover I can hook up with that. And I believe, you realize, it is naturalistic heroism to have a look at a holidays encounter you did not anticipate and that gained’t final. I believe that is the journey in our life to take these varieties, and I do not know, I by no means considered it. That is an excellent query! However that is my reply to this point.


…And so now you may go and do an enormous biopic and make a liar out of me

[Laughs!] Ha, sure, I should.


Petite Maman is now in launch round Australia via Madman Movies. 


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