Interview: The Fairy, dir. Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel + Bruno Romy
This summer sees a real treat come our way from over the pond. The Fairy packs surreal comedy, genius dance, romance and magic; what more could you possibly want? BEVer Sonia Zadurian gives us a taste of this unique piece of devised cinema and speaks to one of its three actor/directors, Fiona Gordon.
The Fairy is a joint French/Belgian co-production, set in the French city of Le Havre. Clearly a product of strong teamwork, the film was directed and written by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, who also had starring roles in the piece. Their third collaboration, after L’iceberg (2005) and Rumba (2008), The Fairy explores the romantic origins of characters already established in their previous films.
Dom (Abel) works the night shift on the desk at a small hotel. Accustomed to odd guests, he gets through the night by tending to them quickly and efficiently. That is until Fiona (Gordon) checks into the hotel, claiming to be a fairy and offering Dom the standard three wishes.
Like a great silent comedy, the many set pieces make full use of the medium, relying almost entirely on the visuals to generate laughter in the audience. The film combines these with joyful dance sequences which are magical in both content and execution. Whilst outwardly sweet, naïve and simple, the incredible craft behind this vaudevillian skill is undeniable. Comprised primarily of long, still shots, The Fairy relies on the brilliantly talented cast to execute its physically challenging comedy and dance routines. Abel and Gordon complement one another perfectly and present a wonderful central relationship for the audience to invest in.
With its silent comedy, dance sequences and magical realism, The Fairy is funny, sweet and wonderfully refreshing. Highly recommended for young and old alike, the film is a sheer delight from start to finish.
BEV: The comedy in The Fairy is extremely visual. How did you go about scripting and preparing to shoot a story so rooted in performance?
Fiona Gordon: We try to keep the narrative simple, and as we write we always have in the back of our minds the idea that we’d like each scene to have visual, poetic appeal and potential for developing physical comedy.
The Fairy features a great many comedic set pieces which all fit together perfectly and feel very natural within the framework of the narrative. How did you ensure that this was the case and avoid the film feeling like a compilation?
Once we have a basic structure we start improvising, first of all with just the three of us (Bruno, Dominique and myself), playing all the characters, using whatever props that happen to be hanging around the house.
We film everything right from the start then watch what we’ve filmed and begin adapting the writing to the improvisations we find interesting. We throw a lot of stuff out. Sometimes what seemed to be a good idea on paper doesn’t work, so we try something else. Sometimes the improvisations spark a new idea, something we hadn’t thought of. So there is a ping-pong between the writing and the improvising right up until the shoot, integrating the other characters and the sets as we go along.
You directed alongside Dominique Abel and Bruno Romy. How would you describe the creative dynamic between you? Are your roles quite clearly defined?
We are all really stubborn and though we all have areas we prefer, none of us want to delegate. Luckily we have similar taste most of the time, so it’s not too conflicting, but it does take a lot of time going through each and every element to make these collective decisions. We come from the theatre as you may have guessed so we’re used to working this way. We know from experience that when you don’t agree there’s no point arguing.
What advice would you give to women just starting out in film? Be it in front of, or behind the camera?
I think the difficulties are the same for all filmmakers, male or female. Writing a film, when you have a tale to tell, is not so hard but getting others to share your vision can be a big obstacle. A film is a collective form so it’s important to build a crew who will work well with each other and who will trust and respect you. It’s worth giving a lot of thought to the choice of people you work with. You don’t find them all at first try.
I guess my advice would be to keep it small and simple to begin with. So you’re not spending all your time organising, shuffling around the pieces of your puzzle. Secondly, as with all collective work you have to be careful not to let yourself get sidetracked. Collaborators like to contribute ideas, which can be great when you want them, but confusing and time consuming when you don’t. You have to be diplomatic but firm.
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? Do you plan to create another film involving Fiona and Dom?
We are starting to write our next project. It will most likely be Fiona and Dom, in Paris searching for an old Auntie who has disappeared. We’ve just begun and we intend taking our time…
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We loved the film and wish you all the best of luck with the release.
The Fairy arrives in UK cinemas TODAY, 29 June. Peep the trailer here.
And here’s what Fiona Gordon had to say to BEV’s creative director Rachel Millward back in 2009, on the release of Rumba.