“I like to play free women”

“I like to play free women”

In a feature film by Isabelle Brocard, Karin Viard plays a Marquise de Sévigné who is more independent than ever. Inspired by her thousand letters, this film highlights the complex relationship between the famous letter writer and her daughter Françoise. And the talent of a free and humanist actress.

How did you approach the character of Marie de Sévigné?

The director proposed this project to me more than ten years ago. At the time, the relationship with my eldest daughter – then aged 16 – was complicated and I saw an echo with my own story. Adolescence marks the time when the bond breaks. This wonderful child that the parents watched over and loved escapes them. And for the child, it is the moment when these parents who seemed exceptional begin to show faults and to be terribly disappointing… Ten years later, my daughter and I have overcome our difficulties but the subject remains relevant for many years. other families.

It feels like my heart and soul are being ripped out »writes the Marquise de Sévigné when her daughter moves away.

This film tells the close relationship between a mother and her daughter. Each of them feeds it, to the point of making it toxic. The more Madame de Sévigné tries to have control over the young woman’s destiny, the more she rebels. Once married, Françoise even takes pleasure in doing exactly the opposite of what her mother advises her, even if it means getting lost. By agreeing to step aside behind her husband, the young woman shows herself to be much less liberated than her own mother. Which Madame de Sévigné finds absolutely revolting.

How does this great literary figure of the 17th century speak to today’s audiences?

She wears the colors of independence high! This woman tries to be as free as possible, believing that she has more rights than those that society is willing to grant her at the time. Widowed and wealthy, she lives as she wants.

How to maintain this freedom in the world of cinema?

Freedom is not expected, it is earned! Having been left to my own devices at a very young age, I found my independence early. Being left behind by part of my family allowed me to choose my life according to my sole desires. I have never had any problem asserting myself in front of directors. My job as an actress requires that I best meet their artistic expectations. But since I don’t like being given orders, I need this work to be collaborative. Otherwise, the directors get nothing from me.

On the big screen, you often play powerful women…

Or rather free women, who overcome difficulties, get back up and transform themselves throughout their journey. I think in particular of my character in Maria dreams which unfolds with audacity, or even to the one that I interpret in Lulu naked woman who, faced with her husband’s mistreatment, dares to dissent.

And you, what model have you relied on throughout your life?

After our parents divorced, when I was 5 years old, my sister and I were raised by our very loving grandparents. My grandmother was a woman born in the Normandy countryside, strong, funny and intelligent. Of very modest origin, she had learned to read and write on her own, having been unable to go to school for long. This woman had managed to escape her environment through the force of her will and thanks to her meeting with my grandfather who had his school certificate.

When, at 17, you left Rouen to try your luck in Paris, did you meet any inspirations?

No, because I’m not an “easy admirer”, even if I am capable of admiring a woman like the director Agnès Varda, for example. To find my freedom and my legitimacy, I always thought that the only thing that mattered was that I liked myself.

What do you think of what is coming to light through the Depardieu affair and other complaints against big names in cinema?

It’s about time the inappropriate behavior stopped! It was time for shame to change sides. It was time that some people no longer felt authorized to behave in ways that persisted, often with the complicity of their professional environment. But as a citizen, I don’t like howling with the wolves and I will always rebel against the people’s courts. We live in a country where an independent justice system exists. She must now pass in this matter as in others.

We, people of the latter season, are of 100,000 colors » states Bussy-Rabutin in the film, regarding the art of growing old. What is your approach to the passage of time?

Frankly? I would love to have kept my 35 year old body! (Laughs.) Even though getting older physically doesn’t make me happy, I try to pay homage to my body by taking care of it and maintaining it through sport and dance. So, maybe he can take me very far… Having been raised by elderly people, I don’t see old age as negative. I loved being a mother to my children but I also appreciate being free from the constraints of mothering. I will be happy to become a grandmother… but not right away please girls! (smiles). I will be able to live the relationship with my grandchildren with serenity, free from the injunctions that weigh on parents.

You were very marked, in 2013, by the death of the artist Valérie Benguigui, at 52 years old. Has this ordeal transformed you?

Yes, absolutely. By letting me accompany her until the end, my friend reconnected me to the spiritual dimension of existence. A reality that I sensed without being sensitive to it. As if Valérie had given me a tutor.

What did she convey to you?

A form of acceptance of the experience of death when it presents itself to us. Valérie knew how to look death in the face, while allowing herself to be accompanied by those close to her. It was because she was surrounded by love until the end that she was able to leave peacefully. Money, fame, the desire to amass material goods is nothing compared to the wealth of having someone hold your hand when you die. That’s all that matters in life: the connections we know how to make with others.

Do you ever pray?

No, I don’t pray, I dream! I manage very well to connect to the invisible. I was baptized in Protestantism but I am not practicing. I love faith in its compassion, love, acceptance, forgiveness and the possibility of peace. I find that beings who pray rebalance the violence of the world. It is a beautiful and noble posture.

How do you cultivate this thirst for interiority?

Through meditation sessions, through which I try to silence the little voice of the ego in order to enter into simpler, gentle, fluid and deep communication with my fellow human beings. In a society which manipulates our fears of others, which generates withdrawal and individualism, it is not always easy to experience this type of communication. My times of interiority also allow me to think of loved ones who are no longer here and whom I continue to bring to life, by expressing what they transmitted to me.

In 2022, you married director Manuel Herrero. Was the spiritual dimension important?

Very! We got married in a small church, on the island of Formentera (Spain), which is dear to me. Promising to be there in good and bad times, swearing loyalty: this spiritual commitment had a lot of meaning for us. We were united by a 24-year-old Spanish priest; it was very strong! We were dressed in silver outfits, everyone was happy and clapping. The party then lasted three days. My two daughters participated. There was so much love and harmony… A dazzling moment!

The biography of Karin Viard

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