An encounter between burgeoning filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve and seasoned producer Humbert Balsan was the Inspiration for her new film, The Father of my Children, winner of the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
“He had an exceptional warmth, elegance, and aura,” Hansen-Løve says in press notes of her enduring impression of Balsan, the man who wanted to produce her first feature film, “His energy, passion for films, and sensitivity, which I took to be an invincible inner beauty, are what made me write the movie.”
At first consideration, the notion of making a film about a producer seemed banal, but later, says Hansen-Løve, “It occurred to me that a film about a producer could be a film about work, commitment, love, and life.”
She began to see the potential to develop this story, which had depth and complexity.
The film is a portrait of film producer Gregoire Canvel, and later, a portrait of a family. Gregoire, reminiscent of Fellini’s 8 1/2, is charming and charismatic but also overwhelmed and overextended in a career with an endless stream of problems. This film is very much about movies, both on the surface and to the core, as the viewer is taken “behind the scenes,” or in this case, into the frenzy of the financially sinking production company, Moon Films. Work life is juxtaposed with the luminous world of Gregoire’s home life, his wife, and three precocious and creative daughters. We are witnesses as the balance of these two worlds is lost.
The colliding issues of art and finance have been a constant ongoing tension since the days of Michelangelo. These issues are perhaps even more daunting for the filmmaker, who must acquire a substantial budget in order to create. According to Hansen-Løve: “A filmmaker has a relatively fundamental and healthy relationship to money—being constantly confronted with financial realities is the price to pay for practicing your art.”
As for the producer, however, Hansen–Løve offers sensitive insight into their unique position. “For a producer, chasing after funding can become alienating and lead to a dilemma,” she expounds. “On the one hand, there’s a noble ambitious vision of their trade and on the other, huge loneliness, and economic and moral suffocation due to the constant pressure that comes from taking risks in a context that is relatively unfavorable economically and culturally.”
Hanson-Løve, who has placed complicated, authentic, and smart characters against the frenetic unpredictable business of movies says: “I wanted the film to express the paradox of contradictory movements within the same person, the conflict that can occur between light and darkness, strength and vulnerability, the desire to live and the urge to die.
“Clarity is what I consciously set out to achieve.”