For the Shooting of Les Filles du Feu
Jacques Rivette
Translated by Tom Milne.

Why four films at the same time? In the first place because (since the film-maker does not enjoy the same status in relation to his characters as the Balzacian novelist does) it is the only way of being able to establish a specific "circulation" between these films with certain characters and certain decors reappearing from one to another under different lights, contradictory or complementary.

But mainly to see "what happens" if four stories, whose respective genres would theoretically make them very different from each other, are filmed in one burst: how the interplay of reciprocal influences from the four productions would function, the interactions between the casts, their attitudes, their relationships -- and what might be modified (accentuated, influenced, transformed) by this interplay. Of course, in making four films one after the other in a limited time, other methods would have to be envisioned, which should in their turn transform the very nature of these four films.

First, starting from the basic principle of each of the fictions, the building of not so much a traditional scenario as a canvas: a construction, a framework of some fifteen block-sequences. Evolving parallel in time, the four stories are all divided into three main sections, three acts, corresponding to the three lunar phases (from new moon to full, return of the new moon, then finally full moon again -- therefore with the same number of transitions from darkness to light) which circumscribe the forty days of Carnival.

Then, during shooting, each "unit" (each block-sequence) will be subjected to a method designed to break down not only conventional dramatic techniques but also the more recent conventions of improvisation with all the prolixities and cliches it entails (hesitations, provocations, etc.), and to establish an ecriture based on actions, movements, attitudes, the actor's 'gestural', in other words. The ambition of these films is to discover a new approach to acting in the cinema, where speech, reduced to essential phrases, to precise formulas, would playa role of 'poetic' punctuation. Not a return to the silent cinema, neither pantomime nor choreography: something else, where the movement of bodies, their counterpoint, their inscription within the screen space, would be the basis of the mise en scene.

In order to enable us to make a definitive crossing of this frontier which separates traditional acting from the kind we are looking for: the constant presence during shooting of musicians (different instruments and styles of music according to each film) who would improvise during the filming of sequences, their improvisation dependent on the actors' playing, the latter also being modified by the musicians' own inventions (recorded in direct sound along with the dialogue and the "stage noises" properly speaking).

The interaction of our four films will thus be redoubled by the progressive accentuation, from one film to the next, of these principles of mise en scene: from the first film (Marie and Julien), where they will function as an element of dislocation and strangeness within a dramatic construct still following the rules of romantic fiction -- by way of the fantasy/horror film and the musical -- to the fourth film (The Revenger), where the various aspects are to be driven to paroxysm (all the characters surrounding our three heroines are to be carried off by the dancers of Carolyn Carlson's company).

To create one's own space through the movements of one's body, to occupy and traverse the spaces imposed by the decors and the camera's field, to move and act within (and in relation to) the simultaneous musical space: these are the three parameters on which our actors are going to attempt to base their work.

Reprinted from Rivette: Texts & Interviews (British Film Institute, 1977), p. 89-90.