Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, which won Best Canadian Feature at Toronto International Film Festival last week is in theatres now. Dolan’s stunning look at Laurence (Melvil Poupaud), a man who decides to undergo a sex change while retaining a straight relationship with a woman looks at the power of love to withstand life’s storms.
Montréal actress Suzanne Clément plays Fred, Laurence’ partner and closest friend; she has promised to stick with Laurence come what may, but the reality is she could never have imagined the pain the promise would bring her. Their dramatic story unfolds over a decade. It’s profound, heartbreaking, touching, joyous and difficult.
I spoke with Clement in Toronto during TIFF.
M&C: Laurence Anyways is raw and emotional with mystical elements. Have you seen it yet?
Clément: Some actors don’t see their movies but no, that could not be possible for me even though it’s hard to see Laurence sometimes. It’s a tough movie to see for me. I find some of the looks kind of harsh but it was such an adventure doing it. Creatively and in every way that I needed to see it and had to. So much I love not of myself but Xavier and how many latitudes and different lengths he went to. I love that in a work of art.
M&C: How was it to play a character over decades and have her change yet not change?
Clément: In her heart, that happens sometimes and someone you will always love. This person is drawn together with you. They’re sharing so much. Nowadays we are less cloistered in marriage and I think we are experimenting with more different relations in our lives and you know how some relationships are. You can nourish deep parts of you but that don’t mean you can live with that person, so yes.
M&C: Her tragedy is that she vows to stay with him as his lover through his sex change. She’s brave, but maybe naïve.
Clément: Naïve to promise to stay. Naïve. She thought she could but didn’t want to see the relationship dying. But it didn’t die. When someone dies you're in denial but at some point you realize he’s not there anymore. For her it’s like how can you decide to withdraw from this relationship when the person is still there?
Also she is in a frenzy and it could be because she is in shock. I think she reacts for the next ten years from the position of someone who is in shock. When you are in shock you react exactly like this, you go to extremes, because you don’t want to lose what is maybe not there.
M&C: Did Xavier give you details that weren’t in the script or did you develop some of your own?
Clément: We discussed the character a lot I wanted her to fight for herself also; I needed her to be a struggler and to want to keep her place. Not only to be the person I had thought he was who said that she was not loving him enough. What is loving another enough? Is it forgetting yourself? Those discussions, maybe even confrontations ... It was really good to discuss different ideas and to really be open to writing new lines because someone has a good idea. Xavier did that. It makes things more natural and gives new angles to the character. He loves that people bring him new stuff.