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Interview: Alain Guiraudie

We chat to the director of Stranger by the Lake

Stranger by the Lake is an erotic psychological thriller that hits UK cinemas today. We were invited to an advanced screening of this slice of French delight and were lucky enough to chat with the director Alain Guiraudie, too.

What was your main inspiration behind the film?
AG: Initially it was inspired by cruising spots I know, a lake that exists not far from where I live, even though it’s not that lake we used to shoot. It was also inspired by people that I’ve known, met, or heard about. For example Henri, I’ve known guys like that, even if the stories didn’t finish like that, it certainly started in that way. The idea of dealing with a question of desire, to stretch it out, to put tension in.

Are you a regular visitor of these dogging spots?
Yeah, these places, these cruising spots, I like these types of spots. I know them. I like the idea of going back to the 70s, there is something very hedonistic and lasting. They’re spaces that still exist, definitely in France, and spaces where everyone has his chance.

Do you see yourself in any of the characters?
I think there is some of me in the main three characters...

I personally saw most of myself in Henri, he is like the Everyman. What did you hope to create with that character?
I think there are a lot of people who identify themselves with Henri. There is a point where sex loses an interest, really. You want to go beyond sex. There are questions that each human being asks. Even more so now, it is a question that you ask yourself with more intensity. Sex is meant to be about enjoying yourself all the time, you have to cum, that is the main aim. It is such a consumer thing.

Although the film was very explicit, it never comes across as being pornographic, how did you ensure that was the case?
There were two things, very clear things: to talk about sex and to show sex on one hand, and on the other hand is to avoid pornography. Maybe the idea behind it was a reconciliation of two big ideas of cinema. I didn’t just want sex to be a part of the world of pornography, so the idea of this lyrical love story and pornography and reconnecting the two through the idea of love and dialogue.

We heard that you toned down a lot of the sex in the film, because in the final cut there are only two sex scenes.
There is an element of dosage in terms of avoiding it becoming pornographic. Yes, there is only the two shots. In terms of the scenes of penetration, there were body doubles. Two people, actors, who didn’t know each other doing the act without a condom is not ethically possible. There is a way to film scenes of penetration without being pornographic.

You starred in one of your previous films, is an acting career something you would like to pursue in future?
I acted in one of my films and that was a long time ago. If somebody asks me if I want to be in their film, I’m quite happy to consider it, but I’ve not seen many projects I’m interested in. To act in my own films is just too complicated, to act and direct.

With the two main characters, did you have a clear vision of exactly how you wanted them portrayed?
I think when writing I have a very precise idea of my characters, even though I don’t write with specific people in mind. Then there comes a point when I realise the characters I write don’t exist in reality, so I have to make do with the people I meet. It’s a good thing because it breathes new life into and brings new energy to the project. I like for actors to nourish, to feed themselves into the character.

Do you think commercially gay cinema is a growing market? Do you think a gay rom-com could be the norm?
think we’re moving in that direction, if you think of Stranger by the Lake, it’s because the films are not just gay movies. They go beyond. They’re about people.

And what's next for you?
A story about work men who take over and run themselves a milk factory. It’s a communist experience in the present time.

Stranger by the Lake is out in UK cinemas now from Peccadillo Pictures. Check out the trailer below.

Words: Perry Juby (@PerryJuby)

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