Following their conversation, Triet subjected herself to our cross-examination about 50 Cent, procedural dramas, directing an award-winning dog performance and the shattering of truth for a child.
This is a family drama, a relationship drama, a courtroom drama, but the trial becomes more about moments of decline in a relationship. Can you describe your storytelling process? Did you start the script zeroing in on a thread and then build outward? How did you arrive at Samuel’s decline of personal success contributing to the decline of the couple?
Justine Triet: We wanted to dive into the complexity of that couple. But in going through the courtroom—and because many people are talking instead of her—she’s there to justify herself, to take some of herself back. The courtroom, too, lets her dispose of a narrative she might have held before about their relationship, about her success and his lack of success, and she is afforded the chance to reappropriate her own life. It was an original way to come inside the story through that couple. I did not want to have many flashbacks, but I wanted to start with a lack of images, a lack of precision, and let other people explain her life through evidence. Only in processing this does she get to tell her story, and it becomes more truthful than she might have been otherwise.
The relationship decline is really the center of the movie; the question of that couple, the reciprocity and the way people try to say, ‘Okay, this is your fault. This is my fault.’ I lived through many, many things in my life and sometimes I get very anxious about it. Sometimes I feel I have an emotion, a very precise story in my life, and then a few years later, people say to me, ‘No, that’s not my reality. That’s not the story.’ Sometimes people have an opinion that’s very different, not just in fault but even along the way. The subjectivity of opinion is really interesting, the way time destroys the objectivity of a situation and separates people between thoughts and truths.
I was obsessed with the idea of trying to say everybody has a point of view and, of course, in the argument scene, to show how it’s a little courtroom inside the couple. It’s a baby courtroom at that moment; it’s a battle of ideas. Before the blows, people are trying to defend their position. This small courtroom is played in a real courtroom and that makes it different.