Isabelle Adjani: the magical power of return

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This article is published in number 47 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until November 23, 2021

Speak with a clear and inspired voice, which follows the courses and recurrences of his thought. A few days earlier we had proposed the cover of our year-end issue dedicated to icons of cinema and culture. A European project – the friends of Vanity Fair Italy have chosen Ornella Vanoni and the Spaniards Angela Molina. For us, the choice of Isabelle Adjani it was natural: she is one of the rare actresses whose interviews are moments of truth and pleasure. Then, alas, a message: “I’m shooting, we can’t meet.” He was in Blois on the set of Diane of Poitiers by Josée Dayan. Moral: the interview took place through an intense exchange of messages between takes. “It will be like a private diary kept with a third person,” he had told us to reassure us. We didn’t dare believe it, but the result was fireworks, deep and joyful reflections. At one point in the interview, speaking of Marilyn Monroe, Adjani says: “Why do certain people we meet in our lives touch us so deeply, precisely, even physically?“. At the end of this “non-meeting”, we have found the answer.

She is the embodiment of a certain history of cinema. Before we go any further, tell us, do you have a good memory?
“Who among us hasn’t once in their life had the nightmare of not remembering a joke?” Acting is approaching, understanding and keeping in mind the text of a character. Sometimes, however, the hard drive in our memory can play tricks on us. As Charles Baudelaire beautifully writes in poetry I have more memories than if I was a thousand years old (I have more memories than if I was a thousand years old), the memory can … become saturated ».

So, do you forget things more or less consciously?
“I am too informed about memory not to betray a certain concern for forms of neuronal degeneration … Let’s stop talking about stress as an inevitable state to avoid facing a distortion of the psyche, unable to say or deal with what we really feel” .

Does this mean that oblivion can be a form of denial?
“What I remember can scare me, as well as what I may have forgotten. I prefer the “violence” of a memory to amnesia understood as “sweet” cranial surgery, even if this means condemning me to never be protected from it … it is a bit strong image, of course, but it is precisely that of mine fear”.

Did learning lyrics for so long train you a particular “muscle”?
«I am a lazy person, but reading in acting is the best training: it makes me more attentive to what a text composes, to what it communicates, the colors, the scents; what it hides, images and emotions in which I enter and which enter into me ».

Do you believe that the memory of cinema corresponds to the memory of emotions?
«A single image can plunge me in an instant into everything I’ve experienced while watching a film. Emotions hit characters, sets and atmospheres that come to life on the screen. This is the reason why we like to see certain films again and we reject others … ».

Look at the souvenir photos offered by the smartphone algorithms?
“We are not obliged to consider those images as memories, the criteria that organize their choice do not belong to us”.

In the opposite way, the cancel culture punishes with oblivion those who do not think alike …
«Is it by erasing History that justice is done to the beings she has forgotten, wounded, humiliated? Or is it not instead by restoring it in its entirety, through different points of view, that we can restore light to its shadow areas? History is not an opinion, it is the attempt to reconstruct an event in the fairest possible way: without plurality, history is nothing but a monstrous propaganda tool. Should we forget how Nazism built the myth of the purity of the Aryan race starting from the autodafé? I remain faithful to the Voltairian motto, even if apocryphal: “I do not agree with what he says, but I will defend his right to say it to the death”.

Adjani, 66, on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival last July. Twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress – in 1976 for Adele H. – A love story and in 1990 for Camille Claudel -, she recently wrapped shooting on Josée Dayan’s biopic Diane de Poitiers, in which she plays the favorite. by Henry II, which will air on France 2 in 2022.

Samir Hussein

She, before anyone else, started the dialectical play appear / disappear. Because?
«My life is not made up only of cinema. The return gives the possibility to live every moment as a new lease of existence, a move from oneself, a form of freedom ».

In the era of social media and immediacy, what remains of the attractive power of the image?
“What do I know, I’m not Edgar Morin! For me it is a novelty, even if during the filming of Diane of Poitiers I used my Instagram account to keep a logbook: small videos, stories … ».

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