“I was bored of people my own age”: Suzanne Lindon on making a film as a teenager

The writer-director-star of Spring Blossom shares her love of dance, her experience writing a screenplay at 15 and the influence of her actor parents.

Spring Blossom (2020)

Spring Blossom is available on Curzon Home Cinema from 23 April and in cinemas from 17 May.

Spring Blossom marks the remarkably assured debut for Suzanne Lindon, the 21-year-old daughter of French actors Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain. Scripted when she was 15, in a bold attempt to give herself a leading part, the precocious Lindon then decided to direct it, shooting in the summer of 2019. The result is a charming, Paris-set coming-of-age tale, in which Lindon herself plays Suzanne, a 16-year-old who falls for the much older Raphaël (Arnaud Valois). Some may balk at this queasy notion, but Lindon’s blend of naturalism and fantasy – via some unique dance interludes – creates an intoxicating meditation on the vulnerability of adolescence and purity of love.

Suzanne Lindon in Spring Blossom (2020)

James Mottram: What gave you the impetus to write Spring Blossom?

Suzanne Lindon: When I was 15, when I started to write, I really wanted to talk about this feeling that I had, which was very complicated, that I was bored with people my age. Everyone was telling me that adolescence was a great period of life, and that it could be the best years of my life. And I was very disappointed, because I didn’t think that it was that great!

So I started to write about this feeling. I wanted to write about a young girl who imagines that something could be better and falls in love with an older man.

Were you concerned in writing a romance that some would criticise as unsavoury?

True, it’s touchy to talk about that. But I wanted to talk about that in a different way. Because in the movie, the man is very respectful. And the relationship is very modest, very pure. I wanted to show that love can be something very simple. You don’t have to show love in a film by showing love scenes or two people kissing or making love. There are so many different ways to show how two people can be in love; that was really important to me.

The dance scenes are very unexpected but beautiful. What gave you the idea to include them?

Dancing has always been something very important to me because I started dancing when I was three. And my dance teacher was also the choreographer of the movie. We created the dances together.

When I was six, I went see a show by Pina Bausch. I remember that I was crying, and I was laughing at the same time. It was a huge shock. I wanted to put something related to that in my film.

I decided to use dances to show how love can grow between the characters – and it was also a way for me to express myself and to feel totally free to be myself in making this movie. I wasn’t scared at all. The fact that this is something strange in the middle of a very realistic film was something that I was interested in because I think that their love story is actually realistic but also a little strange. It’s two misfits; they don’t belong to the life they are growing into.

Arnaud Valois as Raphaël and Suzanne Lindon as Suzanne in Spring Blossom (2020)

What are your earliest memories of cinema?

Actually, I don’t know because I’ve grown up in a family in which it’s very important to watch films – as important as reading and going to school. So it was something that I’ve never lived without.

I don’t remember the first film I ever saw, but I remember that I was very, very struck by one movie when I was 11: Sidney Lumet’s Running on Empty, with River Phoenix. I was very moved by that.

I also saw a lot of movies about young girls, when I was the age of the characters of the films, like Maurice Pialat’s À nos amours and Claude Miller’s L’Effrontée with Charlotte Gainsbourg. I was 13 when I discovered these films, and I identified a lot with the characters. I remember realising that it was possible to act at this very young age. I told myself if they did it, I can do the same.

Is this why you include a poster for Pialat’s film in your character’s bedroom?

Yeah, actually, this is a funny story… the main character of Pialat’s film is called Suzanne, just like me. When I was born, my parents bought the poster. The initial poster of the film was a picture of Sandrine Bonnaire, and the first title of the film was ‘Suzanne’. So they bought it and they put it on the wall in my room when I was a baby. I took it and I put it on the wall in my movie.

Did your parents encourage you to act or direct?

It was thanks to them that I discovered cinema. But it’s not thanks to them that I discovered that I wanted to do it in my life. They taught me how to watch a film and how to be very focused while watching it. But they never talked about their job at home. So I wasn’t raised with the idea that making movies or acting was the greatest thing to do. It wasn’t like that. Actually, I don’t watch a lot of their films!

Further reading

The new issue of Sight and Sound

In this 21st-century cinema special: 25 critics choose an era-defining film from each year of the century, and J. Hoberman asks: what is a 21st-century film? Plus: ten talking points from Cannes – George Miller on Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga – remembering Roger Corman with a never-before-seen interview.

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