“A relationship is like a human being,” Maïwenn explains to me over the phone. “You can be in love with someone, and he can be in love with you, but you are not in love with the relationship.” She pauses. “Do you see the difference?”
Mon Roi (My King), the French director’s latest film, opens tomorrow in New York, and on August 26th in Los Angeles. The film begins at the end of a love story—after marriage, parenthood, and separations (plural)—in a rehabilitation center in Southern France. Here, up-and-coming lawyer Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) hobbles around on a knee injured in a brutal skiing accident while on vacation with her husband Georgio (Vincent Cassel) and their son Simbad. During her time in the facility, Tony reflects upon her tumultuous love affair with her alluring, addictive, and deeply troubled husband.
“The knee is the only part of the body that has a relationship with the past,” the director tells The Creators Project, “because it is the only part of the body that goes forwards.” Mon Roi, which also features Louis Garrel, comes nearly a decade after Maïwenn, who entered the industry at a young age as an actress, launched her career as a director with semi-autobiographical feature film, Pardonnez-Moi (Forgive Me). The 2006 film stars the director as Violette, a documentarian on the verge of marriage, who turns the camera towards her own, highly dysfunctional family. This first film was soon followed by the director’s 2009 mockumentary, All About Actresses, and her award-winning 2011 work, Polisse.
Yet in a sense, Mon Roi predates all three of these films. As Maïwenn tells me, she was originally struck with the idea for this latest work over ten years ago. “I waited so long to make this movie, because I needed to get distance from life, my story as a mother, as a woman, as a director,” she says. Even during her film’s belated production, the director took extra strides to maintain a distance that had taken her ten years to achieve: Mon Roi marks the first time the director has not acted in her own film. “I made this decision because [Tony’s] character has completely abandoned herself,” she explains. “And I said to myself, ‘I can’t make a movie, have all my energy be on the set, and drive the crew, while also crying all day and feeling abandoned.’ The energies were too opposite.”
This is not to say that Mon Roi is Maïwenn’s own story, though the director has not, and does not, shy away from integrating autobiography into her work. She even divulges that, when her ex-husband saw the new film, “He cried so much. He was saying, ‘Forgive me, I love you, please come back!’ He was all melted.” Nevertheless, as with all her movies, she explains, “It’s not a recipe. It’s not like 20% butter, 40% flower. It’s all melted. I don’t have the control over what is personal and what is not.”
“I’m doing a job where I need my emotions, otherwise I’m not connected with my work,” she adds. “And I’ve understood many things since I’ve done the movie and I’ve understood more things from people talking about my movie.” She continues, “I had so many letters from women, and they all told me: ‘This is my story!’ ‘This is my ex-husband!’ ‘This is my boyfriend!’ And I realized, the more personal we are, the more we are talking about other people.”
Perhaps the relatability of Maïwenn’s story is its refusal to oversimplify. While the story is told from Tony’s perspective, Georgio’s hurtful deviances into drugs and women do not demonize him. “I didn’t want to say to the audience, ‘Ok, this is the monster and this is the good girl.’ Because life is not like that,” she says. “To make a good movie, you need to love your characters.” But everyone has favorites, and Tony is Maïwenn’s. “Notice that at the end of the movie, she is not the same woman,” she explains. “She is much more powerful, much more clever than he is. She knows where she wants to go. She knows why she loves him, but her love moved away.”
“I think love is forever, but your mind has to be much cleverer than love,” Maïwenn explains. “Love is not enough. Love is not enough.”
Mon Roi (My King) opens in New York theaters tomorrow, August 12th, and in Los Angeles theaters on August 26th. Find more information on the film here.