Several threads connect Olivier Jahan’s film “Les Châteaux de sable” (Sand Castles) to be released in France on April 1, to the world of Leica. Actress Emma de Caunes, who plays the leading role of a photographer, and photographer Frédéric Stucin, who contributed to the film behind the scenes, discuss them here in this joint interview.
From March 26 – June 20, the Leica Store in Paris’ 11th arrondissement will present an inaugural exhibition of Frédéric Stucin’s “Les Châteaux de sable” (Sand Castles) photos, taken with a Leica Monochrom.
Q: Emma, you play the role of a photographer in the film. What place does photography occupy in your world?
E: I have always loved photography, maybe thanks to my father, who started out as a photographer when he was very young. Then for my 18th birthday, he gave me a Nikon FM2. I used to take a lot of photos on film shoots, on tours. When Olivier Jahan offered me this role and I discovered that Frédéric Stucin was to be my coach and double, I was delighted. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better teacher! I love his work, and I love him as a person even more.
Q: In the interview published in the film’s press kit, you say that it was specifically your character Eléonore’s relationship to photography that interested you first. Could you say a little more about this?
E: Eléonore lives in the present, in life. And the photos she takes are indeed like snap shots of life. That’s what defines not only her work, but also her relationship to life. She is very carpe diem, if I can put it like that. We also know – although it’s no longer in the film – that she really likes Francesca Woodman’s work, which is true of me too. There is something quite poetic in her relationship to photography, and, like me, – even if it’s not my profession – she inherited that passion from her dad.

Q: What kind of photographer is Eléonore, and how did you prepare this role?
E: As I said before, she’s quite instinctive in her relationship to photography. She captures moments rather than really composing them, except when she shoots self-portraits, which are perhaps more worked on.
I spent time with Fred Stucin, who made me feel less self-conscious in my relationship to photography. I was attentive to how credible I was too, technically. I wanted to try to take photos during the shoot, even if I knew that they would use Fred’s, not mine. I wanted to really feel these moments and, in that respect, he was a great help! He also really directed the photo sessions as a film director would have. Through his photos, he gave another colour to the film, and thus to my character. I was really moved and impressed by the result.
Q: Finally I believe that you bought a Leica M9 after the film. Are there any particular photographic subjects you’d like to develop?
E: Absolutely! Because of the film, I caught the Leica bug! Once you’ve had such a beautiful camera in your hands for a month, it’s hard to touch anything else!
I’ve got a 35 mm lens, but I pinched my dad’s 28 mm, notably to take pictures of the crowds on January 11, at the Charlie march. I confess I loved that, but in the future, I’d like – like my master – to do street photography and portraits too, always in black-and-white. I think that’s what I really prefer.

Q: Frédéric, in our interview back in 2013, you talked about your work on your own in the streets of Las Vegas. How did you feel working collectively this time?
F: The work was indeed completely different, even if using the same equipment: a Monochrom. I was no longer tracking down potential shots; chance played less of a role. We worked in a team, like on a fashion shoot. It was completely fascinating to experience the making of a film from the inside, to participate in it. Sharing this experience with Olivier (Jahan), Emma (de Caunes), Yannick (Rénier), the costume designer, and the make-up artist was really enriching. You’re in the heat of the action, aiming to pull off the film, of course, but also to bring it alive and to share it with as many people as possible.
Q: Could you explain the role you played on the shoot itself?
F: I directed Emma a little in the scenes where she was to use the Monochrom: how to move the camera, how to point it. But she did that really well. Emma has always loved photography and is a seasoned amateur photographer. The first time we met at her place, she opened a drawer full of all kinds of cameras, some of which were astonishing, for that matter.
Later, I’d walk around the house [at the centre of the film narrative] to photograph the landscapes, the ambiances, the things that Eléonore could have and would have photographed. As soon as I could, I’d take the actors out to play with me. We’d make up stories. We’d imagine photos of a couple still together (Yannick and Emma, alias Samuel and Eléonore in the film); I’d take portrait shots of Jeanne Rosa (Claire Andrieux, the real estate agent in the film) and of Alain Chamfort (Eléonore’s father). In their company, I’d imagine the film’s off-screen world, its wings. We could dream up anything, even if it added nothing more to the story in terms of suspense. It simply allowed us to elaborate the past, or a character’s psychological state, and to show the house’s surroundings.

Q: In the film, photos you took that are meant to have been taken by the character Eléonore appear on the screen. Did you adjust your vision to Eléonore’s or vice-versa? I mean, were you following specific directions when taking these pictures, or did you have carte blanche?
F: For this project, I had a completely free reign. Olivier Jahan and I, of course, conferred before the shoot and with Emma during filming. But I was free to invent Eléonore’s style, her work, her pet photographic themes – in other words, the way she sees and documents the world, and her place in the art world. The choice to use black-and-white also imposed itself for the same reasons and thus the use of the Monochrom.
Thank you for your time, Emma and Frédéric!
– Leica Internet Team
Read the interview in its original French. Visit his website to learn more about Frédéric.