Meetings with psychiatrists and their patients, a painting course, catamaran and even boxing lessons... French actor Damien Bonnard spared no effort to prepare for the role of bipolar painter that he defends in Les Intranquilles, a new film by filmmaker Joachim Lafosse, expected on our screens next Friday.
By his own admission, this is the first time he has been so invested in a character on screen. We guess that it was not necessarily always a part of the pleasure.
“But it was exciting, and, above all, necessary,” Damien Bonnard (Les Misérables, Stay vertical) hastened to specify in an interview with the Journal last November, when he was in Montreal for the Festival. Cinemania.
Inspired by the experience of Belgian director Joachim Lafosse (To Lose Reason), whose father is manic-depressive, Les Intranquilles takes us into the daily life of Leila (Leïla Bekhti) and Damien (Bonnard), a very loving couple who live in symbiosis with her baby boy, Amine (Gabriel Merz Chammah).
The balance of this seemingly perfect little family turns out to be fragile, however, since Damien, a painter, suffers from a bipolar disorder that sometimes makes him unpredictable, fragile and unmanageable. His condition is usually under control when he takes his medication. But during a family vacation, he will suddenly decide to stop taking them, in order to give free rein to his creative impulse of the moment.
In the first versions of the scenario, the character of Damien was not a painter, but rather an artists' photographer, like Joachim Lafosse's father was. But since Damien Bonnard studied at the fine arts of Nîmes before becoming an actor, Lafosse offered him to transform the character into a painter.
"I told him: OK, let's try this," says the 43-year-old actor. But even if I have already studied fine arts, there was still work to be done to become credible as a painter. So I spent a lot of time with Piet Raemdonck, a famous painter in Belgium who welcomed me into his studio in Belgium. He showed me his work. I already had some basics with what I had learned at the fine arts, but I also had to understand his own painting and learn to paint like him. I watched him a lot and stole everything from him. The way I paint in the film is the way he paints.”
To this painting course were added in particular catamaran and boxing lessons (a discipline that enabled him in particular to "find the switch to go from one state to another"), meetings with psychiatrists and doctors treating people with manic depression and a lot of reading on the subject.
“I also have a friend who suffers from bipolar disorder who I have talked to a lot, he adds. I knew from the start that the trap in playing this kind of role was to fall into caricature. But I just wanted it to be fair, and above all not cliché. I also wanted the character to be connected to others, and not freewheeling alone. It was important to balance all of that.”
Les Intranquilles hits theaters May 20.