Michel Gondry Talks Making of ‘The Book of Solutions,’ Joys and Pains of Creativity: ‘We Limit Ourselves by Never Starting What We Want to Do’

Oscar-winning filmmaker Michel Gondry presented “The Book of Solutions” at Lucca Comics & Games this week, and took the opportunity to explore his ideas about creativity, and to urge aspiring directors to fight against perfectionism and embrace risk. He was accompanied by his editor, Élise Fievet.

Gondry explained that the self-help guide from which the film gets its name features a series of guiding principles for creativity, such as kicking off a project without hesitation, learning by doing, and not listening to others.

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“These are principles that stayed with me during a period of my life that has been very hard, and they’re still with me. I think they’re still valid,” he said. With his latest effort, the helmer aimed to “revive that harsh period of his life, but with a touch of humor.”

The Book of Solutions
“The Book of Solutions”

“The Book of Solutions” follows Marc (Pierre Niney), a director who seeks to overcome the demons that are hindering his creativity. He takes his film crew to continue filming in a small village where his aunt Denise (Françoise Lebrun) lives. There, he has so many ideas that he decides to write a book full of advice.

When asked to compare their working relationship with that between Marc and his editor Charlotte (Blanche Gardin), Gondry and Fievet revealed that their co-operation has been “much more peaceful” as they are usually “on the same wavelength.” “I’d like to highlight, however, that Michel [Gondry] is an artist with an extremely vivid imagination, so working with him has been intense and peculiar, and his ideas need to be ‘channelled’ [towards the right direction],” Fievet said.

The movie is set in the same small village in the Cévennes Mountains where the director used to spend his childhood vacations. For Gondry, visiting those places has been an emotional experience but also eased his efforts in terms of location scouting and mise-en-scène. For the cast, it took a bit of time to familiarise themselves with the environment and feel comfortable in their characters’ shoes. “[With our presence,] I felt like I was ‘stealing’ those places from the real inhabitants,” Gondry added.

Reiterating the importance of kicking off projects at all costs, Gondry said: “We limit ourselves by never starting what we want to do. Obviously, the only way to express our creativity is to make it happen in our real, physical world. If that [creativity] remains in our own head, it remains unexpressed and cannot be fulfilled.” He also described as both “magical” and “scary” the very first moment when an idea comes to life, for example through the writing process, during the script breakdown, or as soon as the actors read their lines out loud.

One of the excerpts shown to the audience sees Marc confidently interacting with an orchestra to craft the score of his movie. “When the protagonist thinks about scoring his film, he has never conducted an orchestra, but this doesn’t impede him to look for a solution.”

After having been at the helm of numerous movies, music clips and commercials for over 30 years, Gondry admitted that, when it comes to facing creative problems, he seeks possible workarounds, while paying attention to keep the project’s spirit intact. “This [scenario] rarely happens, but sometimes these new solutions I’m forced to find are even better [than my first ideas],” he adds.

“The Book of Solutions” premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section of Cannes Film Festival.

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