Interview: Chloe Robichaud of Sarah Prefers To Run
Sarah Prefers To Run was one of my favorite films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, so I was fortunate to get a chance to sit down with director Chloe Robichaud to discuss some of the details about her wonderful film. During our conversation, Chloe explains the reason why the film is so subtle and the meaning behind some of the scenes within the film. She also talks about some of the challenges of making Sarah Prefers To Run and what she plans to work on next.
Sarah Prefers To Run feels like it is a personal film, how much, if anything, was based on your own experiences?
It is a character, not me, but since it was [my] first feature film that I was writing when I was in school it is based on what I have lived. There is some stuff that I have seen in my life and students around me.
Because the film is centered on a dedicated runner, naturally there are some physical requirements that come with the role, how did you end up casting Sophie Desmarais as the lead?
I didn’t even think about the physical [aspect] for Sophie. She is a great actress. I am pretty sure she is going to have a great career. She has something with her eyes and her body. I needed someone who could talk with her eyes because Sarah [didn’t] use many words. So I think [because of] the way Sophie plays it, we feel connected to Sarah even though she is not really close with her emotions.
Was there any training that she had to do for the role?
Yeah, she had to be trained with a trainer for six months. Two times a week with him [running] and five times by herself. There is not a lot of running in the film, but still we wanted her to have a certain [appearance] that was creditable.
She definitely seemed like a very natural runner.
Yeah, the coach was on the set as well to watch the scenes and rehearse with her.
Speaking of a coach, the coach portrayed in the film was actually a former film teacher of yours, right?
She is a film director and actress in Quebec and she was also my teacher. She teaches Directing Actors class at Concordia University. She is like a mentor to me, so in a way, the coach in the film is kind of the coach in my life.
Sophie Desmarais in Sarah Prefers To Run
Destiny is brought up several times in Sarah Prefers To Run in various forms, one of which being cut shots of fortune cookie sayings. Being that Sarah does not believe in destiny, what was the significance of showing these?
I played with it at first because people read these and believe that it is actually going to happen. But at the end the last one says, “The answer does not lie in the cookie.” It’s just means that Sarah needs her own choices, no one is going to make them for her, to be confident in what she wants. Like in that scene where she goes to see the coach and she’s asking for help and the coach just says, “I can’t tell you and the fortune cookie won’t tell you either.”
My favorite shot in the film is where she accepts the idea of marriage in a restaurant and we see it through a blurry reflection from the window. Was this done to emphasize the native and hazy decision that she is making?
Yeah, because it was such decision in their lives. It’s also saying that they’re not close to being an adult, they’re in Montreal and they don’t know who they really are. It’s like there’s a shadow, they are not fully themselves because they are looking for themselves.
I really enjoyed that shot as it wonderfully captures the moment in their lives.
Oh, thank you. Some people [actually] thought there was a problem with the projector.
(laughs) Yeah. I had to tell people [this is how it is], it is not in 3D.
There are many ambiguous elements found in the film such as; Sarah’s distain for the government, her troubled relationship with her mother, and her general shyness towards others. Is the idea for the film to remain sort of “in the closet” like Sarah does?
Yeah, because she is like that. She is not sexualized; she does not want to show her body. So I didn’t want to [expose] her. Like in the sex scene I do not show her breasts because [her character] would not want to show them. She keeps emotions to herself. That is why the film is so subtle.
I enjoyed the fact that a lot was alluded to but never blatantly explained; but what was Sarah’s issue with the back of people’s neck?
She is doing something a bit feminine, and I wanted to show that she is intimidated by that and so [that’s why] she closes her vest [after] seeing that. It was meant to be a bit sexy, but I didn’t want to reveal too much. We see in that scene already that there is something going on.
Yeah, I got the impression that she may be a lesbian.
Right, there is no real resolution to that. It’s not a film about that, so I didn’t want that to [take focus]. But she definitely might not be into guys. But she is attracted to their personalities because she does not really think [much] about sex as she is not there in her life yet. But she is really, for once, amazed by someone.
What was the single biggest challenge to make Sarah Prefers To Run?
For filming, it was very difficult to get the funding [probably] because of my young age (25). On the set, it was the running, especially when you have to do a lot of takes. I was more like a coach than a director [at times].
You have made several short films but this is your first full-length feature, do you plan to go back to short films again or continue on with making full-length films?
I want to go back [to short films] because you can try things and experiment. But I am writing my next [full-length] and we will go for financing as the next step and would like to do it next year.