“She was a pure diva” says director Kim Nguyen, in reference to one of the stars from his new film Two Lovers And A Bear, which premiered the other night in the Director’s Fortnight sidebar. He’s not talking about female lead Tatiana Maslany though, no, instead Nguyen is referring to the ursine of the title – a pizza loving polar bear named Aggie, who effortlessly steals the show from under the feet of her two human co-stars. Clearly not fazed already by the challenge of having to shoot in sub-zero conditions – the film is set in a small town near the North Pole – Nguyen fought hard with producers to use a live bear in the film; “I kinda always knew I wanted to use a real bear,” he says, “3D just doesn’t have the same poetry”.
Thankfully, when FlickFeast join the very affable Nguyen in a tent overlooking the Cannes seafront to discuss the film, the temperature is significantly higher. This is the director’s first time at the Cannes Film Festival, his previous War Witch having played at the Berlinale in 2012, and as the grin on his face tells us, he loves every minute of it. “I didn’t expect it to be on such a huge scale,” he tells us, “it’s certainly great for potential international attention”.
It seems that such global interest in the film is all but guaranteed, given the films thunderous reception at the Quinzaine. The story, as you may have guessed, concerns two lovers, and a bear – although, you may be surprised to discover what route the narrative soon takes. Following the eponymous pair (Maslany, starring alongside Dane DeHaan) as they head off into the arctic wilderness in a bid to escape the demons of their past, occasionally accompanied by said bear – who has the power to communicate with DeHaan’s Roman – the film confidently combines realism with mysticism, creating a unique tone. Indeed, when asked if he could label the film with a genre, Nguyen wryly replied, “I wish you could tell me”.
What we could all certainly agree on was the film’s ecological dictum – consider it part reverie about running away from your problems, and part polemic against mankind’s polluting nature. “I wish I could say that was something I thought of when I began writing the script, but the truth is the arctic imposed that on us” says Nguyen on the matter, “you look one way and there are these immense landscapes, and then turn around to see trash”.
Filming in such remote & hostile conditions was a real challenge for Nguyen and his crew; “we were in a location where you could get frostbite in a matter of minutes” he states, before telling us a horror story of how his assistant cameraman’s fingers would stick to the metal frame of the camera when he was trying to change a lens. “It was immensely cold and tough”, he concluded.
Though no less distant, the locations for Nguyen’s next film, Eye on Juliet, do at least benefit from warmer climes, with shooting having already partly taken place in Morocco. Nguyen describes the film to us as an “ironic reflection on modern relationships”, but his focus while he’s here is ultimately on Two Lovers And A Bear. “I hope that it’s a crowd pleaser,” says Nguyen optimistically at one point; given the lengthy ovation & applause it received on opening night, we think it’s safe to say it is.
FlickFeast would like to thank Kim Nguyen for the taking the time to speak to us. Our review of Two Lovers And A Bear can be found by clicking here.