With "The line", Ursula Meier continues to probe family failures

With “The line”, Ursula Meier continues to probe family failures

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Ten years after “The child from above”, the Franco-Swiss director Ursula Meier is back with “The line”, a family story against a backdrop of female violence. With Stéphanie Blanchoud, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Benjamin Biolay and the young Lausanne actress Elli Spagnolo.

Margaret, 35, violently assaults her mother in front of her little sister Marion. Arrested by the police after this violent argument, the young woman is forced to respect a distance measure of 100 meters around the family home while waiting to be judged. “Locked out”, Margaret will not stop to be forgiven for her act.

>> To see: the trailer for the film “The Line” by Ursula Meier

female violence

Fourth feature film by Ursula Meier, “The line” tells the story of a failing family in which violence is declined in the feminine. “In the cinema, violence is often carried by male characters, explains to the RTS the director. And when it is represented, female violence is often carried by rebellious adolescent girls who fight or who are attached to another social theme, such as drugs or prostitution”.

Hence the desire for the Franco-Swiss filmmaker to show another aspect of female violence by directing Margaret, a young adult woman full of anger and fragility, embodied on screen by Stéphanie Blanchoud. At his side, Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi plays the role of a failing and humiliating mother and Benjamin Biolay, that of Margaret’s ex.

Elli Spagnolo, the revelation of the film

For the role of Marion, younger sister of the family, Ursula Meier, talent scout (Kacey Mottet-Klein in “Home”), unearthed, during a casting which brought together more than 700 candidates, a new diamond in the rough. This is the young Lausanne actress Elli Spagnolo, now 14 years old, a real revelation of this film.

She embodies a key and pivotal character in this story. It is she who draws this “line of demarcation” on the ground and who becomes its guardian, while remaining torn between her mother and her sister. In an interview, the director does not hesitate to compare Elli Spagnolo’s acting to that of Léa Seydoux or that of Isabelle Adjani. “She’s incredible. She has real game intelligence, an innate talent,” she marvels.

The young Lausanne actress Elli Spagnolo at the Berlinale 2022 where the film “La ligne” by Ursula Meier in which she plays was presented. [Keystone]

A superb movie

Filmed in Bouveret (VS) two years ago, in the midst of COVID, “La ligne” allows Ursula Meier to continue to develop her favorite themes, such as dysfunctional family relationships, visible and invisible borders, territories. The film also leaves an important place to the music which offers a counterpoint to the violence and makes it possible to create or recreate the link between the characters.

Shown in numerous festivals, including the Berlinale a year ago when it was selected in official competition, the film has already received high praise from critics. “With ‘La ligne’, Ursula Meier manages to offer us a superb film, harsh at times, with hallucinating actresses”, indicates in particular Philippe Congiusti, film critic for the RTS.

Interview by Julie Evard, Pierre Philippe Cadert and Philippe Congiusti

Web adaptation: Andréanne Quartier-la-Tente

“La ligne”, by Ursula Meier with Stéphanie Blanchoud, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Benjamin Biolay and Elli Spagnolo, currently on view in French-speaking cinemas.

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