How long have you been directing or writing?

I have always felt I was writing in search of a first possible image, and this from childhood. As far as I am concerned making a film is offering a new syntax that reveals images, a syntax that the spectator would reconstruct as the film is unfolding, so that he could then use it, then, to write his own joy. Through every shot, though editing, and particularly through music, I try to bring this image and this possibility of shared enjoyment to life.


Who were some of your inspirations or idols?

Baroque music plays an important role in my work, I see it both as a character who comes and goes, sometimes abruptly, and as a rhythmical and harmonic support, like a continuous bass.

What inspired your film or screenplay?

A kind of double gamble:

- to film a river, the Danube, as a character

- and to draw the portrait of two brothers, a purely cinematic portrait, neither a fiction nor a documentary, nor a suite of photographic images.

What are some of your directing/writing techniques?

I often forget the script, but I follow a few hidden undercurrents that unfold like imaginary paths, or drift like creatures with no head nor tails, or perhaps a few tails beating a rhythm in order to move forward. I would like my films to be like heartbeats, a pulse more than a sense.

As far as Danube, Prelude for 3 Faces and 2 Brothers is concerned, the filming had to be compatible with the canoe trip (always in motion, with hardly any stops)

At the beginning, maybe as a result of this position and its constraint, there was nothing. But I kept looking, and an image began to rise, and at last I could see it. All the residues faded and a window appeared. In order to look through it, I am constantly on the watch. For an image to come. An image that must say yes, but also an image which, quite often, happens to be initially disappointing. One must at the same time assume some modesty but also some vanity to accept one's intuition. It is forever oscillating between humility and vanity. This is how I write: swaying. During the filming, I was also rocked between the prosaic elements (for instance the daily routine of the trip, or “the sentence of the day”, a sentence which I asked both brothers to tell me, and which they had to find each day while digging the Danube with their paddles) and the poetic and sacred idea that the river is a tragic force. Filming without knowing what film I was going to make put me in a difficult position, but I was thinking that in any chaos there is the possibility of a harmony and that this gamble was the very substance of the film.

Do you have any fun stories about production or writing your screenplay?

I was very worried this would turn out to be a very masculine movie, an adventure film, featuring boys, as if a part of Humanity was missing. Therefore, upon my return to Paris, I started working with the actress Virginie Bianchini who was saying again some of the sentences originally voiced by both brothers during the trip. Her acting was very good but I never managed to insert her in the film. Her presence was introducing narration. Now, I realized that, paradoxically, the apparent lack of narrative consistency and the effort to compensate it were actually making the film. I, so, accepted to have only the two brothers, without the actress I liked so much.

Have you ever thought about turning your shorts into features and if you wrote a feature screenplay have you pitched your feature to anyone?

There is a time for every film, every writing. To transform this film into a feature film would actually turn it into a short film, namely something that desperately tries to make you forget it is a short film. In any case it would result in destroying its own temporality and turning it into a film devoid of it, timeless.

What are some of your future projects?

I am just finishing The Invention of the Year 2016, which is precisely a film on the theme of time, in 12 parts — one for each month of the year — in which various temporalities are entangled: that of the journalistic news, that of old French poets (Charles Péguy, François Villon, Henry Bergson) and that of historical characters such as the Infanta Mary who lived in the 16th century, whom Velasquez painted in the 17th century, and whom Victor Hugo brought back to life again in a 19th century poem.

Well, but in fact I have inner rhythms for, let’s say 883 projects. Because at this very moment, this is what is passing through me, so it is my project and any other projection is, if you ask me, writing on the sand with a rising tide. The only thing that matters to me right now is the hope of having 883 projects, which, of course, is as derisive as having only one. But perhaps fate can work its way in planning or in letting go.

#TOFF: The Online Film Festival, 2015 February’s Edition, Fiction: Danube, Three Faces, Prelude for Two Brothers

An interview with Jean Seban

Ricard Canals

Nen malalt, 1903

(Octavi, fill de Ricard)

Titi Parant, 2010

Oeuvre bleue



L'invention de l'année
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How long did it take you to direct and or write your project?

I shot in Germany in 2005, in Austria in 2006, in Slovakia and in Hungary in 2007. I did the editing later on, over a whole year. But how to know where it really started and when it really ends? As in painting, “finishing a film is finishing it off”.

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