With her unflinching, sensitive films, Claire Denis is among the most important European film authors of this generation. Since she made her debut in 1988 with Chocolat, inspired by her youth in West Africa, the colonial heritage and invisible lines that divide us from others are recurring themes in powerful films including Beau travail and White Material.
Her exceptionally versatile oeuvre moves freely between poetic minimalism and more conventional drama, but also includes excursions into genres such as romcom or vampire horror. Yet each of her films betrays the unmistakable hand of the master. One constant feature in the work of Denis is her elliptical style that invites the viewer to construct the narrative from abstract rhythms and a tactile reconnaissance of characters and locations, in images of often puzzling beauty. In her exploration of the vulnerabilities of human relationships, she does not shirk from portraying explicit cruelty, which occasionally leads to controversy, of which the filmmaker takes little note. Whatever path she takes with her films, it’s never predictable.
Based on film fragments from her work, she discusses with producer and former IFFR director Simon Field her striking film career, with special attention for her latest feature High Life: a dystopian science fiction that clearly bears her signature, while she explores this uncultivated terrain. How does Denis manage to surprise the audience, time and again?