Tahar Rahim Playtime
Constance Rousseau

Constance Rousseau (left) and Tahar Rahim, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa on the set of Daguerreotype.

In the latest film by Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the two-time César-winning actor Tahar Rahim plays the assistant of an obsessive photographer. We meet this vibrant, generous man, whose idea of acting is returning to the carefree existence of childhood.

How did Kiyoshi Kurosawa first contact you ?

I received a call from my agent, and we met in a luxury hotel in Paris. I was very honored and excited, especially as I thought we’d be shooting in Japan. In the end, we shot the picture in France, but I was thrilled.

Did you know this filmmaker before? [Kurosawa directed Tokyo Sonata and Journey to the Shore, respectively winners of the Jury and the Best Director Prizes in the Un Certain Regard category 
at the Cannes Film Festival.]

Yes, and it’s incredible because I studied him when I was at the film school in Montpellier. I first saw Cure, then Retribution, which is one of his films I like the most. He is a genre filmmaker, yet the only one who makes this kind of horror film. I like his relationship between the visible and the invisible, his way of building emotional, metaphorical bridges between these two worlds. And Kurosawa is a master of imagery: he has a unique way of creating meaning merely by the way he moves his actors around, to such an extent that you almost don’t need dialogue.

You play a photographer’s assistant: what did you like about this character?

Most of all, I was interested to work with Kiyoshi. To make a movie you’d describe as a horror film and yet is based more on beliefs and has more to do with poetry than sheer fantasy.

How did you prepare for this part? 

To get a better insight into the technical aspect we went to see a photographer in Paris who still uses daguerreotypes [the photographic process developed by Louis Daguerre (1787-1851) that made it possible to obtain a direct, precise reproduction of reality]. This made me understand why in vintage photographs there never seems to be anybody moving about in a big city, because at the time, the image had to stay still to be captured.

You’re known for working hard in preparing a role. Was this the case for this movie? 

Apart from the technical aspect, which was necessary but had to be new to me (I was playing the assistant, not the photographer), there was little else to do. You don’t always have to look for information that will not help the film: too much certainty can even be a hindrance. Kiyoshi Kurosawa also has a very free style of directing, and I liked working within this instability, because it pushes you outside of your comfort zone.

What’s your relationship with photography? And with the camera?

In front of a photographic camera, unlike a movie camera, I feel like I’m being watched. I almost never take photos, and even fewer now, since smartphones have made them so commonplace: by constantly photographing everything, we make the moment, which is real and present, totally virtual.

Kurosawa explores the relationship between fiction and reality. Does this resonate with you?

Conversing with your imagination is one of the most beautiful escapes possible. It relaxes the mind. So many things in the world are difficult to see, to hear, to experiencea bit of magic feels good.

You say you became a movie buff out of boredom. What does cinema bring to you today?  

I love cinema, that it allows you to encounter people and different worlds. If I weren’t an actor, I’d be traveling. Thanks to the success of A Prophet, foreign directors are contacting me (Kevin Macdonald, Lou Ye, Asghar Farhadi). To have a thousand lives or, at least, the opportunity to enter into a thousand lives, is an incredible opportunity. I feel like I’m in a playground. My only concern is to act well, like when you’re a child, the only thing you worry about is getting good grades. All the rest is play. That’s what I look for and lovethis state of being carefree, pure recreation. I’ll continue to act as long as I have to. And also because when I act, I’m not forcing myself or questioning myself, I’m merely existing in the moment. We’re often worrying about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow: being an actor is living and being in the present. I don’t feel like I’m getting olderI sometimes feel like I’m getting younger!

You grew up in a family of nine siblings, and are said to have great love and respect for your mother. How does she see your career? 

She is very happy. She dreamed alongside me. A mother’s love and support is the best impetus. She’s the real heroine.

What projects are in the pipeline? 

I finished Teddy Lussi-Modeste’s new film, and Garth Davis’s. I loved working with him and playing Judas.

You, playing Judas ?

Yes, but not the Judas everyone imagines, the one who sold Jesus down the river for a pittance. My character illustrates how an overabundance of faith can unconsciously lead to betrayal.

Le Secret de la chambre noire

En salles le 22 février. Réalisation : Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Avec Olivier Gourmet, Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau…


Le secret de la chambre noire

Le secret de la chambre noire
En salle le 22 février.

Réalisation : Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Avec Olivier Gourmet, Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau…
Vincent Baranger


Expanding horizons