New drama One Fine Morning, starring the wonderful Lea Seydoux, is yet another fine film to come from French auteur Mia Hansen Love, and to mark the film’s release we had the pleasure of speaking to the director in Paris earlier this year, taking part in a roundtable with fellow European journalists. She discusses her approach to her craft in fascinating detail, while also commenting on the optimistic nature of her work.

The film looks at time and memory, and how everything is passing, the life we live keeps evolving. Is this something that you are aware of, as a theme in your movies?

I think I should be after making all these films that all deal with that! I think I was inspired by this passing of time and what remains and what doesn’t, what is destroyed by time and what survives time, that has been more or less the subject of my films since ever I started. So yes I am aware of it. It’s not something I want, actually, it just happens, I could never really choose what my films are about. I wish I could, honestly. To pick a subject I find interesting and make a film of it, but it doesn’t work that way. I write out of necessity, and it always feels like the subjects of my films pick me more than I choose them.

There must be something that started it, because the two parallel stories of the woman who doesn’t have love and has a relationship with a married man, and then the father who gets worse, and worse. Which came first?

Both, together. Really. I mean, it would be easy for me to say that it was the father and then the romance that came but I don’t feel that way, it’s really the observation that we can experience both things at the same time and how intense, powerful, beautiful but also disturbing this is to be in grief and passion at the same time. How it is to watch somebody you love, if not dying then is very sick and is losing their abilities, how much you need to feel yourself as being alive at the same time, and it can make you feel very guilty, that you are trying to escape the disease and find some happiness. But at the same time it is a necessity. There was a lot of thought, for me, that had to do with a certain period of my life, where I was thinking of this a lot and making this observation that you can need two very opposite things in one moment sometimes in life, and it made me want to capture that in a film. I thought maybe it was interesting to try and find a form to speak about that because a lot of films just focus on one thing, a lot of films only want to say one thing, but I was always interested in trying to use cinema in a different way. I get this conviction and maybe it is an illusion, but when I start writing a film I like to think I am telling a story in a new way, and here I thought, okay there were some films made about disease like Alzheimer’s, and there were films made about romance – but who has been dealing with both these two things happening at the same time?

one Fine morning

HUG: I find your films have such an affection for life, even when life is at its hardest. Do you consider yourself to be an optimist?

I think my films are seen as optimistic. I don’t know if I would define myself as a optimist. I don’t want to be pessimistic, I think it would make life too difficult, but I don’t know if I can be optimistic because I am trying to be very lucid in my perception of life. But what does make me optimistic is that life is a movement. Life never stops. So even when we go through horrible moments, when we go through tragic experiences, there is something else that comes afterwards. Life doesn’t stop. I mean it does when we die, but otherwise there is always something more coming, so there is a variety of experiences in life, and they are always contradictory experiences, and that observation gives me hope and that is something that I am trying to transit through my films, but I don’t know if that means I am optimistic, or just realistic in my own way.

Another reoccurring theme in your films is overcoming tragedies, and you always try to find a very decent way for your characters to deal with that. Is that something you are consciously looking for?

It’s true but I think it has to do with why I started making films and the fact I was a very melancholic young girl, I’ve inherited that melancholy from my family on my father’s side, my Scandinavian side, and for me making films was always a way to overcome that melancholy and root myself on Earth and have less distance to life, to go back to understanding the joy and love life better. I really learnt a lot from life from making my films actually. So it’s part of why I could not make pessimistic films the way Haneke does. Because I wonder if those people, the ones who make very violent, dark, pessimistic films, I wonder if sometimes they must be very happy people who are not melancholic at all, because it would kill me if my own films tell me again how cruel and terrible life is. It doesn’t help me to live. I want my films to help me be a wiser person and to understand life better, but the difficulty for me is that at the same time, I want my films to be lucid, I don’t want them to tell lies to myself or to the audience and pretend that life is better than it is. So I’m trying to deal with both. Trying to see life as it is, but while I do that, try and find what is beautiful in life and what in life can make us want to move on and still want to live on.

one Fine morning

Another theme in this film is language. The father loses the ability to speak, and his daughter is a translator.

I think why I had her be a translator is because I wanted it to be an extension of her life, because she spends so much time with her dad trying to help him find his own words and he loses the ability to speak, so she is, in a way a translator for him, so it came naturally as a continuity of this relationship she has with her father. But it is also a kind of tribute to my father, because he was a philosophy teacher and he was also a translator from German, not an interpreter but a translator, and he would always tell me that he wasn’t sure which language he was dreaming or speaking. He wasn’t sure if he was dreaming in Austrian, German or in French, and I grew up with this idea of two different cultures, and it’s dear to me that idea, I always wanted to be more, not only French, but I always felt more European than just French.

HUG: When you write situations that are based on personal, lived-in experiences – when you see the film, do you still see yourself and your life in the film? Or do you almost give the experiences to the characters? Do they take them away from you in a way?

Well at least it is why I make the films, to reach that. I always hope, I always have this desire that while I make the film I get rid of this. Recently I made this observation that something a bit weird for me is that while I film I give a new reality to past memories. The past memories themselves, they tend to be less real. That is a bit confusing for me sometimes and I wonder if this is why I make films? Not only because I want people to exist eternally in the film but in a way sometimes I wonder if another reason is to also put the film between me and that reality, in order to make that reality less real. In the case of this film, which is a good example, the experience of this disease in my father was extremely painful and it’s extremely cathartic this film. Why it is cathartic is because now I have the feeling that there is something of the presence of my father that I have kept forever in this film, which is a very consoling feeling. But the other reason, in a way I am less proud of, but also it has put more distance between me and this painful memory. There is the film between us, and it was the same when I did Father of My Children, my second feature inspired by the suicide of a film producer, why I made the film was a way to make this producer, who I admired so much, to live again through the film, but also it was a way for me to make the real experience of the tragedy of his death less real. I think if I want to be really honest and lucid about the process of the film, there is part of this too.

One Fine Morning is out in cinemas across the UK now.