The Way I See It: Nicholas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval

Klotz and Perceval are, respectively, the director and writer of the French film "Heartbeat Detector

  • 1 Does art make a difference?
  • Nicholas: Art always belongs to the people, especially the poor. A long time ago, there was no difference between life and art. For poor people, it's a way of surviving, a way of transmitting culture, through poetry and singing and dancing. For the rich, maybe it's nice to have a nice painting in your living room, but I don't think it makes a difference. Art didn't prevent Auschwitz. So, does it make a difference on that scale? I don't know.

    Elisabeth: Art constantly attempts to show that there exists a different order from the one we impose. In this sense, art changes life, because it creates disorder. It shows that the prevailing order tries to make itself invisible.

  • 2 Should politics and art mix?
  • N: Art is political. I don't think politics is art because that reminds me of the Nazis trying to make a work of art from politics. When you represent the world through art, it's only art. But when politics tries to make a representation of the world it gets very dangerous.

    E: When art strays from being an act of transgression, it becomes a plaything, a gadget, a bon-bon for the culture market. From this moment on, one can no longer call it art. Commercial art mixes very well with a politics that lacks historical perspective. But when art transgresses the laws of society and confronts history, then they mix with an intense passion.

  • 3 Is your work for the many or for the few?
  • N: When we work we don't think about our audience. We try to make the film exist as it has to exist. I like to say that we work for friends - and we don't know how many we have. It depends, every film is different. It is very important for friendship to exist between films and the people coming to see them.

    E: To ask about the size of your audience is a question for accountants. It is question that one doesn't ask one's self in cinema or in art. If Van Gogh had asked that question he wouldn't have painted, if Beethoven had asked that question he wouldn't have composed, if Rimbaud had asked that question he wouldn't have written poems. I love the useless, the ephemeral. I don't think in terms of numbers, always the individual.

  • 4 If you were world leader, what would
    be your first law?
  • N: I would impose borders on money and remove borders for people.

    E: It's difficult to put myself in the position of a leader. As I'm someone who likes to have fun, I have difficulty imagining laws.

  • 5 Who would be your top advisers?
  • N: Gilles Deleuze.

    E: Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. Because with a click of his fingers he could make the world turn.

  • 6What, if anything, would you censor?
  • N: Television.

    E: I'm against censorship.

  • 7 If you had to banish one public figure, who would it be?
  • N: Any one of the Nouveaux Philosophes – Bernard Henri-Levy, for example.

    E: Before banishing the person, I would try to pervert them! And after, if I failed to pervert them, I would have to banish them. I would rather banish a system. To banish an individual, or even a hundred individuals – that's been done throughout the centuries and it leads to nothing. I would banish the inhumanity of our capitalist system so that we can rediscover humanity. But with where an individual is concerned, it would be necessary to try and pervert him so that he rediscovers his drive for life.

  • 8 What are the rules that you live by?
  • N: No rules.

    E: Don't work, waste your time, be useless. And use your physical energies freely – until exhaustion.

  • 9 Do you love your country?
  • N: My country is the cinema I love, and the people of the whole world, so yes. That, yes. France, I don't know what that is.

    E: At times, my country is the extent of my bed. Or my bathroom, or my kitchen, or a space that I share with friends. Yes, that country I love. I like to change country every day, while all the time it remains my own country.

  • 10 Are we all doomed?
  • N: What's the opposite of doomed? Free? I believe that life slips us by, so we are forced to attempt to organise forms to structure that which escapes us. When it's cinema or philosophy or music or art, it's magnificent because one perceives life as movement, as struggle, as beauty. But with a political system like the one we have, we are doomed to live in opposition.

    E: Of course we're doomed. That's why we laugh from morning to night. There is no more hope. We are doomed to create another world.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Moral crisis?