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Behind the Lens with Erika Lust Directors, Solène and Imogen

Behind the Lens with Erika Lust Directors, Solène and Imogen

We sat down with Erika Lust directors, Solène Milcent and Imogen Mansfield to talk about their latest film La Journée des Framboises. Inspired by French New Wave cinema with an erotic twist. The directors chose to style actors, Oja and Sofia in Can Pep Rey garments, giving a new and exciting context to our wardrobe staples. We are looking forward to the premiere of the film on the 1st September on Erika Lust’s XConfessions.

Can you tell us a bit about the creative work you do? 

Solène: At the moment, I express myself mainly with analogue cameras. I like the slow process of film photography. It's a contemplative practice very much rooted in the present moment. I get my inspiration from deep conversations with friends and from being curious, walking around in city’s gardens or into the forest. My daily routine includes writing and reading philosophy or literature. 

Imogen: I’m working mostly with poetry and analogue photography. I am also a contemporary dancer, and movement is a big part of my life - my rooting language. My practice encircles a lot of reading, writing and solitude, as well as dream experimentation. Currently, a lot of my focus is around fertility, botanical mythology and queer ecology.

How did the two of you meet and start collaborating? 

Solène: We met at a yoga class. It was funny because Imogen was sitting next to me and I knew I needed to speak to her, even if I didn't know why at that moment. I'm actually a very shy person, I don't usually speak to strangers. I was doing a portrait series and I asked if she wanted to participate. That is how we met and became friends. Then she invited me to collaborate for her Six Project, which was a dance film. 

Imogen: We also collaborated on a project in Berlin. Body x(n) is a work about the process of abortion, based on a vocal score by another artist friend. I was directing the film, and Solène was making still photographs and some lomokino footage. Around this time was when we started developing more deeply our language together, encircling ambiguous feelings and experiences of the body and sexuality.

Solène: And we always have very long WhatsApp messages about everything we experience and are inspired by (art, movies, books…). We sometimes read similar books without noticing.

What are you reading at the moment? 

Imogen: I’m reading a book titled The Mind of Plants, which includes essays from a lot of different authors, including Monica Gagliano. While I've been staying with Solène in Barcelona, I’ve also been reading her copy of The Coral Sea by Patti Smith.

Solène: I just finished reading a book by philosopher Emanuele Coccia called Metamorphoses. It is about the metamorphosis of life and plants.

When did you start thinking about a concept to propose to Erika Lust? 

Imogen: We were starting to become very interested in communicating the uncertain nature of romantic friendship, and exploring this in a way that we haven't seen represented on the screen before. We were working on another script, which we are still developing now, and were sending some drafts and ideas around to friends and others working in film. We had been aware of Erika Lust Films for some time, and dreamt about being a part of. 

Solène: It was the first time we could relate to something on screen. I was never comfortable with mainstream porn. When I got to know Erika Lust’s XConfessions, I saw some short movies that I really liked and wanted to share them with my friends. We loved that the films had a narrative and the way it is shot is very beautiful - you feel like the characters are very true and honest. It was also important for us to explore and represent non-penetrative relationships. It is the same even in non-heterosexual relationships, it's about being creative not to center the sex only around specific roles that have been shaped by society. 

It takes a sexually empowered women to write and direct such an intimate film. What has your journey been like stepping into your sexuality? 

Solene: My work is centred around the experience of being part of the earth. I think it is all connected, and sex is a beautiful part of being alive. For me sex is not easy and I am on a journey to understand what sexuality means to me and to undo the shaping of our western society's reproductive view of sexuality. One story that really made me realise the importance of the work we are doing with this short movie comes from my sisters. When I was working on the film, one of my sister told me that she would love her boyfriend to see it because it would be a way to open the discussion about sex without penetration. Then, my other sister told me that she just met someone who did not really enjoyed penetration and they choose to only have sex without penetration. It just feels good to know there are so many ways we can enjoy sex! Writing this script really helped me to understand more about what I like and need to discover. 

Imogen: It was very special to make this film in Barcelona, which is the place where I really connected to my sexuality, and began to discover how I want to explore and be in relationship to myself and others. I had come from a strict training in classical ballet, which perpetuates so much infantalisation and heteronormative roles. Dancing and connecting with open minded people here in Barcelona was so freeing for me - as well as being in deep solitude with the mountains and plants and sea. A lot of people have said that they are surprised that we are erotic directors, because we are very quiet and shy. Always dreaming and observing the world. Usually we are working with sexuality in more subtle ways, so this was a very interesting and beautiful challenge for us! Hopefully by us being present in this radical and gentle way, making the films we wish we could have seen, we can help other people somehow. 

What was your experience like working on such an intimate set? 

Imogen: Working with Erika Lust and the world of feminist adult cinema, it feels like there is such a deep sense of trust and understanding between the directors, team and audience. It has been a really fascinating process to have our fantasy come alive on screen. We had to be very aware and sensitive especially with our cast, making sure we always had clear and open communication between us, so that everyone felt safe and comfortable. This was really the most important thing for us.

Can you tell us a bit about the story line? 

Solène: We were very inspired by the French New Wave, especially the films of Éric Rohmer and Jean-Luc Godard. They have very nice characters that are still interesting. They never get too close and almost never kiss. We really wanted to have this aesthetic and the dialogues that lead to something more sensual.

Imogen: Connected to physical touch and the body, not just the intellect. 

Solène: We wanted something very light and funny. It’s a very simple story, two individuals who meet in the café that could happen any day. You just look at someone and you feel something, like you want to know this person.

Imogen: One of the characters is a painter and the other is a photographer. It's such an intimate and beautiful thing - how humans observe and capture one another through these mediums. Getting to know one another in quiet and indirect ways. And yes, we wanted to show these two artists reflecting one another simultaneously, articulating something of the synchronicity of how people are drawn together. 

Would you consider changing anything about the filming process next time? 

Solène: It was a really valuable experience working on a big set, and three locations in one day was such a challenge - fortunately we were really lucky to be supported by such an incredible team. We of course made some mistakes on the day of the shoot, and we would have loved to be able to have more time to film more details with Oja & Sofia. 

Imogen: Yes, we really learnt so much from this experience. In the future we would like to make something a little bit more minimal, similar to our artistic approach. Perhaps also to work with analogue filming techniques, to reflect our slow and thoughtful philosophy of creating.

Where can the Can Pep Rey community access the film? 

La Journée des Framboises is showing on Erika Lust’s XConfessions Thursday, 1 September! You can also connect with us via our website or Instagram.




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