IRA SACHS x KHADIJA ZEGGAÏ
IRA SACHS x KHADIJA ZEGGAÏ
The Passages writer-director and costume designer sit down to discuss working on their latest feature.
I had the great opportunity to work with several wonderful women to make this film, including you, Khadija. I felt like we really understood what kind of movie we were all trying to make.
It wasn't really until we started to work together on Frankie that I realized how rigorous and intense your taste, and your eye, as a costume designer is, and how you would elevate the work that I would do. So for me, it was this great adventure to give you a script and then to start talking about it.
And when you first read the script, what did you think?
My first reaction was how much liberty there is in this story. There’s an openness that I had never found before when reading a script.
And how did that translate to thinking about these characters in terms of their clothes, in terms of their wardrobe?
I spoke with you a lot — you gave some indications, films to watch, artistic direction and freedom. So it happened naturally.
And do you remember what movies I gave to you that triggered thought?
À Nos Amours, of course.
What did you see in À Nos Amours?
Sandrine Bonnaire in the film is a character who seeks to free herself from her family, but isn’t able to.
And what about her clothes? Because I remember one very important thing, for me, was the color red. Red seemed to be something that you couldn't avoid if you watched that movie.
Of course. It’s the color that represents the character’s force.
For me, it was also about understanding that by picking certain strong colors, they could cancel out everything else and draw the eye to the frame.
So, red, blue, white — these became very important colors for us, as we worked. And for that, I think about Contempt, which was also an important film that we got direction from.
Yes, of course. You guided me throughout PASSAGES with these colors, by clarifying which moment each character should wear each color. Red was for the strongest character in each scene.
I think about the scene where Agathe and Tomas meet in the office, and she's wearing this red leather jacket against a white wall, significantly.
How do you use color to announce the violence of the film in a certain way, and also announce the clarity of the feeling? This is something I think Pialat and Godard both understand very, very well.
We would speak a lot about each situation, and each scene with every actor. I remember the red went from Agathe, to Martin, to Tomas — they all brought forward some red, according to each part of the film. It’s a very important color in the film. They all wear it: Franz, Ben, Adèle all wear red.
I felt at certain times I wanted everyone to wear red, but ultimately, I think of it as Agathe’s color. I don't know if you feel the same way. I feel like she owns red in the film.
And if you had a color for Franz, what would you say the color for Franz is?
For Franz, it’s the color of Fassbinder, for me. It’s much more colorful, more aggressive than Agathe and Ben.
That strange green that we found . . . that green sweater that Franz wears. Where is that from? People ask me about his green sweater and they ask me about his crop top.
I buy things that I like, and I keep them until I find a character that can wear them. Then I make them wear those clothes. This sweater, I had it for years in my closet.
We were not limited by gender in the dressing of the characters. There was no gender specificity. If something fit and they looked good in it, then . . . they looked good.
No, of course! We discussed this early on. The crop top is a girl’s crop top. At first I bought it thinking that it was something particular. And you told me that Franz should wear it — I thought it was an audacious and interesting idea.
I think it's very important that these three actors are actors who can wear and carry off these clothes. They make it look very simple, but these are not simple clothes to wear.
The day we did the test shoots, we understood that we had to pick. Adèle’s wardrobe is a mixed wardrobe with glamorous and very simple, vintage things. The red leather jacket, for example, was vintage.
I think it was Franz who told me that he’s never spent so much time trying on clothes for a movie in his life . . .
He said never! And so I feel like it's hard for people to understand that it's not a casual process to get to the wardrobe.
And then, it's basically a collaboration between me, you and the actor to understand who this person is.
But I think that you can’t find a character by doing just a few fittings. It’s important to try many outfits — to search, to find the silhouette.
And if we don’t find it, it won’t work. You need a lot of time. Not necessarily a lot of money, but a lot of time. To talk, to feel.
And you were present that whole time, that’s fantastic. It’s not always the case, not everyone understands that. Some directors don’t understand that.
I remember at certain times that you were nervous that we would not find what we needed to find.
That’s true. If I have an idea in mind, I need to find it. And until I find it, I stress, or I search.
It’s also linked to the freedom I had when I worked. You would tell me “go for it, I trust you”. And that was what pushed me to do things that I perhaps would have never done elsewhere.
I was just at the Sundance Institute Directors Lab, and I was advising first-time filmmakers, and we were talking about rehearsing. And I said, I don't rehearse — but then I always modify that by saying, well, I actually spent a lot of time in wardrobe. And for me, that's a rehearsal. I spend a lot of time moving through clothes with the actors.
That is probably the most important experience for us before we start shooting. We try to define a character, and also get to know each other in the space of picking clothes.
And it works.
It works. Merci, Khadija. And until the next film we make together.
Thank you, Ira. It would be my pleasure — really.