Indie Shorts Awards Cannes

I believe a lot in the power cinema has to transform the unspoken, painful sides of reality into collective esthetic experiences.

Antoine Svolanek

I am a self-taught filmmaker born in the south of France, and living in Paris. Modern Life is my first film, fully autofinanced.

Antoine, what inspired you to create a narrative centered around a character like Tom, who faces the monotony of everyday life?
It came from a personal experience, I wanted to express in the most raw possible way the perspective I had on life in the Modern Western world. This feeling you can have, specially when you are young, that reality is too hard for you, and of getting overwhelmed by an environment that is only here to use you, through work, entertainment… So I had the idea of this character who would be a pure product of this environment and would almost have no personal will left, but a sum of generic desires and habits. Reality is too much for him so he hides in this tiny hole and wait. He needs comfort so bad that even thought he finds himself in a really critic situation in the second part of the movie, he only wants to escape for an hour and go to a party. He is an exaggeration, but I think that this archetype allows to reach a certain truth and that there is a little bit of him in a lot of people I know.
How did you work with Constantin on his evolution over the course of the story, and on fully rendering the nuances of Tom's emotions and thoughts?
I knew that the character would not be easy to embody because his most significant aspect is emptiness. So I needed someone with a strong presence, to avoid losing the audience’s attention. Constantin also has a pretty volcanic, expressive personality in real life, so directing him to be less expressive and empty resulted in this “restraint” interpretation, in the beginning, which for me really suits the character. Our method was pretty simple, on each scene, we talked about the character’s emotions at that point, and Constantin searched for something inside of him that helped him get close of it. His personality and lifestyle really helped in the second part of the movie, when the character is confronted to a lot of pressure, let go and lose control, specially in the moshpit scenes. That was easy for him, he only had to be himself!
Tom's nightly routine is a significant part of the story. How did you use the setting and atmosphere to enhance the audience's understanding of his emotions and his contemplation on his last night?
I thought it would be necessary, for the audience to understand Tom, to see what he sees, and to me the film was almost a “subjective view”. I focused on Tom’s perception of the world he’s living, wich was pretty close from mine, rather than his emotions. For instance, in the first sequence, I did not film him waking up but I focused on the transition between these two atmospheres, the sea and the flat, just like him as he wakes up from a dream and comes back to reality. That gives a little more space for the audience to imagine his feelings and emotions, rather than showing everything. So I didn’t used a lot of close shots of Tom, mostly wide shots. The cold, empty, urban atmosphere of the places we go through were the expression of this functional, dehumanized and apparently infinite world Tom is trapped in. What I also like about not using a lot of close shots and focusing on places is that it gives the impression that he is so small, so insignificant in this big city, almost like he didn’t exist, which is pretty much the feeling I wanted to depict.